Transform the World: Let Compassion Be Our Guide

The world is being torn apart by a struggle between love and hate. If hate prevails, life as we know it will perish. If love wins, humanity can transform the world into a compassionate community. This draft strategy offers a way to move in that direction. 

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As proposed here, the first step toward global transformation is to develop widespread agreement on the nature of our situation, based on an honest evaluation of our personal and collective strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

At present, hateful tribes -- driven by deep fear, grounded in arrogance and rigid ideologies, focused on winner-take-all competition, led by autocratic “saviors,” convinced they’re right and unable or unwilling to understand opponents, refusing to compromise, and inclined toward selfish individualism -- are trying to defeat “enemies” by any means necessary, regardless of consequences. 

Fear and anger have their place. Awareness of danger and outrage at injustice are valuable. But when fear and anger are inflamed and distorted, they become counter-productive. 

At the same time, compassionate communities are working  with pragmatic idealism to improve lives and protect the environment with new policies, structures, and procedures. These communities: 

  • are motivated by deep trust
  • are rooted in humility and flexible principles
  • want to work together respectfully with others
  • are led by democratic decision-making
  • acknowledge uncertainty and consider other points of view
  • seek reconciliation, and 
  • are open to caring partnerships.

Trust and love are a solid foundation. Down deep, humans are naturally compassionate and love life. But when trust and love fail to face reality, they become ineffective.

Our political parties are becoming hateful tribes. Increasingly, both Democrats and Republicans are driven by hatred, hurl personal attacks, fail to understand the other, focus excessively on winning the next election, use empty rhetoric, and fail to highlight concrete solutions. 

Other examples of hateful tribalism are reflected by people who forget their common humanity and primarily identify with their class, religion, race, generation, or gender. Those identities can be valuable. But when they become rigid and driven by hate, they become problematic. Other such tribes include neo-fascists, violent anti-fascists, unrestrained growth advocates, doctrinaire environmentalists, and true believers in other ideologies. 

Because these tribalistic groups have similarities does not mean they’re equally immoral. People who initiate injustice are more to blame than those who fight against it. But those who oppose oppression often end up acting like the oppressors they oppose.

Most Americans are optimistic. We trust our ability to make progress, try to do right, love our family and our neighbor, take care of ourselves, and spread joy. We recognize the essential equality of all people, which comes from the infinite worth that is inherent in being human. We want to be in harmony with our environment and leave the world in a better place for future generations. 

At the same time, however, Americans often fall victim to one or more of the following faults. We become wrapped up in fear and hatred, blame scapegoats, fail to practice what we preach, fall into selfishness, indulge excessively in superficial satisfactions, lose faith, or do little to unite with others to help improve national policies that are a major source of many of our problems. 

If we overcome those weakness, strengthen our moral character, more fully become who we really want to be, and join with people in other nations who do the same, we can increase happiness, fairness, and compassion throughout society. We can help transform the world.

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The second step toward global transformation presented here is to understand “the System.” Our various problems are interconnected. The System consists of our culture, ourselves as individuals who reinforce the system with our daily actions, and our major institutions, including the government, economy, media, education, religion, sports, and entertainment. These elements are woven together into a self-perpetuating social system. 

The System’s mission is to enable everyone to climb a social ladder and look down on and dominate those below -- to “win” while others “lose.” Most Americans are deeply socialized into this lifestyle. They often aren’t aware of this conditioning, which is largely unconscious. They automatically, habitually, act accordingly and reinforce the domination-driven System. They consider themselves essentially superior to others.

This dynamic serves to “divide-and-conquer.” It undermines the unity that ‘s needed to make major social change. As wealth and power become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, society becomes top-heavy, in danger of crashing. The System spirals down unless powerful forces take action to reverse the tailspin. Economic hardship and insecurity lead many people to be open to “strong man” rule, hoping for a more reliable source of income.

Our primary problem is the System, not any particular individual, group of people, country, terrorist group, or ruling class that makes the key decisions (top-level administrators are easily replaced if they get out of line). Those are all scapegoats. They are responsible for the decisions they make and should be held accountable, but focusing total blame or excessive anger on them is a diversion. 

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This proposal’s third step is to develop widespread affirmation of a new mission for our society. The mission proposed here is: “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.” A focus on that mission could help reverse our tailspin. If we simultaneously transform every element in the System -- personal, social, cultural, and political -- we can promote the development of a new, partnership-driven System.

We can change ourselves, change how we encounter others, support artists who help re-shape our culture, and back efforts to improve public policies. In a positive upward spiral, improvement in each element can reinforce the others:

  • Individuals become more empowered.
  • Families, communities, and workplaces become more supportive.
  • Our culture becomes more enriching. 
  • Our government becomes more democratic and just.  

As those elements reinforce each other in the System’s downward spiral, they can reinforce each other in an upward spiral as we reverse our tailspin. We can nurture positive change in every arena. 

To cultivate that change, we ask individuals to sign this commitment:

Change Myself, Change the World:
A Commitment to Compassion

I commit to:

  • Pay attention to, control, and try to change thoughts and feelings that can lead to oppressive or counterproductive behavior.  
  • Acknowledge my mistakes and resolve to avoid them in the future.
  • Become a more compassionate human being and care for myself and others.
  • Talk about my efforts with close friends and listen to them talk about their efforts.
  • Support the development of social structures that nurture personal and community empowerment.
  • Help transform my nation into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, our own people, the environment, and life itself.
  • Help improve my nation’s public policies to minimize the abuse of power, protect the less powerful from oppression by the more powerful, and help assure that all people have a decent opportunity to thrive, fulfill their potential, and achieve their goals.  

Individuals who make this Commitment will be invited to report how they’re putting those ideas into practice. This sharing will enable them to learn from one another about effective methods. Occasional local, regional, national, and international gatherings will enable them to exchange information and provide mutual support. 

Existing organizations, such as book clubs, study groups, church committees, and activist organizations, will be invited to endorse the Commitment and encourage their members to make the Commitment and experiment with methods for acting on its principles. Possible such methods include:

  • Open meetings with a moment of silence for meditation, prayer, or reflection.
  • Have members briefly report on their recent self-improvement and political action efforts.
  • Join with other organizations to persuade elected officials to participate in open-ended regular community dialogs that are carefully structured to assure that they’re not dominated by the official and enable constituents to communicate whatever they want in a fair and orderly manner.
  • Practice listening by forming “listening teams” with two or more members who meet and take turns listening to the other(s) talk, without interruption, about whatever is on their mind, with each member having equal time to talk.
  • Form a small “spirit group” to meet monthly, with members taking turns from month to month share and lead a conversation about an aphorism, poem, song, essay, or some other material that they have found to be particularly valuable or thought-provoking.

People who make the Change Myself, Change the World commitment and who don’t belong to an organization could also participate in such efforts with other unaffiliated individuals who make the Commitment..

The central aim with these ideas is to develop simple, easy-to-learn, open-ended structures that enable participants to experience and express whatever they want -- with no predefined specific agenda. The guiding principle is self-organizing, peer-to-peer mutual support that involves little or no training and no top-down control. The hope is to find or develop methods that will spread quickly to nurture the growth of a large community of people who share common core values.

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The fourth step proposed here is to establish an Internet-based mechanism that enables the growing network of Committers to share information with one another horizontally (peer-to-peer) about possible actions focused on national public policy, including legislation and federal regulations.

If and when the network has 50,000 individuals who have made the Commitment, it or some other affiliated organization will establish a democratic mechanism for recommending each month a specific message to communicate to their Congressperson with a phone call, handwritten note, or office visit. Those messages will focus on a timely, winnable, top priority proposal. In Congressional districts that have established monthly community dialogs with the Congressperson or local chief of staff, participants could go to those dialogs and let their opinion be known, perhaps by raising their hand when asked to do so by another signer.

The mechanism for determining the monthly recommendation could include open discussion on online forums and a straw poll. But those who can participate in such efforts are not representative of the country as a whole. So the participants will elect a team that “looks like America” (two-thirds of whom will have no college degree) to determine the final recommended action.

When needed, supporters could advance the monthly message with other actions, such as nonviolent civil disobedience or boycotts.

Eventually, one million or more Americans will act in unison at least once a month to push for winnable goals concerning national policy -- even if that goal is merely to get a specific number of co-sponsors on a bill in order to strengthen its credibility for future public-education efforts. 

Those efforts will help develop a powerful grassroots force that can build momentum with concrete victories. As victories are won and that power grows, what is winnable will shift as we move toward our mission: 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.

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The fifth step proposed here is for a diverse organizing committee that looks like America to evaluate these ideas, rewrite this proposal as needed (starting from scratch if they choose), develop a plan for how to implement their proposal, and proceed to implement it.

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Notes:

    As this draft is modified, the latest draft will always be here.

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