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.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Obama Foundation Input

Barack and Michele Obama have launched the Obama Foundation at That site includes a video and the following:

Your Voice
The Obama Foundation is a living, working start-up for citizenship — an ongoing project for us to shape, together, what it means to be a good citizen in the 21st century. The Foundation is based on the South Side of Chicago, and we will have projects all over the city, the country, and the world.

To help us get started, we would love to hear from you. Send us your ideas, your hopes, your dreams about what we can achieve together. Tell us about the people who inspire you and the organizations whose work you admire.

This will be your Foundation just as much as it is ours.

“Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen.”
—President Barack Obama

What do you think makes a good citizen?
What ideals or actions come to mind when you think about citizenship?

Share an idea

What makes a good citizen?
Democracy is all about showing up, diving in, and staying at it. But how? Here at the Obama Foundation, we're just getting started on what good citizenship in the 21st century means.
Your thoughts and ideas will make our Foundation a better, more powerful force for good. We can't wait to hear what you're thinking.

Share your stories with us. Tell us what issues you care about. Let us know what people, organizations, and companies inspire you to be a good citizen.

The site also has a form for input that asks:

What do you think makes a good citizen?
What ideals or actions come to mind when you think about citizenship?

With some formatting changes here, my response was:

Stay informed,
communicate with elected officials and fellow citizens,
listen to others respectfully,
be able and willing to collaborate,
join with and organize others as much as you can,
speak your truth,
acknowledge your mistakes and resolve not to repeat them,
consistently work to be a better person,
avoid name-calling,
tap your compassion more deeply,
commit yourself to the common good of the entire human family,
be present and willing to engage in mutually supportive relationships,
be willing to take risks,
don’t worry too much about failure,
overcome tendencies to be arrogant, judgmental, condescending, self-righteous, dogmatic, fearful, hateful, and deceitful.

The ideal action that comes to mind is participating in a Democratic Party that fights for its platform year-round with precinct-based clubs that enable neighbors to support one another in their self-improvement, with each individual setting their own goals. As I envision it, the Party would:
1) form an ongoing coalition with other groups that support its national platform and identify one priority at a time to focus on;
2) encourage its Congresspersons to work with local groups to raise money for that coalition;
3) hold hearings on and solicit input into that platform at least six months prior to the convention;
4) assure that each state party has a governing structure that is at least as bottom-up as the California party
5) tweak the Party’s structure to make it even more democratic (e.g., fewer superdelegates), and;
6) encourage its Congresspersons to facilitate civic participation by publicizing and convening a “community dialogue” at the same time each month, with the Congressperson or their chiefs of staff, that would select speakers randomly and be structured to maximize the opportunity for constituents to make statements and ask questions, as well as enable community groups to circulate literature at tables.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Transform the System: Preface

NOTE: Following is the latest draft of the Preface for a booklet, tentatively titled “Transform the System,” which is a work-in-progress. I welcome feedback. To review the projected contents, click here.


Imagine. Forty adults enjoy a picnic on a riverbank. They see small children floating downstream and dive in to save them from drowning, but can rescue only half of them.

A man on a raft passes by and reports that one mile upstream a giant monster is throwing children into the river. He estimates it would take twenty adults to subdue the monster.

The party proceeds to discuss what what path to take through the thick jungle alongside the river.  Unable to agree, twenty return to rescuing children, five meditate or pray, five return to eating and drinking, and ten go after the monster. But when the activists find the monster, they can only slow him down.

That scenario is a metaphor for our current situation. If we, the people, united, we could improve national policies and greatly alleviate suffering and injustice. But we’re fragmented, without the power we need.

At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Elizabeth Warren brought the crowd to its feet when she declared, “People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here's the painful part: They're right. The system is rigged."

During the 2016 election, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump echoed that theme and received strong support. Clearly, there’s widespread concern about “the system.” Advertising and popular culture often refer to “the system.” Following are some images that reflect that perspective.



system6.png                       system7.jpg

Does that “folk wisdom” have merit? Does “the system” exist? This booklet is based on the proposition that it does.

When most writers discuss “the system,” they only talk about the government and the economy. Other writers only talk about “systems” and propose “systemic reform” in terms of those specific systems.

This declaration takes a more comprehensive, or holistic, view. We assert that “the System” includes all of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals who are conditioned to fit into the System and reproduce it in our daily lives.

Our society is stable because the System, which is  self-perpetuating, provides ongoing coherence and stability. The various elements of the System are interwoven. They overlap and reinforce one another. That underlying consistency is what the popular wisdom refers to when it talks about “the system.”

If we understand the System, expose root causes, connect the dots, and clarify how the pieces fit together, it will help us correct injustices that the System inflicts on the disinherited, reverse the dehumanization suffered by the powerful, and eventually restructure the System.  

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 also inspire idealists who are concerned about the need for long-term fundamental reform.

Toward that end, this booklet analyzes the System, proposes basic principles for how we can move forward, and presents a step-by-step plan for how we can restructure the System and transform the United States into a compassionate community.

A variety of social-change strategies will always be needed. That’s a good thing. This work is neither the final word nor a blueprint. But hopefully it will offer a sensible, useful direction and spark new, better ideas.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Reader Responses, My Comment, and a Quote

In response to Political Correctness in 2016, I received the following responses:

I appreciate your honesty and substance, as usual.
I would love you to have a wide audience as what you say is thoughtful, meaningful, and of use, as well as important.
But all I can do is appreciate hearing your articulation, feeling the support and a “light” in the seeming hopelessness of the darkness descending.
Whether you can continue, or not, I’m grateful for these posts.
I wish you, and all, a miracle of hope and generosity. May it be in our lifetimes, and may our lives make sanity, the welfare of all inhabitants of this planet possible long after we are gone.


I hope you don’t give up, Wade. But trying to function on the left is really hard. You have the people with a lot of class privilege, mostly but not entirely white. Then you have a lot of other people who become “leaders” by trashing everyone else who isn’t in their particular identity group. How it advances one’s cause baffles me, because if you antagonize your allies you won’t have any. Reading what I just wrote makes me want to give up too.

I really like your honest approach to things, and I think what you have been writing has become more and more insightful. Unfortunately, the truth of the insights makes me, at least, want to give up myself. How can the left accomplish anything when its worldview, in practice, is just as anti-human as that on the right? Who is going to be inspired by this crap? ... Wade, as I wrote elsewhere, I think your thoughtful comments are very important, and I hope you don't give up.


Good piece -- thanks for sharing.


Don't lose heart!

That's a really sad story you told, about your angry interlocutor who no longer wants to read what you have to say, or have a dialogue with you.  There's a person who's hurting so deeply, that they lash out at even at those who are most likely to listen considerately to them, and even somebody as cautious in making judgements as myself can only think: is that really what a measured and adult response looks like?


I doubt that you have ever intentionally disrespected that person, and know that you are usually pretty careful to write what you mean, choosing your words to convey quite precise shades of meaning.  The only point they make that I would have to agree with is this: guessing what "most persons of" any group - race, colour, class, nationality, religion or sect, political party or side, gender or sexual orientation - just isn't likely to resonate with "most" - or even many - persons of that group.  Putting it another way: making a generalisation about how people are likely to think, feel or behave based on (one of) their overt group memberships runs the risk of alienating many of that group's members, because every group is comprised of individuals with (usually) as many points of difference as of commonality.

   A thought for you: This may be one of the lessons of intersectionality ... we are all unique in our situations, being at once a member of many different groups that, taken as a whole, often have different default positions or understandings; as individuals, we often have to resolve conflicts between the (majority or default) positions and viewpoints of the various groups we belong to.

   For example, if you know that I'm:

       an Australian,
       a Muslim,
       a mathematician,
       a husband, father and grandfather,
       a teacher and a business analyst

   - does this tell you in convincing terms what my position would be on, say,

       our military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq?
       evolution and creation science?
       religious education?
       sexual mores and laws, such as the age of consent, abortion, homosexuality or in vitro fertilisation?  

   I'm confident that, while you could take reasonable guesses at all of these, you'd miss the mark fairly widely on some.  More importantly, I'd be happy to tell you if you asked - which means you don't have to guess at all!

But the reason I'm writing to you is this: to tell you that what you've been doing is more useful than you can know.  Sometimes, you are (possibly) too humble!  Arrogance and thoughtlessness do NOT spring to mind as adjectives to describe "Wade Hudson"!  Know that even the gadfly has its use: it keeps the beast moving ...


The person who wrote those comments ("Don't speculate on what people of color...") is neither an activist nor a progressive, and he does not speak for people of color any more than you speak for white people.  He's a reactionary.

I no longer have tolerance for the type of bigotry that leads so many, in a moment of truth, to reply to comments such as yours by saying such things as "your bullshit" and issuing such emotionally violent insults as "check your white privilege" to someone who is so far removed from the upper class as to make such an insult ludicrous.

Progressives need to understand that identity politics is not a leftist or a progressive movement - it is a rightist and reactionary movement.  The 'grey area' has separated into a sharp line and a categorical distinction - in our time in history, the identity-politics left is no different from the Donald Trump right - they are two forms of the same reactionaryism that causes neighbor to hate neighbor and to split and divide by race and gender so that some can be elevated while others are crushed, rather than struggling for a better system together for all.

I urge you, for example, to listen to the speeches of Fred Hampton from the Black Panther party whose anti-racism was fundamentally embedded in what was deeply understood to be the primary struggle of overturning corporate capitalism and materialism and fighting for what he called socialism.  The Black Panther party was absolutely adamant about not replacing white elites with some fraction of black elites - by not replacing one oppressor with another - and to them it was very clear that this meant economic oppression.  The anti-racist struggle of the Black Panther party was always in that frame, as it must be, because people are not born racist - they are driven by circumstance to be so.

The "African American activist" you quote is so far removed from the true anti-racist activism represented by the Black Panther party that it would be an insult to their memory for him to even claim he understands what the Black Panther party represents.

We have a long, long ways to go.  I do not even attempt to engage in the world of leftists because leftism has been overtaken by identity politics.  It is simply impossible to try to reason or be honest (as you have been) with leftist culture today.  You are bound to run into emotionally violent hatred in response to your efforts - from those who label themselves as leftists, most of all.  Attempting to reason with this type of politically-correct reactionary thinking is no more likely to succeed than attempting to reason with a white supremacist group.

It is going to take an ideological tremor carrying the force of an earthquake before there will be any good openings to finally address the real systemic issues facing our world - war, materialism, greed, and spiritual stultification born of waste and decay.  "Check your white privilege" does nothing to move us forward - it is pure reactionaryism, pure emotional violence, enforced by a power-hungry culture of "the prestige of self-righteousness".  It's about time progressives don't cow-tow to politically correct violence.  It is the tragic truth.


Yes, please speak your truth.
I always appreciate it, even when I disagree with it.
I wish in our culture more people gave, and many more people accepted, unsolicited advice.


I read your writings. I always have. I’ve read your stories. Ever since we connected over Charter for Compassion.

I’ve sent your links, joined groups you’ve been a member, posted many of your thoughts on social media, encouraged others in the Bay Area to connect with you. I share in your frustrations.

Know that conversations and dialogue can matter. You need not have to have a large pulpit or a growing mailing list to make a difference. I look forward to knowing of all the ways you share your truth…either through a single correspondence or conversation via email or phone…or by one day taking a cab in the bay and finding you as the driver.

Hang in there.

Best wishes to you for 2017.


Those words of support hearten me. Hopefully they will help me proceed with a better attitude, and perhaps squeeze out more time for productive efforts.

Concerning the last comment, though in context I think it is implied, on reflection I think I should have added a parenthetical comment to clarify the opening sentence. So I’ve edited the post to read: “Trump wasn’t condescending (toward the white working class),” said one of my taxi passengers,...”

Overall, however, I disagree with that criticism. I believe the left does have a problem with “political correctness,” which is why Trump was able to exploit that theme. More seriously, the reluctance to be self-critical on this point reflects a general reluctance to be self-critical.

Since posting Political Correctness in 2016, I’ve read “Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say: How the Language Police Are Perverting Liberalism” by Jonathan Chait in the New York Magazine. It’s a lengthy account of many battles that have been fought on this turf. I found it compelling. But in case you don’t want to read the entire article, I post here the conclusion:

The p.c. style of politics has one serious, possibly fatal drawback: It is exhausting. Claims of victimhood that are useful within the left-wing subculture may alienate much of America. The movement’s dour puritanism can move people to outrage, but it may prove ill suited to the hopeful mood required of mass politics. Nor does it bode well for the movement’s longevity that many of its allies are worn out. “It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing,” confessed the progressive writer Freddie deBoer. “There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.” Goldberg wrote recently about people “who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in [online feminism] — not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.” Former Feministing editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay told her, “Everyone is so scared to speak right now.”

That the new political correctness has bludgeoned even many of its own supporters into despondent silence is a triumph, but one of limited use. Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

Knowing that others feel bludgeoned into tired silence helps me feel less alone, which motivates me to persevere.