Monday, May 22, 2017

The Backfire Effect

Dear Subscriber: I very much appreciate the connection we’ve had via Wade’s Weekly. The interest, feedback, and support you’ve shown have been very helpful. I hope we stay in touch. To continue receiving my posts, please subscribe to Wade’s Wire on the homepage.

This is my latest post there: "The Backfire Effect."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wade’s Journal - May 18, 2017

Now that I’m retired from cab driving, I’m more relaxed and look forward to a fruitful future.

My 50-year-old commitment to help organize “communities of faith, love, and action” remains intact. The language we’ve used to articulate the “faith” part has changed over time, but the spirit has not. For the first 20 years or so following that commitment, the spiritual values behind my work were implicit -- until I decided to make those beliefs explicit. Since then I’ve stumbled along: researching, going to workshops, convening workshops, writing, talking, planting seeds, and looking for an open-hearted, compassionate, holistic community to join.

Now I think I’ve found one: Thrive East Bay, a community that’s led primarily -- in a very non-hierarchical, “flat” fashion -- by young people. As is the case with so many young people these days, the members of that community amaze me. They seem far more advanced than my peers and I were at that age. It definitely gives me hope for the future. The Thrive East Bay people I’ve gotten to know a bit personally have been impressive and highly committed to social transformation.

More than a year ago, I met the Thrive East Bay organizer, Joshua Gorman, at a workshop that he and I attended which was convened by the Center for Spiritual and Social Transformation (now the Ignite Institute). He invited the participants to an event sponsored by Generation Waking Up, a project that provides training, mentoring, and support to young people to help “bring forth a thriving, just, and sustainable world.” That event, which was open to people of all ages and whose participants were a diverse mix, was remarkably inspiring. It included poetry, music, and personal sharing from the stage as well as among the audience, who at times milled about and paired up to interact.

When Thrive East Bay began not long afterwards, I went to their first public event, which was held in a Lake Merritt apartment with about 20 people squeezed in. A similar format was employed and I again found it to be invigorating. But my working full-time interfered with sustained involvement.

After returning to one of their events last week, I’m heartened by their growth. And now that I’m free, I plan to participate fully once I return from visiting folks in Seattle and on the East Coast during the next several weeks.

The Thrive East Bay website homepage identifies the group as “a new kind of community” dedicated to “connect, grow, transform.” The About page states:

Thrive East Bay is a purpose-driven community of people committed to creating a flourishing world for all.

We are a new kind of community offering a relevant space for diverse people seeking meaning and connection in our rapidly changing world. Informed by modern science and ancient wisdom, our culture is both secular and spiritual, infused with a deep sense of purpose and interconnectedness, inspired by the arts, and focused on social change.

We welcome people of all ages and backgrounds as we engage in personal growth, shared learning, and collective action.

We host regular Sunday events, small group circles, workshops, and training courses in the Oakland, Berkeley, and wider San Francisco Bay Area.

We are inspired by the following core principles that guide our community:
  1. Thriving Lives - We support each other in overcoming personal challenges and injustice, and creating healthy lives filled with purpose, joy, and expression.
  2. Love In Action - We let love guide us toward compassion, gratitude, empathy, and community amongst diverse groups of people.
  3. Shared Learning & Practice - We seek to deepen our understanding of the world through conversation and critical inquiry, and to grow together through transformative practices and action.
  4. Systemic Change - We unite to build equitable systems where we can flourish as individuals, as communities, and as a planet.

I particularly relate to the fact that they identify “support each other” at the head of their first core principle. I also respond to the fact that in that principle they affirm “overcoming personal challenges,” which suggests a commitment to self-examination. I anticipate exploring with them whether and how they believe that effort includes “modifying harmful social conditioning,” a key concern of mine recently.

I’m also eager to participate in the “Holistic Movement Building” workshop with Kazu Haga and Sonya Shah June 26-29, which aims to

harness the power to change policies and institutions while cultivating the love it will take to transform relationships…. How do we dismantle systems of oppression without replicating those same patterns in our own relationships? How do we heal our wounds while transforming the systems that perpetuate them? How do we better cultivate the relationship between inner and outer transformation?

Kazu and I have had some rich interaction concerning those issues. I’m very encouraged to see that he, Joshua, and others are keeping the holistic-change fire alive!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

“Reactance” and How to Talk

Dear Subscriber: I very much appreciate the connection we’ve had via Wade’s Weekly. The interest, feedback, and support you’ve shown have been very helpful. I hope we can stay in touch. To continue receiving my posts, please subscribe to Wade’s Wire on the homepage.

This is my latest post there: “Reactance” and How to Talk

Monday, May 15, 2017

Moving to Wade's Wire (first notice)

Soon I will no longer be posting here but will only be posting to Wade's Wire, generally relatively short pieces (800 words or so) 3-5 times per week.

To receive those posts via email, visit the home page at, enter your email address in the Subscribe box at the top left, and click Subscribe.

I just posted there "Peter Coyote, Change, and Transformation."

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

“My Bottom Line” Revisited

Facebook just told me that five years ago today I posted “My Bottom Line.” On the one hand, I am disappointed that I'm still seeking the kind of holistic community described in that essay. On the other hand, I am encouraged by various recent efforts to nurture such growth, including invitations that I received today from two allies with whom I have engaged in rich dialog about these matters.

The first invitation was from Kazu Haga, founder of the East Bay Peace Academy. It reads:

Holistic Movement-Building
Tuesday, June 26 - Friday, June 29; 10am-5pm
Taught by Kazu Haga and Sonya Shah

"Power without love is reckless and abusive, while love without power is sentimental and anemic." Dr. King, Gandhi, Chavez and others envisioned a movement that harnesses the power to change policies and institutions while cultivating the love it will take to transform relationships. What does it mean to build holistic movements for justice and healing? How do we build a movement grounded in love without giving up the power and the urgency of now? How do we dismantle systems of oppression without replicating those same patterns in our own relationships? How do we heal our wounds while transforming the systems that perpetuate them? How do we better cultivate the relationship between inner and outer transformation? What do holistic movements for justice and healing look like in terms of real practice and on the ground? This workshop will engage these questions, explore past and current movements, and envision paradigms and practices to build more holistic movements grounded in both justice and healing. This four-day inquiry will interweave theory, discussion, experiential exercises, and a collaborative approach.

Cost $425. For more info, click here.

The second invitation was from Joshua Gorman. It reads:

Join Thrive East Bay for our first monthly 'Root Down' event this coming Sunday as we deepen in community, engage in embodied practice, and nourish ourselves with delicious food and meaningful connections.

Thrive East Bay is a community of people committed to personal and social transformation. We stand together for a world of love, justice, and belonging. Our monthly 'Root Down' events build upon our larger monthly gatherings by providing an opportunity to connect more deeply with inspiring people; to engage in transformative practices that we can carry into our everyday lives; and to share in the power of community in service to a world that works for all.

When: this Sunday, May 7th from 4 - 6pm (please arrive on time!)
Community potluck and connecting from 6 - 7pm

Where: PLACE for Sustainable Living
1121 64th Street
Oakland, CA 94608
(This venue is wheelchair accessible.)

Co-Hosts: Aryeh Shell & Kele Nitoto

Cost: No one will be turned away for lack of funds. There is a suggested sliding scale contribution of $10 - $20 to help us cover our costs. You are invited to contribute what you feel called and are able to.

Potluck: Sharing food together is an essential part of community. Please bring a tasty dish and/or beverage to share with others for the community potluck.

Volunteers: We are seeking volunteers to help with the set-up and break-down of this event. If you are available to arrive early or stay late, let us know at teamATthriveeastbayDOTorg.

Invite a Friend: Please feel free to invite a friend who may value attending.

We look forward to 'rooting down' in community!

In partnership,
the Thrive East Bay Team

As I retire from cab driving, I look forward to having much more time to explore those issues. In particular, I’m interested in finding, helping to create, and publicizing user-friendly methods that activists could use to support one another to modify their counter-productive social conditioning and become more compassionate and effective. My hope is that such methods can be widely replicated, with little or no training required by the participants.

More Dialog on "Patient as Doctor"

I wanted to let you know how I chose to use your essay, "Patient As Doctor," in my class. Some background: ...I teach a Professional Foundations of Nursing course to 96 junior nursing students (so they are early in their nursing education and have a varied range of patient care experience). In this course they learn about nursing history, ethics, laws relevant to nursing, the image of nursing, the US health care system and leadership.

In class yesterday, students divided up into 16 groups of 6 students and followed this format:

In your assigned group, designate the following roles:

    1 writer
    1 timekeeper
    1 presenter

Read the essay below and answer the following questions. Be prepared to share at least one of your group's responses with the class.

Patient As Doctor

1. How does this patient's account make you feel?

2. In your opinion, does the US health care system disempower patients?

3. If so, what examples have you seen?

4. What can nurses do to promote patient empowerment within the US health care system?

After their group work, each group had one presenter come up to the front of the room and answer the questions listed above. Students had some powerful responses.

Students felt saddened, uncomfortable, surprised, not surprised and ashamed by your account. They believed that the health care system does disempower patients and some of their examples included: doing to the patient before asking or obtaining consent, not explaining rationale/educating, not providing the patient with options or choices, not encouraging the patient to ask questions, rushing through patient care, and not using an interpreter. They felt that some subgroups are even more likely to be paternalized/disempowered, including the elderly, the disabled, those who do not speak English, and the mentally ill. They provided several inspiring examples of how nurses can promote patient empowerment, giving me hope for the future of nursing and the advocacy of nursing as a counterbalance to the predominant medical model of care.

Just wanted to share and extend my appreciation of your willingness to let me use your writing in my teaching. I think that is was a very powerful exercise for the students!



Interesting and valuable feedback.  I’d like to add one more comment in response to this one that someone submitted:
Your article makes a number of good points about our paternalistic system. Whether it is medicine, law enforcement or the media we are treated as if we can NOT make informed decisions on our own.
 Again, it’s also about personal responsibility.  We are treated the way we allow people to treat us.  We have to step up to the plate and choose:  accept what we’re told, question what we’re told and then decide, or reject what we’re told.  Even these choices are our decision, so to say we’re treated as if we can NOT make informed decisions is a cop-out.  The system won’t change just because we blame it.  We have to change the way we respond to it.


My response:

I agree that we need to affirm and nurture personal responsibility. But why should the patient always have to fight to be heard? Why don't the professionals initiate dialog? Patients are often already stressed out. Fighting or pushing adds to the stress.

I do not believe that I blamed the professionals. As I see it, individual patients are a component of the System. Blame is shared.

It's not either/or. We need not blame the individual either. But often others treat us the way they choose to treat us -- not because we allow them to do so.

In my case, I did resist quite a bit. But when you've got a 103-degree fever and are wiped out by multiple drugs, it's hard to speak up consistently.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Responses to “Patient As Doctor”

The many, varied responses to my report on my recent hospitalization, “Patient As Doctor,” including numerous shares and likes on Facebook, were very helpful. Those comments that resonated with my critique of the health care system as a reflection of the larger society reassured me I am not alone. And the empathy and sympathy that were expressed was healing.

At the same time, however, I appreciated those who offered a different perspective. Generalizations are dangerous. Reality is a mixed bag. It does seem, for example, that Kaiser Permanente, “an integrated managed care consortium,” generally offers better care than is provided by “fee-for-service” institutions that generate greater income by providing more, often unnecessary, services, as is the case at my hospital. And no doubt many people receive good care at that hospital as well.

All of which raises questions about strategic language. If one is not careful, overblown rhetoric can alienate one from one’s audience, making it more difficult to build pressure for positive change. Words matter. What should we seek? Evolution? Revolution? Fundamental reform? Transformation? Creative change? It gets complicated, but those are questions I’ll continue to explore.

In the meantime, here are the responses to my piece, which I posted on multiple platforms:

Holistic, consultative democratic practices
So sorry about your experience. What you describe is why I don't interact with the medical establishment. They are not a health care system but a medical industry. I object to all the debate around "health care" because that is a misnomer for the medical insurance business which is driven by the profit motive not any kind of caring much less for health. Our society is so deeply devoted to the principle of money over everything that those involved in it cannot see it. I hope you get well soon.
Thank you for posting this. Ridiculous what happens in a hospital
I'm sorry that happened and it's so true. Needs to change.
Being your own advocate is vital.
There are now patient experience departments at every hospital. Send this letter to the CEO and cc the Patient Experience Team at the organization. The organization is measured on these things now for reimbursement as well as accreditation. The CEO will act on this...if not...don't ever go back to that particular hospital unless you have too.
I'm sorry for your ordeal, Wade. What happened to informed consent? I have had a similar bout of illness lately. I agree that our so-called health care system is moreso a medical industrial complex that sometimes is needed and sometimes helps. At Kaiser, which is lacking in many other ways, I have always been informed and asked for consent re interventions. Where did your experiences take place? Worthy of an official grievance!
My sentiments precisely
I go into my doctor's office with a list of questions. I'm lucky to be pretty healthy but the last medical issue I had, I had a specialist thank me for being a proactive patient. She said too many patients don't ask questions.
Wade, I'm glad to hear you are feeling better, but what an ordeal. One person with bad communication I can understand, but an entire system? I agree that your description should go to the hospital admin. I had pneumonia about 4 years ago, and I found not being able to breathe well a very disconcerting sensation, to say the least. In diagnosing it, they kept asking me, "Do you feel exhausted?" And I kept saying "No, I just feel like there's not enough oxygen in the room and opening a window wouldn't help." It wasn't until later when the antibiotic started to work and I *could* breathe better that I felt exhausted. I realized that adrenaline from a very primal panic about not breathing was keeping me from feeling exhausted.
I couldn't agree more with your statement: "...we need to apply holistic principles to every institution, not just health care. If we did, we would “transform the System.” But the world descends into ever more tribalism, materialism, and militarism." Wade!
'Holistic' to me means ‘integrated’. But the reality is that we live in a world where segregation, isolation and antagonism are the rule. "Divide and conquer" rather than "Unite and evolve", that is why 'the System' is broken.
I'm really sorry to hear about this ordeal, Wade. I do agree with the other person who said that Kaiser is a lot better in this regard. I also had pneumonia about ten years ago, and although the active infection went away quickly, I was drained of energy for several months afterwards. I sure hope you don't have to deal with that.
Wade Hudson continue to be proactive about your health; Be well!
Thanks for sharing the story
With you on all accounts! Glad you made it through. Very glad you are using the learning experience to help us and the hospital. Yes, empowerment and education are needed throughout society. Liberating structures as the scaffolding for reconstruction.
i am glad you're doing better despite the poor treatment. Thankfully, my experience with heart surgery and recovery has been significantly more positive.
Regarding what you wrote about your experience in the hospital and the general comments about health care and practitioners.  It’s really easy to blame the system — broken or otherwise.  But what came to mind for me was where do we as patients/users of the system take responsibility?  Do we ask direct questions about why we need a particular treatment or medication, what is it supposed to do, what are the side effects, etc.  I do this all the time, and
as a result haven’t had any problems with the doctors I see — including my adventures in the E/R.    Our parents’ generation accepted doctors as gods….”they know what’s best, don’t rock the boat” etc.  At least that was my mother’s philosophy. If we pay attention to our bodies they tell us what they need if we only listen.  Medical professionals are there to help because they MAY have more specific medical knowledge about what’s going on, but we can’t assume their solutions are the only ones.  I’ve had medications reduced and even eliminated because I said that’s what I wanted, and so far I’ve survived quite well.  And we have to ask and question. I think that’s what the intern meant when he said we are our own best doctors.
Your article makes a number of good points about our paternalistic system. Whether it is medicine, law enforcement or the media we are treated as if we can NOT make informed decisions on our own.
I am glad you are feeling better. Thank you for your articulate analysis. One of my adult daughters has had significant health issues for most of her life and we have had this conversation often as a family. We have come to the conclusion that there is an eerie similarity between the health system and the criminal justice system regarding disempowerment, "professionalism," disorientation and vulnerability. I'm glad you included the hopeful comments by the medical student and your primary care doctor.
Hope you are feeling better. Pneumonia is serious and deadly.
I'm sorry you had to go through this -- sounds like you were on your own during your hospital stay? Your "treatment" / mistreatment by medical professionals is something I’ve also experienced; not as a consumer but as a caregiver / advocate for people in Cambodia's even more wretched and class-based medical system, and then for my dad dealing with shockingly similar attitudes in Virginia. I learned in Cambodia that in order to survive the medical system, every patient must have an advocate. So it seemed natural to take on the role for my father (even though the doctors and social workers thought I was a hostile pain-in-the ass). I'm glad I persevered; on at least one occasion, if I'd left my dad in the hands of the 'professionals' one night and gone home instead, my dad would have died much sooner than he needed or wanted to…. Your primary care doctor sounds like a goddess-send. I believe she's the one who wrote about the healing qualities of gardening / farming, especially through contact with soil? This is a topic I've been exploring recently through workshops in horticultural therapy.
Thank you, Wade. I wish that everyone who has such an experience would flood the media (social and otherwise), the hospital admins, the medical schools, the newspapers and beyond, so that patients would take it into their hands and REFUSE to be infantilized. In many ways we are a country of rebels, but when it comes to doctors and medicine we are amazingly compliant. And, I realize how hard it is for anyone to challenge a system when one is in the midst of illness or emergency.
Thank you for your part of testifying and waking people up. We are trying to do this about advanced directives for emergencies and end of life. What you are addressing affects many more people. Citizen driven research has been making strides. Seems like it could be even easier to move citizen-driven medical practices.  
I’m glad you have such a forward thinking primary care person. If that person is in SF, I’d love to know who it is for referral status

hope you are feeling better! many blessings,

Friday, April 21, 2017

Patient As Doctor

Two days as an inpatient recently reinforced my opinion that the medical system paternalistically infantilizes patients -- a symbolic reflection of how the System itself systematically disempowers people.

A 103 degree fever led me to ER. Soon I was hooked to an IV that pumped something into my blood. They didn’t tell me what it was, give me a drug information sheet about it, seek my consent, or ask me about allergies. Some time later someone dropped a pill into my mouth without telling me what it was. I think it was Tylenol. Then someone stuck a cue tip into my nose without telling me what they wanted to do or why. It was to test for flu, which proved positive. I was also wired up for an EKG. No one told me why or asked for my consent. Later I was taken for an x-ray, which I happened to know was to test for pneumonia, but if I had not known that, I would have been clueless. They also, without telling me why, pumped oxygen into my lungs with a device inserted in my nose and attached a monitor to my finger to read the oxygen level in my blood. It wasn’t until the next afternoon that I learned why or the meaning of various levels of oxygen by doing research with my smartphone. When I asked for a list of all the drugs they were giving me for my various ailments, which included constipation and a urinary tract infection, the list did not explain which drug was for what.

Then the physical and occupational therapists swarmed on me. After chatting some and walking around the ward, the physical therapist told me she wanted to refer me to two weeks at a rehab center. “Ok?” she said. I thought that was ridiculous and remained silent. She repeated, “OK?” I replied, “I understand what you’re saying but I disagree.” I felt like she saw a wounded fish and was trying to reel me in to boost the case for her agency’s budget.

Later I told one of my medical students about that encounter. He said the whole team would discuss it. As he was leaving, he said, “Sometimes the patient is their own best doctor.” After he left, I broke down crying. Hopefully that student bodes well for the future of medicine.

I could continue. There are more stories. But I think I’ve made my point: Society should serve to empower everyone, everywhere, but we fall far short.

Fortunately, however, the drugs cured my fever and I’m recuperating at home, not some rehab center.


Yesterday I met with my primary care doctor for the first time since discharge and learned that I had pneumonia (a fact no one at the hospital told me!). At the end of our session, I showed her this essay and asked her if she believed I was being fair with my criticism. Before posting it, I wanted her opinion.

Not only did she say the essay makes sense. She asked my permission to photograph it and post it to her Twitter feed!

I often feel like a lonely voice crying out in the wilderness. As I see it, we need to apply holistic principles to every institution, not just health care. If we did, we would “transform the System.” But the world descends into ever more tribalism, materialism, and militarism.

Lately, short of breath, I’ve been discouraged. But my doctor’s response heartens me.

We must nurture a deep commitment to the common good of the Earth Community and find others who share that goal so we can build the critical mass needed to change course. Humanity’s future depends on it.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tax Reform: What’s Fair?

How much should various income groups pay in federal taxes? How much federal revenue would be generated by higher rates on the wealthy?

Forget “nominal” rates. What matters are “effective” tax rates -- what people actually pay.

According to the CBO, in 2013, the last year for which detailed data is available, the average before-tax annual income of the top 1% was $1.5 million. With their 34% federal effective tax rate, their after-tax income was $1.0 million.

Those in the 96-99 percentiles averaged $327,000 in pre-tax income. Their rate was 26%. So their after-tax income was $240,000.

The 91-95 percentiles averaged $200,000. With an effective tax rate of 23%, their average after-tax income was $155,000.

For the sake of argument, consider the impact of a graduated tax scheme that resulted in those income groups paying 60%, 45%, and 40% respectively.

That would leave them with after-tax incomes of $628,000, $180,000, and $120,000 -- substantial to say the least.

With their same incomes, the increase in federal revenue would total one trillion dollars.

That would be enough to hire 32 million full-time workers at $15 per hour.

Just saying.

What tax rates would you consider fair? Bear in mind the total local, state, and federal tax burdens as reported in the graphic.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Building a Democracy Movement (3/24/17 Draft)

James Baldwin stated:

If I’m not the nigger here and you invented him, you the white people invented him, then you’ve got to find out why…. If you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it…. And the future of the country depends on that. Whether or not it’s able to ask that question.

This statement aims to answer Baldwin’s question.

What is it about “the system” that produces “niggers”? And, how can we change that system?

[To read more, click here.]

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Donald Trump, America’s Shadow

If the American people use Trump as a mirror to see our Shadow, we can liberate ourselves from our own base instincts and build on the resistance to Trump to transform the United States into a compassionate community.

According to Stephen Diamond:

The shadow, said celebrated Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung, is the unknown ‘‘dark side’’ of our personality–-dark both because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness. Whatever we deem evil, inferior or unacceptable and deny in ourselves becomes part of the shadow, the counterpoint to what Jung called the persona or conscious ego personality….

The pervasive Freudian defense mechanism known as projection is how most people deny their shadow, unconsciously casting it onto others so as to avoid confronting it in oneself. Such projection of the shadow is engaged in not only by individuals but groups, cults, religions, and entire countries, and commonly occurs during wars and other contentious conflicts in which the outsider, enemy or adversary is made a scapegoat, dehumanized, and demonized.

Unfortunately, with his blatant “power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger [and] rage,” Trump is an All-American. He’s just more honest about it.

Are you free of those tendencies? I know I am not.

When we deny those realities, avoid confronting them in ourselves, and cast them onto others, it’s easy to demonize Trump and get carried away with our own irrationality.

Trump is a threat. It may well be that he is “crazy like a fox.” There may be a method to the madness that he, Bannon, and Miller exhibit.

He’s discrediting the lamestream media and creating his own reality, which his loyal followers accept uncritically. And he still has a 40% approval rating. That’s a lot of people.

And all he needs is a major crisis, whether manufactured or not, and more violent anti-Trump protesters to boost that base and increase his power.  

If we are hateful ourselves, we’ll give cover to the anarchists. Somehow we need to figure out how to deal with those who are prone to violence. Conducting demonstrations with a clear, strong tone of dignified nonviolence would be a great first step.

I remain hopeful that our strong civil society and judiciary will restrain Trump -- if we are thoughtful in how we resist.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The System: Historical Roots

Human beings are inherently compassionate, cooperative creatures. We need to care for others and be cared for. Those deep, primal, primordial instincts are derived from the bond between infant and mother, both in the womb and in the months after birth.

For two million years, humans lived in hunter-gatherer tribes whose members were equal, cooperative, playful, and peaceful. Compared to modern comforts, conditions were hard, but food and material goods were shared. No “chief” ordered others what to do and everyone participated in group decisions. Those characteristics became deeply embedded in human nature.

In lush, remote areas, tribes perpetuated that lifestyle as modern civilizations expanded elsewhere. When the Spanish began to settle the San Francisco Bay Area in 1774, for example, the region was a virtual Garden of Eden. The fish were so plentiful people just threw rocks into streams to kill them and birds would at times block the sun like an eclipse when they flew. With this abundance, around the Bay, some 40 indigenous tribes with different languages lived peacefully, with only occasional conflicts.

At an early age, children suffer frustration and experience pain, which leads to fear, another deep instinct. Fear in turn often leads to anger. As the ego develops, without proper parenting, that anger can harden into hatred and be expressed destructively. Even worse, especially in modern cultures, the ego can become addicted to the adrenalin rush associated with defeating others in competitive struggles.

That conflict between love and hate, both strong instincts, has played out through human history. But love (with the mother) comes first. It’s deepest, and if fully cultivated, it can be stronger.

Only 12,000 years ago, when the last Ice Age ended and glaciers melted, new seed-bearing plants emerged. Not long after, in various parts of the planet at more or less the same time, humans learned to plant those seeds and grow crops. Eventually, they began to store food in central locations. As control of that food became critical, a few men amassed the power to protect and distribute it. Societies became centralized and separated into classes. Those at the top used physical violence and the threat of violence to impose their will.

With that development of centralized agriculture, ever since elites have dominated class-based societies (including those that later called themselves Communist or Socialist). As the risk of being conquered by outsiders developed, fear of “the other” intensified and ruling elites promoted religious myths and rituals to legitimize their power and help persuade their subjects to obey them. The selective granting of privileges and powers to those who were loyal also encouraged submission.

Over time, fear, hate, and deception became tools of social control. Monarchies rooted in the biological inheritance of wealth and power became commonplace. Most subjects generally supported their rulers, who provided economic security and protection against outsiders.

With the growth of capitalism, the new business class challenged monarchies and pursued political power for itself. Affirming ideals such as “all men are born equal,” they argued that greed and the pursuit of economic self-interest could be harnessed to benefit the common good. The threat of poverty, they said, was necessary to motivate otherwise lazy people to work hard, which was a dark view of human nature. They used fear to support the social order.

During the initial transition to democracy, only property owners elected government officials. Black slaves, indentured servants, other poor whites, and women could not vote. Those restrictions enabled property owners to pass on their advantages to their children. Nevertheless, a somewhat more fluid social inheritance of wealth and power replaced the rigid biological inheritance associated with monarchies.  

“Levellers” and others who wanted a more complete democracy threatened to expand the right to vote and redistribute property. Faced with that threat, in the United States, the Founders who wrote the Constitution took measures to protect stability. James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” wrote:  “Divide et impera (divide and conquer), the reprobated axiom of tyranny, is under certain (some) qualifications, the only policy, by which a republic can be administered on just principles."

With those thoughts in mind, the Founders fragmented the nation’s government, divided the federal government into three branches and Congress into two houses, and established the Electoral College to elect the President. For the country as a whole, they divided power between national, state, and local governments. Those divisions made united popular action on a national scale difficult.

Throughout this history, the instinct to love and cooperate with fellow humans remained deeply ingrained. In every major civilization, generations passed down stories of an earlier time of peace, harmony, and prosperity. In Greece and Rome, that period was called the "Golden Age." In the Middle East, it was the “Garden of Eden.”

Some freedom-loving rebels have always resisted centralized societies based on domination and submission. They’ve often tried to establish compassionate alternatives, whether privately in their families and religious institutions, or in small, semi-autonomous alternative societies and subcultures.  Sometimes slaves and other oppressed groups have rebelled and sought freedom violently.

Every major civilization has experienced conflict between those two major forces: top-down domination rooted in hate, deception, and fear; and partnership rooted in love, honesty, and faith in the future.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Transform the System: A 16-Point Step-by-Step Program

NOTE: Following is the first draft of “A 16-Point Step-by-Step Program,” which will be included in “Transform the System: A Declaration.” To my knowledge, no organization of the sort envisioned here currently exists. As stated in the Preface:

A widespread commitment to that goal could help unify a broad array of forces into a “transform-the-system movement.” Various organizations could fight for specific causes while doing so for the sake of the larger cause. We could affirm both/and, within a shared commitment to systemic transformation. We could build momentum by occasionally supporting one another on timely priorities when victories are near. With that approach, we could inspire discouraged, inactive people who want to have a short-term impact. And we could inspire idealists who want long-term fundamental reform.

Feedback is welcome.

A 16-Point Step-by-Step Program

The following presents a scenario for how a coalition to transform the System might develop. These ideas are a “thought experiment.” There’s no assumption they will be fully implemented.

  1. A diverse organizing committee forms with the intent to find or help develop a multi-issue national coalition that:
    1. Helps members undo the System’s divisive conditioning.
    2. Stays together over time and quickly mobilizes large numbers of individuals nationwide to fight for priority issues one at a time.
    3. Promotes a new common purpose for our society.
    4. Aims to help reform all of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves to serve that mission.
  2. The committee drafts a brief statement of principles to guide its work. To whatever degree it chooses, it draws on material presented in this booklet.
  3. The committee widely circulates that draft, solicits input, and modifies it.
  4. The committee looks for an existing national organization that already embraces the approach presented in that statement of principles.
  5. If it’s unable to find one, it seeks a local branch of an existing national organization, such as a local Democratic Party, that’s willing to adopt the project as a model that could be used to persuade its national body to take it on.
  6. If it’s unable to find such an organization, the committee explores forming a new organization itself with the following methods:
    1. It requests individuals to endorse its principles and pledge to join the organization if and when a certain number of individuals, perhaps 100,000, sign the pledge.
    2. The organizing committee also asks a broad array of organizations to endorse the statement of principles and pledge to mobilize their members for joint actions (perhaps once a month if needed) if and when the organization is launched.
    3. The committee tells organizations with more than a certain number of members that they will be able to designate a representative to the organization’s governing body.
    4. When the individual-member threshold has been crossed, the organizing committee forms a governing body.
    5. The governing body launches the coalition and collects membership dues, which will be the coalition’s only source of income.
    6. The governing body guides the Coalition by adopting written policies and delegating to staff the responsibility for implementing those policies.
  7. Individual members reach out to neighbors who live in the same voting precinct and form a precinct-based club with two or more members.
  8. Those clubs:
    1. Meet at least once a month.
    2. Share a meal.
    3. Organize and convene social and educational activities that enrich members’ lives.
    4. Open meetings with each member briefly reporting on one of their self-improvement efforts.
    5. Discuss how to engage other neighbors in mutual learning dialogs and recruit them to join the club.
    6. Unless its local Democratic Party already engages in year-round precinct organizing and fights for the Party’s national platform year-round, the clubs work together to persuade the Party to do so -- and to persuade the State and national Party to do the same.
    7. Work with other organizations to develop slates of candidates for local and regional elected Democratic Party positions who agree that the Party should engage in year-round precinct organizing and fight for its platform year-round -- and promise to push the state and national parties to undertake that kind of precinct organizing.
    8. During elections, engage in voter education and get out the vote.
  9. The coalition’s national office publishes a list of precinct clubs on the Web so new members can join their local club.
  10. When a few clubs in the same Congressional District (CD) have formed, those clubs select one or two members to participate in a CD action team. Democratic Party members who do not belong to one of the coalition’s precinct-based club may also participate in those CD action teams.
  11. Those self-governing CD action teams may engage in one or more of the following activities, as well as others:
    1. Send representatives to meet at least monthly with one of their Congressperson’s staff, ideally the chief of staff, to explore ways of working together to advance the coalition’s goals.
    2. As a model for the rest of the nation, persuade the Congressperson to convene an open-ended monthly community dialog at the same time each month to enable the Congressperson’s constituents (randomly selected if need be) to ask questions and make statements to the Congressperson.
    3. Persuade the national party to undertake a nationwide Precinct Organizing Project and dedicate itself to fight for its platform year-round.
  12. Each month, the coalition’s national office, after soliciting input from members and conducting straw polls, identifies a timely top priority winnable issue and asks all of its members to communicate with their Congressperson about that issue (which may or may not be an issue being advanced by the Democratic Party).
  13. If their Congressperson resists supporting the coalition’s position:
    1. CD action teams will gather support from other community-based organizations, elected officials, and local governmental bodies.
    2. If necessary, CD action teams may conduct public demonstrations and if needed and feasible, nonviolent direct action.
  14. If their Congressperson supports the coalition’s position, the CD action team works with the Congressperson to raise funds for the national Precinct Organizing Project and takes on other projects to strengthen the Party in other regions.
  15. When that issue has been resolved with a complete or partial victory, a defeat, or a stalemate, the national office undertakes a campaign on another timely issue. Regardless, from the outset, the Coalition will affirm that no victory and no defeat is ever final. The work is never-ending.
  16. The coalition moves toward being a bottom-up, member-controlled organization with the following methods:
    1. After the coalition has operated for two years, each CD action team will be invited to send one or two representatives to a regional advisory body. Each such body will represent 15-20 CDs. The national office will establish a method for maximizing diversity on that advisory body.
    2. Those bodies will meet every three months to evaluate how the Coalition is operating and send advice to the national governing body.
    3. After another year of operating, those regional advisory bodies will select representatives to a diverse national advisory body.
    4. After another year of operating, the national governing body will be selected democratically in a manner that assures diversity, either with a direct vote by the entire membership or by a vote by the regional advisory bodies.