A Marshall Plan for the Earth

A Marshall Plan for the Earth

Naomi Klein’s exhaustive, passionate This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014) is an inspiring call to action that exposes many myths associated with the climate debate. But it falls short.

Some ten years ago, Bolivia’s representative to a United Nations climate-change conference, Angelica Navarro Llanos, declared:

If we are to curb emissions in the next decade, we need a massive mobilization larger than any in history. We need a Marshall Plan for the Earth. This plan must mobilize financing and technology transfer on scales never seen before. It must get technology onto the ground in every country to ensure we reduce emissions while raising people’s quality of life. We have only a decade.

During that conference, Klein, author of No Logo and Shock Doctrine, met with Navarro Llanos. Klein says that meeting was “the precise moment when I stopped averting my eyes to the reality of climate change, or at least allowed my eyes to rest there for a good while.” That experience led her to write This Changes Everything.

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The People vs. Democracy: A Review

The People vs. Democracy: A Review

Less than one-third of Americans born since 1980 believe it is “essential” to live in a democracy. In 2011, 44 percent of Americans aged 18-24 liked the idea of a strong leader who does not have to bother with Congress or elections, an increase of 10 percent since 1995.

Those statistics in The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It by Yascha Mounk may be the most disturbing facts in Mounk’s troubling book, which documents how liberal democracy is under attack throughout the world.

It’s tempting to trust the young to save us. Their opinions on many matters are moving this country in a compassionate direction. But any such confidence would be wrong. Opposition to liberal democracy is growing among the youth as well. Mounk’s book, published by Harvard University Press, argues convincingly that even in the United States liberal democracy is fragile.

Mounk offers the following definitions:

  • A democracy is a set of binding electoral institutions that effectively translates popular views into public policy.

  • Liberal institutions effectively protect the rule of law and guarantee individual rights such as freedom of speech, worship, press, and association to all citizens (including ethnic and religious minorities).

  • A liberal democracy is simply a political system that is both liberal and democratic….

  • Democracies can be illiberal...where most people favor subordinating independent institutions to the whims of the executive or curtailing the rights of minorities they dislike.

Conversely, liberal regimes can be undemocratic…[when] elections rarely serve to translate popular views into public policy.

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Transforming the World: A Scenario

Transforming the World: A Scenario

Dedicated to humanity, the environment, and life itself, the Purple Alliance pushes for new national policies supported by a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

As part of the Earth Community, the Alliance promotes democracy, respects the rights of individuals, opposes the tyranny of the majority, and pushes political parties to back proposals that have supermajority backing while also pursuing their other principles.

The Alliance affirms the value of compassionate personal identities based on political party, ideology, theology, nation, race, gender, geography, or other factors. At the same time, the Alliance encourages strong identification as a member of the human family.

From this perspective, the Alliance promotes the nonviolent transform-the-world movement, opposes one group disrespecting or dominating another group based on that group’s superficial characteristics, and supports the use of force to restrain people who violate the rights of others.

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Comment on "Question: How Activists Operate"

The fifteen responses to “How should political activists improve how they operate?” were rich and diverse. As one correspondent commented:

Wow!  My first learning from reading all of your responses is this:  How very _different_ all our concerns /seem/ to be! :open_mouth:  Are we even "on the same page"?

I agree the responses cover a wide range. Thus far, however, it seems to me they’re largely compatible, though they may reflect a serious divergence in terms of priorities.

The response that had the strongest impact on me was Shariff’s. In the piece I’m writing now, a scenario that presents a narrative for how we might move toward systemic transformation, I was beginning with a focus on narrow short-term goals and concluding with an affirmation of fundamental long-term goals. His call to be clearer about ultimate goals led me to be more upfront at the outset about the ultimate goals being proposed there. Carolyn’s call for long-range goals moves in that direction, but Shariff seems to be talking about something more fundamental.

The Four-Fold Practice suggested by Jeff has merit. Though I disagree with the (anti-political) statements about “judgment” (we can make judgments without being judgmental), I like the essay’s four simple suggestions and the brief elaborations presented in italics. But the paragraphs on each point that follow often lose me. They seem too complicated and raise too many red flags. And the essay seems to be part of a much more complicated training process that includes elements like “the seven helpers.” As such, it feels like “disabling professionalism.” I believe we need simpler methods that empower more easily.

Jeff’s “The Four Roles of Change” fruitfully identifies different roles activists can play, affirms the value of each, and argues they ideally complement each other. But I’m uncomfortable with the notion that rebels “force” power holders to make a change and the suggestion that if a campaign “settles for less,” it has necessarily been “co-opted.” The reluctance to seek reconciliation through negotiation and compromise and instead try to impose one’s will by force strikes me as problematic. As Camus analyzed so incisively, it’s easy for rebels to let their anger lead them to internalizing the values of the oppressor against whom they originally rebelled. It seems this essay crosses that line. Steve’s recommendation to avoid demonizing and seek compromise is more convincing.

I like Yahya’s proposal to “listen as much as they speak” (if not more!), Deetje imploring activists to sing, Ronnie and Michael’s call for more nonviolent action, and Justice’s reminder that “peaceful ends require peaceful means.” Mike’s reference to Smucker’s book seems worth investigation. I think Bob’s complaint about abstract ideology is well taken. I hope Nancy has success with her appeal to scholars to be activists as well. And I like Thomas and Lenin’s point about sharing the lives of those being organized, but the emphasis on “explaining” seems too Leninist.

My main reservation about others’ responses, however, is that they all seem to focus on thinking and behavior, and do not address feelings. They neglect the need for deep personal change, constant self-improvement, and mutual support for that effort, which can change how activists operate.

In “Letter from a Region in My Mind,” in 1962 James Baldwin wrote:

Something very sinister happens to the people of a country when they begin to distrust their own reactions as deeply as they do here, and become as joyless as they have become. It is this individual uncertainty on the part of white American men and women, this inability to renew themselves at the fountain of their own lives, that makes the discussion, let alone elucidation, of any conundrum—that is, any reality—so supremely difficult. The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality—for this touchstone can be only oneself. Such a person interposes between himself and reality nothing less than a labyrinth of attitudes. And these attitudes, furthermore, though the person is usually unaware of it (is unaware of so much!), are historical and public attitudes. They do not relate to the present any more than they relate to the person. Therefore, whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.

Baldwin also said:

The day will come when you will trust you more than you do now, and you will trust me more than you do now.  And we can trust each other. I do believe, I really do believe in the New Jerusalem, I really do believe that we can all become better than we are.  I know we can. But the price is enormous, and people are not yet willing to pay it.

That’s why my response to the focus question was: “Cultivate more humility and engage in more honest self-evaluation to nurture more self-improvement.”


Report on "Question: How Activists Operate"

Following are responses to the question that I circulated earlier this month: “How should political activists improve how they operate?”

Shariff Adbullah
The question is meaningless, without a prior question/identification:  "What is the Vision/Goal of your political activism?"

Without this question, asking how one can improve political activity is like asking how one can improve the way you put on your pants in the morning.  SO WHAT?  And: putting on your running shorts may be the easiest activity, but is pretty useless during a blizzard.

Recently, I was talking to a couple of people who think of themselves as political activists.  They were telling me that their goal was to "Get rid of Trump".  I asked, "Why?"  They looked dumbfounded.  I then reflined my question: "Assume I can wave my pen and "get rid of Trump".  What do you think would happen then?"

They launched into the usual litany of anti-Trump statements, disguised as benefits.  "Protect immigrant rights", "Protect the environment", "Bring us together".

My response: "And then what?"  And again the dumbfounded look.  I said, "Suicide is at an alarming rate.  The use of dangerous drugs, especially heroin, is at an all-time high.  Depression and despair are epidemic.  We have tens of thousands of people existing in tents on the streets of all of our cities.  WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?"

So, the short answer to your short question.  Until the "political activists" are ready to answer the real questions of our society, they should stay home and meditate.  And, when they have answers that will benefit ALL BEINGS (not just their own political clique or their pet issues), they will know the actions that are most effective.

BIG HINT:  They can start their meditations by focusing on the statement: "What would it take to create a world that works for all beings?"

Jeff Aitken
A couple things that might help:

The Fourfold Practice, which scales from self care, and hosting important conversations, into growing affinity groups and networks around a campaign.
http://aositoronto.weebly.com/four-fold-practice.html

The Four Roles of Change, which helps us identify four key roles in a movement and how to play them well.
https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/bill-moyer-four-roles-of-social-change/

Yahya Abdal-Aziz
Listen as much as they speak.

Deetje Boler
SiNG!

The strong effect on activists of singing together of relevant songs is too often forgotten by organizers. There is really no stronger bonding than the sensation of singing together with others. It can make a lasting and profound impact on an individual's feeling of connection and optimism regarding shared goals that contributes to continuing motivation to work to achieve a shared goal. (And I don't mean just listening to people's songs -- labor, folk, work, spiritual, anthems, etc; I mean singing them together with others.) The experience simply does something unique to the heart and soul! --a feeling of belonging to something larger than oneself? shifts the power away from the 'other' into the social group singing, with a sense of being part of a larger 'being' than just oneself.

Ronnie Dugger
I suggest; by enforcing their ethical actions and lessons with nonviolent civil disobedience. I may write along this line but do name me as the source as if a mere sentence deserves to be credited

Steve Gerritson
It seems to me that most political activists operate within an organization - either a campaign or an NGO dedicated to some good purpose. (Full disclosure: I went through the Sierra Club's activist training.) in pursuit of their objective, often the first thing they do is demonize the opposition. This makes it virtually impossible to compromise, and often precludes an objective discussion of the issue. My main suggestion would be to stop doing that.

Patricia Gray
I think we have to urge people NOT TO VOTE BY POLITICAL PARTIES-----They should demand that their 'represetatives' truly REPRESENT THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, and not vote as directed by their 'major donors' --- we all know these 'donations' are just bribes.  Candidates should promise to vote as directed by the registered voters who live in the district.  They can promise that if elected they will put up information on all the bills coming up for a vote.  On their web site they can have the whole bill, a condensed version of the bill, arguments both for and against the bill and then as for the advice of the constituent as to how they should vote IN THEIR NAME.

Carolyn Reuben Green
Have long range plans! Last night Rachel Maddow showed the disgusting charts of multiple states where gerrymandering by Republican legislatures retains Republican control of the statehouse even though Democrats won dramatically higher numbers of popular votes in every case. Republican strategists planned years ahead for this, district by district. 

Wade Hudson
Cultivate more humility and engage in more honest self-evaluation to nurture more self-improvement.

Mike Miller www.organizetrainingcenter.org
I'm only about 50 pages into Hegemony How-To:  a Roadmap for Radicals by Jonathan Matthew Smucker.  In these pages, he asks activists to critically evaluate what they have been doing.  He raises the question based on his own experience as an OCCUPY WALL STREET activist.  His questions deserve serious consideration.  I don't yet know how he answers them because I haven't read that far.  

Michael Nagler
They could be more in touch with others doing complementary work.  They should have an awareness of the Big Picture (to even recognize who's doing comp. work -- which is almost all of us).  They should be familiar with the basic dynamics of nonviolence.  They should be ware of being 'ideological' and looking to call other people out -- even our opponents!

Bob Planthold
|Look at where are the values and concerns of the people around them.  
From that, look where there are inconsistencies.

STOP working from abstract  & remote political values & history.
Too often the wording is high-falutin and, figuratively, foreign to 
the people & groups that polit. activists are trying to work WITH.

Justice St. Rain
I have no idea. 
All I know is that peaceful ends require peaceful means.
When they go low, we go high.
etc.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Scholars have to get their noses out of their books and put theory, indispensable but useless until put  into action, by which I mean,
 putting their bodies as well as their minds, on the line - in the streets and highways and  byways of our divided America…

Thomas Schegel
Back in the 1970s someone on KPFA quoted Lenin as below. I can’t give a cite. I have never found the quote in writing so it may have been made up, or from someone else, but it has suited me. “The first duty of a revolutionary is to share the life of the workers, the second is, patiently, to explain.” Sounds like early Lenin, who’s father was a school teacher/administrator after all. The revolution came along and things got urgent. But until I find myself involved in revolutionary government I will stick with that statement of doctrine.

The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You

The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You

[NOTE: This explosive speech led to the fantastic book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.]

I gave the following speech at the Aspen Institute’s Action Forum, on July 29, 2015, in Aspen. The talk — on generosity versus justice — was to my fellow fellows in the Aspen Global Leadership Network. As a result, it contains some obscure jokes and references. After it popped up in David Brooks’s New York Times column and stirred an outpouring of discussion, sympathetic and critical, I decided to post the prepared text here on Medium. The video is also available here and below. Discuss!

…The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this: the winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm….

[To read the speech, click here.]

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A Vision

The transform-the-world movement serves humanity, the environment, and life itself. In each country, movements attend to the interests of their country -- and cooperate with movements in other countries to pursue global interests. To protect themselves from powerful, selfish, global financial forces, they support strong nation-states.

In the United States, the movement promotes the general welfare and aims to more fully realize America’s highest ideals -- political equality, human rights, and popular rule.

The movement encourages identifying as a member of the human family, affirms other compassionate identities,…


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Donald Trump: The Triumph of Frustration, The Failure Of Vision

Donald Trump: The Triumph of Frustration, The Failure Of Vision

Stop Paying Attention to Trump. Start Paying Attention to the People Who Voted for Him

For the longest time, all during the presidential campaign, I kept telling people to STOP paying attention to the Twitter shenanigans of Donald Trump. He is a sociopath, a charlatan, and will be one of our most failed presidents. Not because of his agenda, but because of his lack of one. His role is to further the continued unraveling of this society. Just stop paying attention. I see no need to feed his ego need for notoriety by paying any more attention to him than the sentences I just wrote.

However, there's a real story here, one that most of the Left and the mainstream media are choosing not to follow. This story is not about Trump. The story is about the people who voted for him, and made him President of the United States….

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Plutocracy is a Myth: The System is Us

Plutocracy is a Myth: The System is Us

The American people hold the power. The wealthy do not rule. They do not direct, exercise control, determine what happens.

When a supermajority of Americans unite and act forcefully, they persuade elected officials to respect the will of the people. But unified action rarely happens. Fragmentation and passivity allow the rich and powerful to get what they want.

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Mobilizing the Compassionate Supermajority: A Declaration for Global Transformation

Mobilizing the Compassionate Supermajority: A Declaration for Global Transformation

By improving ourselves, our culture, and our institutions, we, the compassionate supermajority of the American people, can help the United States honor its highest ideals: political equality, human rights, popular rule, and, as affirmed in the Constitution, “promote the general welfare.”

With this effort, we can help transform the world into a caring community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, ourselves, the environment, and life itself. In each nation, individuals and communities can pressure their leaders to cooperate with other nations on shared humanitarian concerns.

We can nurture mutual respect, moral commitment, and spiritual development. We can learn steadily how to set aside negative tendencies and do what we really want to do: be more compassionate. Rooted in powerful grassroots movements, we can overcome polarized gridlock by building new structures to give the supermajority a greater voice.

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In recent studies, two-thirds or more of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, said elected officials lose touch with their constituents, don’t care “what people like me think,” put their own interests first, and fail to give Americans a voice. They said the wealthy have too much power and agreed that the amount of money individuals contribute to political campaigns should be limited….

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The Courage to Be

The Courage to Be

Paul Tillich is widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century, if not the most influential.

Originally published more than fifty years ago, his The Courage to Be (1952) has become a classic, designated one of the Books of the Century by the New York Public Library. It describes the dilemma of modern man, especially the problem of anxiety.

The 2014 edition includes a new introduction by Harvey Cox, author of The Secular City.  Cox situates the book within the theological conversation into which it first appeared and conveys its continued relevance in the current century.

Comments on the book:

“The Courage to Be changed my life. It also profoundly impacted the lives of many others from my generation.”--Robert N. Bellah, University of California, Berkeley

“The brilliance, the wealth of illustration, and the aptness of personal application . . . make the reading of these chapters an exciting experience.”―W. Norman Pittenger, New York Times Book Review

“A lucid and arresting book.”―Frances Witherspoon, New York Herald Tribune

“Clear, uncluttered thinking and lucid writing mark Mr. Tillich’s study as a distinguished and readable one.”―American Scholar

Excerpts from The Courage to Be:

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Purple Points of Agreement

A majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree on the following.

Campaign Spending,

in a June 2015 article, “Americans’ Views on Money in Politics,” The New York Times reported:

There is strong support across party lines for limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns, limiting the amount of money groups not affiliated with candidates can spend, and requiring unaffiliated groups to publicly disclose their donors if they spend money during a political campaign….

With near unanimity, the public thinks the country’s campaign finance system needs significant changes. There is strong support across party lines for limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns, limiting the amount of money groups not affiliated with candidates can spend, and requiring unaffiliated groups to publicly disclose their donors if they spend money during a political campaign.

Specifically, the following percentages of Republicans agreed with the following:

  • 80 -- Thinking about the role of money in American political campaigns today, ...money has too much influence.

  • 85 -- Candidates who win public office promote policies that directly help the people and groups who donated money to their campaigns … most of the time (54) [or] sometimes (31).

  • 81 -- There are some good things in the system for funding political campaigns but fundamental changes are needed (45). The system for funding political campaigns has so much wrong with it that we need to completely rebuild it (36).

  • 71 --  Limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns.

  • 73 -- [Limit spending] on advertisements during a political campaign [by] groups not affiliated with a candidate.

  • 76 -- [Require] groups not affiliated with a candidate that spend money during political campaigns...to publicly disclose their contributors.

  • 55 -- Wealthy Americans have more of a chance to influence the elections process than other Americans.

Concerning that study, the Sunlight Foundation highlighted, “Seventy-six percent of respondents (including identical shares of Republicans and Democrats) say money has a greater role in politics than in the past.”

Climate Change

As reported by Naomi Klein in This Will Change Everything (p. 118), in 2010 Public Opinion Strategies found that three-quarters of voters, including a vast majority of Republicans, supported a plan that “would make oil and gas companies pay for the pollution they cause,… encourage the creation of new jobs and new technologies in cleaner energy…., [and] protect working families, so it refunds all of the money it collects directly to the American people, like a tax refund, and most families end up better off.”

Criminal Justice Reform

In 2015 the ACLU reported:

Republicans and Democrats alike say that communities will be safer when the criminal justice system reduces the number of people behind bars and increases the treatment of mental illness and addiction, which are seen as primary root causes of crime…. In a sharp shift away from the 1980s and 1990s, when incarceration was seen as a tool to reduce crime, voters now believe by two-to-one that reducing the prison population will make communities safer by facilitating more investments in crime prevention and rehabilitation strategies.

According to that study, 54% of Republicans say it’s important for the country to reduce its prison populations. Eighty-seven percent of all respondents agree that drug addicts and those with mental illness should not be in prison. Given the size of that super-majority, presumably a majority of Republicans agreed as well.

Job Creation Programs

A 2013 Gallup poll found:

Americans widely support each of three job creation proposals, including offering tax breaks to businesses that create jobs in the U.S. and a program that would put people to work on urgent infrastructure repair projects. Support for these programs is only slightly lower in a variant of the question that asks respondents if they are in favor of spending government money to pay for the programs.

Specifically, 63% of Republicans supported “a federal government program that would put people to work on urgent infrastructure repairs” and 56% support “a federal jobs creation law designed to create more than 1 million new jobs.” When government spending is mentioned, Republican support for those proposals declined to 53% and 52%.

Military Spending

In 2016 the Center for Public Integrity reported that in 2012 “two-thirds of Republicans and nine in 10 Democrats supported making immediate cuts.” With voters surveyed between December 2015 and February 2016, “50 percent of Republicans favored decreasing spending or keeping it the same, and 48 percent favored increasing it.”

A 2014 Pew study found that 52 percent of Republicans do not believe military strength is the best way to ensure peace.

Corporate Welfare

A 2011 Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 15% of likely U.S. voters believed the federal government should continue to provide funding for foreign countries to buy military weapons from U.S. companies. Seventy percent opposed this funding to promote U.S. arms sales. Given the size of that super-majority, presumably a majority of Republicans agreed as well.

Immigration

A 2014 Pew study found that 54 percent of Republicans do not believe immigrants are burdening the country by taking jobs, housing, and health care from Americans.

Homosexuality

A 2014 Pew study found that only 43 percent of Republicans still agree with 22 percent of Democrats that "homosexuality should be discouraged by society."

Social Security

A 2014 Pew study found that 65% of Republicans support making Social Security sound. And 67% of all Americans oppose benefit cuts. Given the size of that super-majority, presumably a majority of Republicans agreed as well.

Medicare

A 2014 Pew study found, “Even among consistent conservatives, there is minimal support for the government having absolutely no role in providing health care. Three-quarters of consistent conservatives (75%) say the government should continue Medicare and Medicaid while just 20% think the government should not be involved in providing health insurance.”

Elected Officials

Concerning the 2014 Pew Study, the Sunlight Foundation highlighted these findings:

  • 77 percent say elected officials lose touch with their constituents.

  • 74 percent say elected officials don’t care what people like me think

  • 74 percent say elected officials put their own interests first

Top Priorities

In “Democrats and Republicans Agree on More Than You Think & Why That Matters for 2016, “ William A. Galston wrote:

a closer analysis of the Pew data reveals that in addition to these partisan agendas, there is an American Agenda of “top priorities” supported by majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents and by a super-majority (60% or more) of all Americans. Ranked in order of overall support, they are:

galston_chart1.png

Why Didn’t the Democrats Stop the Nomination?

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If the Democrats had hammered away at the many lies told by Kavanaugh under oath, they may have stopped the nomination. Flake for one, said lying to Congress would be disqualifying. The Democratic leaders could have made that issue their number one talking point. But they didn’t. So the network news, including PBS, hardly touched on it during the days leading up to the vote.

Why didn’t the Democrats concentrate on the lies? One possibility is that the focus on sexual assault, especially after Trump took the bait and started sympathizing so strongly with men, will bring more women to the polls. So the Democrats prolonged the process to make it more difficult, if not impossible, to appoint another nominee later this year -- a nominee who would likely be even more hard line than Kavanaugh -- and did not attack Kavanaugh forcefully enough to prevent his elevation.

That’s the only explanation for their weakness I can figure and I haven’t seen any other analysis of the question.

If that scenario is accurate and it helps the Democrats next month to win an overwhelming majority in the House -- which can restrain and expose Trump and perhaps prompt him to resign -- were those tactics justified?

What price will we pay? What gains did we lose out on?

The Kavanaugh Nomination: A Symptom

The Kavanaugh Nomination: A Symptom

Sexual assault usually involves the exercise of power grounded in a lack of empathy. As an adolescent, Brett Kavanaugh displayed a serious lack of empathy. As a judge, his opinions have done the same. That lack of empathy disqualifies him from serving on the Supreme Court. But Democrats and Republicans have ignored those issues.

Selfish ambition is our society’s primary problem. The pursuit of power by climbing social ladders is the System’s driving force. One result is the abuse of power.

Two days prior to the Kavanaugh hearing, a New York Times editorial recommended to the Senate Judiciary Committee thirteen critical questions to be posed to Kavanaugh. The Democrats could have made certain that they asked those questions.

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Don’t Feed the Trolls

Don’t Feed the Trolls

A recent public controversy about how Facebook bans content and a June 28 column by Thomas B. Edsall, “Don’t Feed the Troll in the Oval Office,” illustrate the importance of how “racism” is defined.

As reported on September 20, Facebook bans content that affirms “white supremacy,” which it considers a “racist ideology based upon the belief that white people are superior in many ways to people of other races and that therefore white people should be dominant over other races."

But Facebook allows “white nationalism” and “white separation.” Trying to take into account how their policies impact people around the world (such as the Zionist movement in Israel and the Basque movement in Spain), they believe white nationalism “doesn't seem to be always associated with racism (at least not explicitly.)” Many white nationalist groups say they’re not racist because they don’t consider other races inferior, but merely seek to ensure the survival of the white race and white culture.

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Comments on “The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?”

Comments on “The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?”

The September focus of the Great Transition Network forum is an essay by Guy Standing, “The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?”  Standing’s essay and the comments on the forum address an important issue: economic insecurity. Unfortunately, with one exception, those comments echo Standing’s economic determinism. They neglect the need for personal, social, and cultural transformation that could proceed prior to and concurrent with economic transformation.  

Standing’s proposed solution is to impose taxes on profits from the use of common resources --”natural, social, civil, cultural, and intellectual” -- and use that revenue to guarantee everyone a basic income. He argues that approach “would enhance personal and ‘republican’ freedom..., provide [insecure workers] with basic security, and strengthen social solidarity.”

Economic security is essential. But toward what end?

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Racism: Language Matters

Racism: Language Matters

Racism -- the belief that a particular race is inherently superior -- is thoroughly interwoven into our social system. It’s a prime example of how the System nurtures domination and submission. Undoing racism and transforming America will require multi-dimensional personal change as well as social, cultural, and political change.

That work needs to be careful and compassionate. Some change efforts backfire. Clarity about “race,” racism, and systemic racism can help.

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Self-Improvement

Self-Improvement

Most Americans would like to be less judgmental and more compassionate. They’d like to love their “enemies.” They want to engage with others as equals. They know that trying to relieve suffering can be rewarding. When they think deeply about it, Americans realize:

The individual and the community are interwoven. What affects one individual affects every individual.

What serves the individual serves the community, and what serves the community serves the individual.

The Earth is a spaceship and yes, all humanity is in this together.

There’s no irreconcilable conflict between self-interest and community-interest, though there’s often a tension.

Building an effective compassionate, transformative movement will require activists to liberate those innate instincts. As James Baldwin said, “The things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

For various reasons, however, most people are not committed to ongoing self-improvement. Instead, they reflect one or more of the following characteristics…..

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Trump the Symptom

Trump the Symptom

Two recent columns in the Times echoed each other on a key aspect of our condition and Trump’s role in it. “The Devil in Steve Bannon” by Frank Bruni features an interview with Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris about his new movie, “American Dharma.” Bruni describes the film as “essentially one long, transfixing interview with B:annon.” Morris tells Bruni:

The question is: How resilient is our democracy? Was de Tocqueville right that we would just disappear into silos of self-congratulation and self-interest, or can we hope for something better?

The second column is “How Far America Has Fallen” by Roger Cohen. It concludes:

Trump was a symptom, not a cause. The problem is way deeper than him.

For William Steding, a diplomatic historian living in Colorado, American individualism has morphed into narcissism, perfectibility into entitlement, and exceptionalism into hubris. Out of that, and more, came the insidious malignancy of Trump. It will not be extirpated overnight.

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Why Launch a “Transform the System Network”

Why Launch a “Transform the System Network”

NOTE: Following are some arguments in favor of “A Suggestion.”

Personal, social, cultural, and political transformation are all needed to transform our global society, which is a coherent, self-perpetuating social system, the System.

Agreeing on the broad understanding of the System articulated in “A Suggestion” could help unify a community of various forces who see how their primary issue is connected to other issues.

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