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 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.

The Declaration: Suggested Changes

Following are changes to drafts of Americans for Humanity: A Declaration that were suggested and my replies (in italics):

  • I do have trouble with the "tyranny of the majority" line. I know what you mean and agree with your intent but this is also a right wing Trumpian phrase used to justify voter suppression. Too easily misunderstood.

    • I deleted that phrase.

  • I could sign it if it were edited to qualify the language in the item that references pressuring the government to implement policies supported by “strong majorities” so that we are *explicitly* here talking about “dignity-based,” “humanity-based” or otherwise valued-aligned policies backed by strong majorities. As you know, majorities are sometimes part of the problem in a democratic society (as regards unpopular or vulnerable minorities).

    • Good point about majorities. Previously I’ve qualified the idea with “compassionate,” but overlooked the issue this time. Does that work? That word is used elsewhere only once, so using it here would not be too redundant. It would read: “pressures Washington to implement compassionate policies supported by strong majorities of the American people.”

  • I would be happy to sign it, but would strongly encourage that we include something like commit to living in a world where  the US ends all the wars and threats of wars the US is involved in around the world and sign and agrees to the abide by the international treaty to abolish all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth, and agree to commit to solving all disputes by mediation, negotiation and justice for all parties in all conflicts.

    • [NOTE: This comment led to a series of exchanges. Eventually I added to the Declaration: “encourages supportive relationships with other countries, backs their right to self-determination, promotes human rights, and advocates peaceful resolution of conflicts with mediation and negotiation”

  • Thank you for circulating your positive suggestions. Most of them resonate with me. I have offered a few edits and comments below — I hope constructive — in the spirit of acquiring broader support for your agenda.

  • Examine myself honestly and improve my emotional reactions, such as channelling anger more productively.

  • Welcome support from others. [I would add this one as the beginning of the statement below that starts with “Encourage the growth of a popular movement…]

  • Affirm personal identities based on characteristics such as race and gender. [I see this statement as contradicting other statements such as “respect the essential equality of all human beings,” “human family,”etc.]

  • Oppose efforts to dominate others due to their ascribed or chosen identities.

  • Channel anger productively.

  • Honor America’s achievements, criticize its failures, and help realize its ideals. [Why America here but US in the next?]

Thanks much. Very helpful. I thought long and hard about your comment on personal identities. I decided the wording was wrong. It suggested the affirmation of identities based only or primarily on a specific characteristic, which is problematic. As I discuss in “Multiple Identities, Politics, Freedom, and Equality,” I think that exclusive approach is wrong. So the declaration now reads:

  • encourages everyone to identify as a member of the human family

  • affirms individuals’ multiple identities

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

Please let me know if you have a problem with that. Concerning your first point, I prefer short bullet points. I use both the U.S. and America partly to avoid repetition and partly because I prefer to use the U.S. whenever that works, for “America” can refer to more than the U.S. Thanks again!

Thanks, good compromise. I will look up the piece you wrote.

  • All noble goals....except that "big money out of politics."  So, where does "big" begin? Who decides...a rich man or poor man?    And should we cap the amount a candidate can spend...or any third-parties which would support their candidacy?  It makes for a great bumper sticker...but upon closer examination is more like the beautiful golf drive is really, REALLY long....and looks really good...until it turns and lands in the top of a yucca plant. To be a noble goal, it cannot be illegal or immoral.  :-) PS Best wishes for the new year and keep up the good work.

Good points. My basic  intent was to articulate fundamental principles in one page and avoid another “laundry list.” So your comments led me to delete “get big money out of politics.”

  • I like it overall. I would have difficulty forming small teams just now. Maybe that could be a question at the end rather than a signed pledge.

    • I modified it to clarify that small groups would be an option.

The Declaration: Praise

The following words of praise have been offered for drafts and the final version of Americans for Humanity: A Declaration:

  • Thanks for sending this and doing this work.  I definitely sign on to this. I am working with my folks here about self care of the movement so I will send this on to some of those I work with and I will use this in the presentations and work I am doing here.  Thanks!

  • Wow!  They have left no stone unturned.  Impressive work! 

  • Thank you for sending this to me.  I love the work you do. 

  • A culmination of some hard work. Great job.

  • This is great!

  • I think this is amazing. It should be turned into a sticker or postcard people can use.

  • Thanks for continuing to work on this. This is exactly the kind of document that would be affixed to the wall of a meeting or community room for an organization I'd actually be inspired to join.

  • A great document to which I'd be honored to sign on. It seems like an aspirational statement, though, so I imagine that even some signers wouldn't necessarily uphold all of it (e.g., "Examine myself honestly").

  • I don't agree with every word but every word isn't important to me.  We're kindred spirits who desire to live our lives in accord with life-affirming principles like these.  I understand that you want to organize people around peace and love and fairness in this declaration. I'm grateful to know you and be in a circle of people that values these principles.   I support you and would sign this statement without change. If and when the opportunity presents itself, I would like to present a national political action plan to an appropriate group of signatories.

  • These are of course wonderful aspirations for a sane world! I am glad to sign, but can’t do anything else.

  • Your commitment and tenacity to the goals of universal humanity are unassailable, deeply respected, and greatly admired.  

  • Maybe missing more on the link between the way we treat the environment and each other, but it's a good start! And I would sign it. Thanks for pursuing this project.

  • Based on our experiences, we do not see even one statement or quality that we would critique.So we bless you and your deeply-felt initiative to keep infusing this language and these kinds of conversations into our neighborhoods and evolving culture.

  • I respect the tremendous work you’ve done and are doing.

  • Sounds and looks good!

  • At a first glance this sounds left, But if you look closer it is not…. A lot like how I see integral politics... Ken Wilber. Keep up the good work of a prophet

  • I do have trouble with [one line].... Rest is excellent.

  • This is quite good. I'm ready to sign it.

  • This declaration is a very strong presentation of the objectives you envision for a caring community, and I would gladly sign it just as it is, even though I would not become an active member.

  • Looks good to me.  

  • I appreciate your commitment and engagement in seeking a better world. Seems a reasonable statement, but as I’ve mentioned previously I’m already engaged in so many such conversations, I’ve not the time or energy to be involved in starting or framing a new one....

  • Sounds good.

  • This pledge is coming together well.  Once complete, I can and will be using it to create an artistic rendering and will frame it. And share it. And present it to you. Not in any way to benefit myself but to enhance your achievement. I have so enjoyed watching and reading your process throughout these years.

  • Thank you for sending this to me. I love the work you do.

  • Yes, I would sign. Comprehensive! Thanks

  • I really love what you have written, I think it is great!

  • Yes! Looks great, nicely done.

The Declaration: Signers

The following individuals have signed Americans for Humanity: A Declaration:

Ben Ament
Bob Anschuetz
Asoka Bandarage
Scott Beckman
Jonathan Betz-Zall
Dan Brook
John Cloud
Norman Degelman
Micky Duxbury
Penn Garvin
Stephen Gerritson
Carolyn Reuben Green
Roma Guy
David Hartsough
Glenda Hope
Wade Hudson
Mary Hudson
Ingrid Kepler-May
Alan Levin
Katherine Sofos Looper
Shyrl McCormick
Robert Morgan
Daniel Nissenbaum
Bernhard Possert
Jakob Possert
Steven Lee Shults
Anonymous
Anonymous

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Declaration -- 1/10/19 Draft

Twelve subscribers to my lists offered valuable (positive) feedback to the first two drafts of “A Declaration for Compassionate Community.” Those drafts with revision marks are posted here. A log of the feedback and my responses is posted here.

Those reflections prompted me to re-organize the document as a pledge (see below) that opens with “next steps” that everyone can take immediately, and concludes with the declaration of support for the growth of a popular movement. The new title is “Americans for Humanity: A Pledge.” Aiming to make it as short as possible, on my own initiative I’ve also deleted some of the initial content.

What do you think of this option? Suggested changes?

My plan is to send this draft to the same subscribers and incorporate suggested changes so long as they are forthcoming.

Then, if and when there’s strong consensus, I’ll seek feedback from many individuals not on those lists -- and ask you to do the same with people you know.

The goal is to make the statement as good as possible.

Then, if and when there is strong support for the latest draft and no more substantial suggested changes are being submitted, we can consider whether and how to circulate it for endorsement.

Americans for Humanity:
A Pledge

(1/10/19 Draft)

As an inhabitant of the United States of America, I will:

  • Serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.

  • Improve my emotional reactions;

  • Examine myself honestly;

  • Avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior;

  • Support others with their personal and spiritual growth;

  • Welcome support from others.

  • Strengthen my sense of myself as a member of the human family.

  • Affirm personal identities based on characteristics such as race and gender.

  • Oppose efforts to dominate others due to their identity.

  • Respect the essential equality of all human beings.

  • Rely on love and trust rather than hate and fear.

  • Channel anger productively.

  • Promote partnerships that empower people.

  • Support individual rights and the rule of law.

  • Nurture democracy throughout society.

  • Honor America’s achievements, criticize its failures, and help realize its ideals.

  • Help transform the United States into a compassionate community.

  • Encourage the growth of a popular movement that embraces these values and:

    • Fully represents and gives voice to the American people.

    • Attracts people with face-to-face community and caring friendships.

    • Supports members who want to form small teams that share meals, strengthen connections, and plan other activities.

    • Pressures Washington to implement policies supported by strong majorities of the American people.

    • Engages in nonviolent civil disobedience and consumer boycotts when needed.

    • Cooperates with movements in other countries that also serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.

To sign, click here

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NOTES:

  1. The latest version of this pledge will always be at https://goo.gl/MYF4s3

  2. An archive of email comments without authors identified will be at https://goo.gl/Q8Pj6s.