Humility and Rationality

Humility and Rationality

Humility and Rationality
By Wade Lee Hudson

A review
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011, 512 Pages

Controlling emotions, instincts, intuitions, and biases is like riding an elephant. As Jonathan Haidt wrote: “The emotional tail wags the rational dog.” In his magnum opus, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman sums up decades of research and urges readers to strengthen “slow thinking” to better manage “fast thinking.” Rationality demands discipline, practice, and effort, but over-confident, we often fail. A humble understanding of why and how we don’t always choose the most rational action can help us be better human beings. 

Kahneman argues that humans

often need help to make more accurate judgments and better decisions, and in some cases policies and institutions can provide that help. The assumption that agents are rational provides the intellectual foundation for the libertarian approach to public policy: do not interfere with the individual's right to choose, unless the choices harm others. For behavioral economists, however, freedom has a cost, which is borne by individuals who make bad choices, and by society that feels obligated to help him. The decision of whether or not to protect individuals against their mistakes, therefore, presents a dilemma.

Whether to require motorcyclists to wear helmets is an example. Requiring everyone to get health insurance is another.

Social-change activists have much to learn from Kahneman’s work, which calls for a commitment to overcome the arrogance that interferes with learning from mistakes. No wonder pride has been considered the number-one sin, and humility the number-one virtue. 

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Still Looking for a Holistic Community

Still Looking for a Holistic Community

I seek a community whose members promote systemic transformation, engage in political action to improve public poilcy, aim to become better human beings, and set aside time to support each other with those efforts. 

That’s it. The essential ingredients of a holistic community that involves the whole person and helps change the whole world. It seems straightforward and sensible. From time to time, I’ve tasted holistic community enough to convince me it’s practical. But those experiences, including my own efforts to organize one, have been fleeting, and I know of none I can join.

My primary motivation is that I believe holistic communities could help relieve suffering. As I address in Transform the System: A Work in Progress, it seems to me that most social change efforts specialize in ways that undermine their effectiveness. Most focus on either the outer world or the inner world. Holistic communities that integrate the two could provide mutual support for both open-ended self-development and improvements in the external world, including political action to impact public policy.

A mission statement for a network of holistic communities might be something like: to help transform our country into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, our own people, the environment, and life itself. That wording would enable people in any country to endorse it.

To help achieve that mission, community members might adopt a commitment such as:

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Beyond Left and Right: Compassionate Pragmatism

Beyond Left and Right: Compassionate Pragmatism

Edited 7/15/19

Beyond Left and Right: Compassionate Pragmatism
By Wade Lee Hudson

There’s no widely agreed-on definition of “liberalism” and “conservatism.” More specific terms like “egalitarian economics” vs.“free-market fundamentalism, and ”liberal democracy” vs. “authoritarianism. make sense. So do more general terms like “moderates” vs “revolutionaries,” or “pragmatists” vs “purists.” But supporters of one of those terms may agree with the other side on many sprecific issues. They can’t logically be lumped together on one “left-right” spectrum, which is incoherent and serves to divide and conquer. The three pre-Trump legs of the “conservative” Republican Party — fiscal conservatism, cultural conservatism, and militarism — could not logically be placed under the umbrella of “conservatism” on the so-called political spectrum. The “liberal” Democratic Party has had its own internal contradictions. There’s not one spectrum; there’s many.

Traditionally, the “right” has been said to affirm authority, order, hierarchy, duty, tradition, and nationalism. And the “left” has been associated with liberty, equality, solidarity, human rights, progress, and internationalism. But most people believe in all or most of those principles — because each holds value. 

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The Left-Right Spectrum: Email to Ezra Klein

I just sent the following email to Ezra Klein, founder of Vox.com and host of The Ezra Klein Show podcast.

--Wade

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SUBJECT: Critique the “Political Spectrum”

Ezra, I love the show, the format, and how you conduct it. I especially like the concluding three-book question.

I suggest you engage with a guest who challenges the left-right spectrum. I have not heard you adequately explain that frame. Please explore:

  • What is “liberalism” and “conservatism”?

  • Why do you want to defeat conservatism?

  • Does “conservatism” affirm some, or many, valuable principles?

  • Do we need another worldview that integrates legitimate elements from each ideology?

I suspect you could consider these issues in a way that would help me and other listeners clarify our thinking on this important issue.

Harry Boyte [“Populism and John Dewey: Convergences and Contradictions”) is one possible guest. Ken Wilber, Trump and a Post-Truth World, (good summary here) might be another.

With great respect,

Wade Hudson

TransformTheSystem.org
Wade's Wire (daily)
Wade'e Weekly
Wade's Monthly



The Politics of Petulance: A Spirited Defense of “Mature Liberalism”

The Politics of Petulance: A Spirited Defense of “Mature Liberalism”

Wade Lee Hudson

Donald Trump is another Joe McCarthy. So says Alan Wolfe in The Politics of Immaturity: America in an Age of Immaturity. Wolfe’s passionate, eloquent affirmation of “mature liberalism” is not uncritical of post-war liberals who challenged McCarthyism. But Wolfe urges us to remember “what they got right.”

Trump loved McCarthy’s lawyer, Roy Cohn, who was “notoriously malicious” and practised “the dark arts of American politics.” They became close friends and Cohn greatly influenced Trump.  When James Comey and Jeff Sessions frustrated Trump, he famously declared, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” His link to Cohn was more than personal. They shared the same worldview: demagoguery. Trumpism parallels McCarthyism .

Concerning many of the liberals who criticized McCarthyism and the radical right that emerged from it, Wolfe acknowledges:

Their rightful hostility toward the Soviet Union translated itself into a rigid anti-communism that became, for some, an ideology unto itself. Seeing fascism in unexpected places, they exaggerated the dangers posed by both the student movements and the black protest of the 1960s. Equality for women was the furthest thing from their minds…. Indeed, most of them, with the exception of Richard Wright and Reinhold Niebuhr, seemed to have not all that much interest in the question of race at all…. There may have been an antidemocratic tinge….

Nevertheless, Wolfe insists

for all their flaws, these thinkers stand redeemed today because they brought both the classical and the Enlightenment understandings of politics back to life and thereby offered a starting point for trying to understand why Americans, who profess to love democracy and freedom, elected as their president in 2016 a man and a party that seemed to respect neither….

One could dismiss or even attack their positions so long as American politics showed some signs of stability. Alas, such complacency, given the right-wing demagoguery shaking both the world and this country, is no longer affordable…. That is why, despite their occasional blind spots, it makes sense to return to what these intellectuals had to say…. If Trump's accession to the presidency does not cause intense introspection, nothing can. It is, furthermore, not an explanation of one rogue election we need. It is a discussion of what kind of nation we have become.

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Rural Resentment and 2020

Rural Resentment and 2020

By Wade Lee Hudson

Hillary Clinton might be President today if she’d read articles Katherine J. Cramer wrote prior to 2016.  A Wisconsin native, Cramer has studied political attitudes in rural Wisconsin since 2007. She’s informally visited with residents, engaged in extensive conversations, and listened closely. What she’s learned is revealing. Now that the University of Chicago Press has published her book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, Democrats have no excuse if they don’t pay attention to her discoveries in the 2020 elections.

Cramer’s book echoes Enchanted America: How Intuition and Reason Divide our Politics (see “Irrational Populism”), which calls for “an overarching theory beyond the idea that all elites and outsiders are bad and the people are good.” In a similar vein, Cramer argues that ordinary people should understand their circumstances “as the product of broad social, economic, and political forces,” rather than the “fault of guilty and less deserving social groups.” She says, “The purpose of this book is...to illuminate how we blame each other.”

[You’re invited to help develop an overarching theory that explains those broad forces by  participating in the Transform the System Dialog.]

According to Cramer, her term “rural consciousness”

signals an identification with rural people and rural places and denotes a multifaceted resentment against cities…. I heard them complaining that government and public employees are the product of anti-rural forces and should obviously be scaled back as much as possible…. It informed their frequently negative perceptions of public employees.

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Irrational Populism

Irrational Populism

Irrational Populism
By Wade Lee Hudson

Intuitions provide insight, but “gut feelings” can lead to irrational dogmatism if they aren’t subjected to scientific logic and deliberative thinking. Enchanted America: How Intuition and Reason Divide our Politics concludes that the rising global populist threat calls for “an overarching theory beyond the idea that all elites and outsiders are bad and the people are good.” TransformTheSystem.org offers such a theory. Its aim is to counter scapegoating, demonizing, and counter-productive, misplaced anger.

Our primary problem is not the elite. Our primary problem is not how our economy and government are structured. Those problems are symptoms. Our primary problem is the System---our domination-based social system that weaves together all of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals, who reinforce the System with selfish daily actions.

Enchanted America, by J. Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood, documents how “Intuitionists” are gaining ground against “Rationalists.” They write:

The Intuitionist/Rationalist split is not like other political divisions in the United States. Intuitionism poses an threat to democracy. It is neither benign nor temperate. It bristles against open inquiry, is intolerant of opposition, and chafes at the pluralism and compromise modern democracy requires. It is prone to conspiracy theory, drawn to simple generalizations, and quick to vilify the other.

Intuitionists reflect an “absence of conscious purposeful thought [and] rely on their internal feelings.” They just “know” that some things are right. One form of Intuitionism is “magical thinking,” which contradicts ideas “that are validated by testing and observation.”

Rationalists, on the other hand, “utilize abstract theories, philosophical deductions, and observable facts.” They view problems “in a dispassionate manner, seeking pragmatic, technical solutions.”

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A Shallow, Leftist Critique of “The Coddling of the American Mind”

By Wade Lee Hudson

Google’s top result for reviews of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt is Moira Weigel’s scathing criticism published by The Guardian. Numerous well-credentialed pundits lauded the essay for having “eviscerated” and “systematically demolished” the book.

But Weigel’s review illustrates the problem Lukianoff and Haidt document: leftists often violate liberal principles. Many conservatives also violate their own principles. Condescending authoritarianism across the political spectrum sows division.

Until activists stop being so defensive and learn to be more self-critical, they’ll continue to undermine massive popular action. Prospects for establishing compassionate policies supported by super-majorities of the American people will fade.    

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Crime, Scapegoating, and Daily Life

Crime, Scapegoating, and Daily Life

By Wade Lee Hudson

In a New Yorker essay, “Who Belongs in Prison?”, Adam Gopnik comments on several recent books that address key criminal justice issues, including scapegoating and the desire for revenge. Those concerns apply throughout society.

Locked In by John Pfaff argues that prosecutors have been given freedom to imprison whomever they wish for as long as they like without going to trial…. Gopnik reports that Charged by Emily Bazelon "puts flesh and faces to Pfaff’s statistical and largely abstract proposition." …Revenge is an issue Gopnik examines in some detail.

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Trickle-Down Tolerance

Human beings are a bundle of contradictions. Multiple instincts compete. Then, from time to time, external factors trigger particular inner experiences and the national mood fluctuates. Politicians, especially the President, amplify one human potential or another. To garner support, new leaders contrast themselves to old leaders. The pendulum swings.

In Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America, John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck examine this dynamic. They argue:

Simply being a member of a group is not the same thing as identifying or sympathizing with that group. The key is whether people feel a psychological attachment to a group….

The...power of group identities...depends on context. One part of the context is the possibility of gains and losses for the group…,[which] can be tangible...or symbolic, such as psychological status….

Another and arguably even more important element of the context is political actors. They help articulate the content of a group identity, or what it means to be part of a group. Political actors also identify, and sometimes exaggerate or even invent, threats to a group. Political actors can then make group identities and attitudes more salient and elevate them as criteria for decision-making.

Group loyalties “can and often do” create hostility toward other groups. But relationships to other groups “do not have to be competitive.

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The New Age Gets (Somewhat) Political

The New Age Gets (Somewhat) Political

A review
A New Republic of the Heart:
An Ethos for Revolutionaries
Terry Patten
North Atlantic Books, 2018
384 p., $17.95

Only a few political people are becoming more spiritual, but many spiritual people are becoming more political, aiming to integrate the personal, social, cultural and political dimensions of human experience. This development is encouraging.

The Shift Network, a clearinghouse of information about such integrative projects founded by Stephen Dinan, is “a transformative education company” that aims to “work together to create a better world…[by] shifting toward a planet that is healthy, sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous for all.” Their offerings do not “focus solely on your personal transformation but also on how we can shift our world.”

Marianne Williamson, an American spiritual teacher, activist, and author of 13 books, including four New York Times best sellers, is a candidate for President. Her new book, A Politics of Love: A Handbook for a New American Revolution will be released April 23. She declares:

Corporatocracy has replaced democracy as our primary organizing principle, our government has become little more than a system of legalized bribery, and politicians too often advocate for short-term corporate profit maximization before the health and well-being of people and planet.

And Terry Patten’s 2018 magnum opus, A New Republic of the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries, rooted in Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, has received strong praise from many New Age thinkers as well as Joan Blades, MoveOn.org co-founder. Presented as “a guide to inner work for holistic change,” Patten’s 384-page book includes many valuable insights, especially with regard to personal and spiritual growth, often presented with poetic passion. Unfortunately, his political perspective is weak, and the book is redundant, contradictory, and inconsistent with its logic.

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Self Care

Self Care

There is self care of oneself and there is also self care of the movement.  Self care of the movement means that we look closely at (1) how we treat each other (2) how we support each other (3) how we give each other permission to rest, relax and have fun (4) how we hold each other accountable for saying what we do and doing what we say (5) how we model a movement that those not presently involved are drawn to be a part of and (6) how we come through this difficult period of time better and not bitter. With all else we have to do it may seem difficult to also do this work of self care.  However, in order to build a strong and lasting movement, it is critical to all the other work we do.  

Keep tuned for more information about self care in the upcoming Broadsheets. We will look at each of the topics listed above with questions that you can use for discussion in your organizations and groups. For more information and to have someone come to your group, please contact Penn.

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As I wrote above we are going to look at each of these topics individually.  I would suggest that you think of your own reactions to what is written below and then ask for time at your next meeting (if you are a part of an organization or group) and share this information and have a discussion.This is part of a larger article written by a friend of mine who lives and works politically in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is hoping that folks will sign on to a declaration called “Americans for Humanity.”   If you want more information, please contact me and I will send you the 8-page document. What follows can seem rather harsh but please dig deep inside yourself and see where there are grains of truth and then talk with others. The first step to making change is always to be honest and name the problem.

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DeRay Mckesson and the Domination-Submission System

DeRay Mckesson and the Domination-Submission System

Societies are based on self-perpetuating social systems. That’s why they’re stable. Personal, social, cultural, economic, and political elements are woven together, reinforce one another, and serve a common purpose.

America is fueled by the drive to climb social ladders, gain more wealth, status, or power, and look down on and dominate those below -- with little regard for others’ suffering. In doing so, we learn to submit to, envy, and resent those above us.

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by DeRay McKesson, a dramatic memoir about his activism interwoven with essays, clarifies these dynamics. He writes:

There was a time when I believed that racism was rooted in self-interest or economics — the notion that white supremacy emerged as a set of ideas to codify practices rooted in profit. I now believe that the foundation of white supremacy rests in a preoccupation with dominance at the expense of others, and that the self-interest and economic benefits are a result, not a reason or cause. I believe this because of the way that white supremacy still proliferates in contexts where there is no self-interest other than the maintenance of power. I have seen it hold sway even in contexts where it does not materially benefit the white people who hold the beliefs.

McKesson argues that if we are to “change the system,” we must see how individual decisions “aggregate over time” to intentionally create “power over” rather than “power with.” He urges whites to not “forget that there is a larger system that led to their personal advantages,” and defines institutions as “the collective response of individuals, hardened over time.” This process produces “structural issues at play that promote oppression…., an intentional set of structures, systems, and institutions that allow the privilege to manifest.”

His image of the bully illustrates the point. …

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David Brooks on the Social Fabric

David Brooks on the Social Fabric

Backed by the Aspen Institute, David Brooks launched Weave: The Social Fabric Project to nurture what he considers to be a growing social movement. In his New York Times column, “A Nation of Weavers,” Brooks argues that this grassroots movement addresses “our lack of healthy connection to each other, our inability to see the full dignity of each other, and the resulting culture of fear, distrust, tribalism, shaming and strife.” He believes this movement will “usher in a social transformation by reweaving the fabric of reciprocity and trust.” Through these Weavers, he says, “renewal is building, relationship by relationship, community by community. It will spread and spread as the sparks fly upward.”

Brooks moves in the right direction, but stops short. He aims to go below the surface, but neglects root causes. He wants to address the “whole person,” but fragments the individual.

Brooks rightly argues that “America’s social fabric is being ripped to shreds.” And he’s right to lament the recent emergence of “hyperindividualism” and affirm “radical mutuality” -- that is, the belief “we are all completely equal, regardless of where society ranks us,” which leads us to “love across boundaries, listen patiently, see deeply and make someone feel known.”

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An Argument for the Declaration

An Argument for the Declaration

Activists undermine progress. Deep-seated tendencies reinforce fragmentation and drive away potential recruits. These divisive impulses, rooted in biological instincts inflamed by our hyper-competitive society, weaken our power.

Not everyone suffers from the same weaknesses, but most are burdened with many. “Americans for Humanity: A Declaration” aims to help overcome these barriers to personal, social, and political growth.

These personal problems include:

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Declaration Dialog

Following are documents reporting on feedback that I received during the drafting of Americans for Humanity: A Declaration and some of my responses:

Praise
Suggested Changes
Reservations
Criticisms

—Wade Lee Hudson

The Autocracy App

The Autocracy App
By Jacob Weisberg OCTOBER 25, 2018 ISSUE
The New York Review of Books

A review of:

  • Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy
    by Siva Vaidhyanathan

  • Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now
    by Jaron Lanier

...A professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, Vaidhyanathan is a disciple of Neil Postman, the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death. In that prescient pre-Internet tract, Postman wrote that Aldous Huxley, not Orwell, portrayed the dystopia most relevant to our age. The dangers modern societies face, Postman contends, are less censorship or repression than distraction and diversion, the replacement of civic engagement by perpetual entertainment.

Vaidhyanathan sees Facebook, a “pleasure machine” in which politics and entertainment merge, as the culmination of Postman’s Huxleyan nightmare. However, the pleasure that comes from absorption in social media is more complicated than the kind that television delivers. It encourages people to associate with those who share their views, creating filter bubbles and self-reinforcing feedback loops. Vaidhyanathan argues that by training its users to elevate feelings of agreement and belonging over truth, Facebook has created a gigantic “forum for tribalism.”

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...What would the world look like if Facebook succeeded in becoming the Operating System of Our Lives? That status has arguably been achieved only by Tencent in China. Tencent runs WeChat, which combines aspects of Facebook, Messenger, Google, Twitter, and Instagram. People use its payment system to make purchases from vending machines, shop online, bank, and schedule appointments. Tencent also connects to the Chinese government’s Social Credit System, which gives users a score, based on data mining and surveillance of their online and offline activity. You gain points for obeying the law and lose them for such behavior as traffic violations or “spreading rumors online.”

Full implementation is not expected till 2020, but the system is already being used to mete out punishments to people with low scores. These include preventing them from traveling, restricting them from certain jobs, and barring their children from attending private schools. In the West online surveillance is theoretically voluntary, the price we pay for enjoying the pleasure machine—a privatized 1984 by means of Brave New World.

Birddogging

Erin Grace Burns:

Birddogging is not a protest, and is only rarely a disruption. All it takes to birddog effectively is to show up at an event, as a team, and ask the person who has power over your issue to adopt the specific positions that you are fighting for.

Activists should birddog all leading candidates from every party, even if they currently disagree with you! Getting a “yes” is a big win. But also, if you ask a strong question, and the answer is “No, I prefer tax cuts for millionaires.”<—that's ALSO a win. You just exposed a policy maker's harmful positions, making them toxic to more people in their district.

The Declaration: Criticisms

Following are criticisms about drafts of Americans for Humanity: A Declaration that were expressed during the drafting and my replies (in italics):

  • Thank you for your work on this vision. It’s not that I don’t share much of what this document states however it does not mention the reality of the giant squid stranglehold racial/economic/social institutions have on humanity’s conscious and unconscious actions. The only way to move from the everyday to day here and to arrive there [your vision] is by facing what keeps us apart, recognizing and understanding our privileges, listening to those with less, ... ack I don’t have time for this now. We have to do the work of disengaging from either/or divisive thinking/living/being and to begin to recognize our common humanity. I like to think of us as humans being with all life. Human chauvinism is another way to distance from the spark of balance with all living things.

    • I appreciate the kind words and agree the Declaration does not explicitly talk about the giant squid, which I call "the System" and have written about extensively. It's hard to really address those issues briefly without using vague abstractions and I wanted the Declaration to be brief and concrete. My plan has been to do talk about the System with supplemental materials that folks could read after they get involved -- such as "An Argument for 'Americans for Humanity,'" which is being written. Your comments on it would be most appreciated.

    • However, though the Declaration is brief, with it I do try to get at what I see as the heart of the System, with elements such as:

      • affirms individuals’ multiple identities

      • opposes efforts to dominate others due to one of their identities

      • relies on love and trust rather than hate and fear

      • encourages members of the movement to:

        • improve their emotional reactions

        • engage in honest self-examination

        • support each other with their personal and spiritual growth

        • avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior

    • If we tell people they must deal with A, B, and C problems, they react defensively and their problems are reinforced. This declaration is based on the proposition that it will work better to clarify a positive vision, and leave it to individuals to determine how they fall short and which problems to work on. Encouraging people to engage in honest self-examination would be a great and essential first step, it seems, In  An Argument for 'Americans for Humanity," I have a long list of personal issues, introduced by "Not everyone is afflicted with all of these personal problems, but most of us are burdened with many: " followed by " A popular movement committed to addressing these issues could bolster its power."  Your comments prompted me to add some items to that list, for which I thank you.

    • Your further thoughts would be most appreciated.

  • I have been relatively silent because I view the campaign as "apple pie and mother's love."  

Who could be opposed ? ... (practically) no one ... and, so what !  

Who would agree ? ... (practically) every one ... and, so what !

The result of agreement is that nothing happens ... or needs to happen ... and, so what?  

Agreement should mean tacit consent to be a part of fighting for ... or against something where change is called for.  

All change seems to require struggle ... but in the pledge for universal humanity, there is no hint or expectation of struggle.   

One additional observation and concern is the title:  "Americans for Humanity"

America is a continent made up of dozens of sovereign countries.  For the U.S., or U.S. activist to lay claim to the entirety of America is the height of arrogance, selfishness, belligerence, hypocrisy, and the put down of all other peoples and countries of the Americas.

Perhaps a more respectful title might be "U.S. People for Humanity," or, simply "People for Humanity," or, alternatively, "The Pledge (or Mission) for Universal Humanity"

    • I don’t know that practically everyone agrees. I’m not aware, for example, of an activist organization that “encourages members of the movement to:

improve their emotional reactions

engage in honest self-examination

support each other with their personal and spiritual growth

avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior

supports members who want to form small teams that share meals, strengthen connections, provide mutual support, and plan other activities”

    • Are you? If so, which one or ones do?

    • As for “struggle,” it seems to me that these points explicitly affirm struggle:

the growth of a popular movement

pressures Washington to implement policies supported by strong majorities of the American people

engages in nonviolent civil disobedience and consumer boycotts when needed

    • Concerning the use of “Americans,” when I lived in Mexico for extended periods I noticed that Mexicans routinely referred to USA residents as “Americans.” I never once heard them refer to North and South America as “America,” which is technically correct. Though some activists have made your point, it seems paternalistic for us to allegedly protect people from language they accept.

    • Also, I see the need for a “superordinate” identify that could unite USA residents and help us I’m sorry to hear about those family/personal issues. Hang in there! Hope to be in touch later.overcome our tribal divisions. I think a healthy patriotism is possible -- in every country -- so that strong nation-states can better control unbridled global corporations and financial institutions. As the declaration states, we can “honor our nation’s gains, criticize its failures, and help build a more perfect union.” We need a word or phrase that can refer to “the inhabitants of the USA.” Always using that long phrase, or “US people” does not seem feasible, especially in the title.

    • NOTES: In “Arguments for ‘Americans for Humanity: A Declaration,” I wrote:

      • Most countries identify themselves and their residents with one word. The United States of America, however, has four words. So most people throughout the world refer to us as “Americans.” No disrespect toward those who live in other North and South American countries is intended by the use of that word here. By strengthening a deep sense of ourselves as both Americans and human beings, we can help overcome divisions that undermine the unity that is needed for effective, sustained, nationwide political action.

  • I have one question/flag... what do you mean by Americans? do you mean the people of the United States? I know self identified Americans who are not from the United States namely Central and South Americans. I’ve always felt it arrogant for people in the USA to use America as a shorthand for United States as if they one and the same. Was there ever a discussion about this? I’m sorry I don’t have the time to get involved with the work you and others are doing and that I barge right in with this question....

    • I sent this respondent a reply that included much of the content included in the previous reply, as well as:

      • Most countries identify themselves and their residents with one word. The United States of America, however, has four words. So most people throughout the world refer to its inhabitants as “Americans,” though technically the primary definition of “America” includes North and South America. Some people argue it’s disrespectful for USA residents to identify themselves as “Americans.” No such disrespect is intended here….

      • Fundamentalists regularly inflate the importance of particular words. They turn them into icons. It's also possible to turn them into anti-icons. Anyway, that's my take. I'd be interested in your further thoughts, and will include your comment in the Log.

  • I have one question or concern, and that is the title "Americans for Humanity." I am concerned that it sounds kind of "patriotic,"  or nationalistic, I may be overly concerned about that, but using the term "Americans" for some people connotes "white Americans" or seems to exclude immigrants who are not American citizens yet. So I am not suggesting that you change the title at this point, just mentioning this as something that may possibly put some people off. Thanks for putting this together, it is an ambitious project and I really support it.

Your concerns are valid. However, I do affirm a healthy, self-critical patriotism. It seems strong nation-states are an important counter to the ravages of uncontrolled global capitalism. So I added “As an inhabitant of the United States of America,” and “Honor America’s achievements, criticize its failures, and help realize its ideals.”


The Declaration: Reservations

Following are reservations about drafts of Americans for Humanity: A Declaration that were expressed during the drafting and my replies (in italics):

  • Not sure how people will respond about connecting up around this since we all are so inundated with coalition building right now -- Indivisible, state orgs, working with other organizations around climate, immigration, etc.  This seems a bit on top of and a bit more amorphous for groups out in the field to sign on to. But doesn't mean there might not be a good response and some great ideas of where to go. Keep me posted. Penn Please note that my new address is penngarvin@gmail.com.  I don't always get the Hotmail emails so please change so I keep getting yours. Hope all is well,

  • Almost all of the response I've received has been positive, but I agree that most activists will not take it on -- though, as I see it, doing so would not require much additional time. Rather, it would merely require a shift in perspective -- away from a narrow focus on immediate impact toward one that includes a deeper, clear commitment to underlying values and principles that are commonly neglected.  In particular, I know no membership organization that explicitly, in writing, encourages their members to examine and improve their emotional reactions and provide mutual support for self-development. Are you?

    • We need one or more massive, united, democratic, multi-issue national movements that overcome our fragmentation and stay together over time. To achieve that goal, activists need to overcome their egoistic, competitive, power trips and their strident rhetoric that demonizes opponents. A clear commitment to an alternative way of operating could help that effort. The Declaration aims to nurture that kind of commitment. If Donald Trump and climate change can't elicit a unified movement -- other than Presidential campaigns -- it seems the odds for compassionate unity are slim. Nevertheless, I persist, with support from people like you.

  • However, just seeing the document itself would not be sufficient for me to have confidence that the organization truly lives by these ideals.  I would be worried that the references to identity might be used as a springboard to turn the words into a meaning I don't support - a single-issue politics with nonviolent civil disobedience that focuses on blaming others, often lower on the social ladder, for exhibiting "personal privilege" in the guise of engaging in honest self-examination - because that is a central feature of our current disarray.

I support and am working for deeper change that I think most also agree on and that involves a different framing: slowing down the pace of life, working across borders to shorten the work week and make more time for non-materialistic pursuits.  I have seen the focus on "identity" too often used to "fight for equality at the top", and I have seen that "enlightened struggle" used to effectively co-opt what I would otherwise have felt must be a universal sentiment for the good and the right.

Thanks!  I am glad you are still in touch

    • I hear you. Thanks much for keeping in touch.

  • I would, however, encourage you to make explicit two objectives that, from my own point of view and that of many others, are fundamental to the survival of the world and hence to the realization of all the other objectives. They are, as you might imagine, a green revolution dedicated to the containment of global warming and preservation of the natural environment, and an end to war and militarism, beginning with a verifiable international program for total and irrevocable nuclear disarmament and aimed ultimately at complete general disarmament. With the weapons gone, the only way to end international conflicts will be what it always should have been: vigorous diplomacy and reasoned compromise. Continued best wishes,

    • I agree with you, but my basic intent was to focus on fundamental principles in one page and avoid another long “laundry list,” which would dilute that focus. Other specific policies are also priorities….

  • in my writings I try to use the concept of the polarity (barry johnson) and write something like: we need A AND B - but neither A- (the exaggeration of A) and B- (the exaggeration of B) thereby i hope to make visible that I do not rely on the either or logic and see the problems of the exaggerations of the different polarities

    • I very much agree. Though I did not use “and” I added the “polarity” as the next bullet point.