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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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.

Irrational Politics

Irrational Politics

Human beings join tribes. This instinct is biological. Tribes assume moral superiority over and seek to dominate other tribes. Winning is primary. The price of victory is secondary. These battles produce strong emotions that distort reality.

When tribes join with other tribes into super-tribes, a threat to one tribe is a threat to every tribe. Life becomes more dangerous and irrational. Republicans and Democrats are super-tribes. They focus on winning the next election.

The development of these electoral super-tribes has undermined the ability of legislators to compromise, which is the heart of democracy. Legislators must compromise to address difficult problems, but increased polarization has made it more difficult. Tribalism is pulling the country ever deeper into a downward spiral of bitter gridlock.

Compromise is not always timely. Militant activism can help bring attention to pressing issues and build pressure for stronger improvements. But outside the electoral arena, on the left and the right, doctrinaire, victory-centric tribes have also formed super-tribes. They demonize opponents, resist all compromise, and disregard the consequences of their actions. The result is profound fragmentation.

The time has come for everyone to step back and engage in critical self-evaluation. Learning to overcome arrogant, hyper-competitive, domineering tribalism is essential in order to unite and transform this nation into a compassionate community.

Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity by Lilliana Mason analyzes Republicans and Democrats. Her book applies to other tribes as well.

Mason argues:

A single vote can now indicate a person’s partisan preference as well as his or her religion, race, ethnicity, gender, neighborhood, and favorite grocery store. This is no longer a single social identity. Partisanship can now be thought of as a mega-identity.

Mason calls this dynamic “social polarization.” The convergence of multiple identities into one mega-identity leads to greater stereotyping, prejudice, and emotional volatility -- and makes us “increasingly blind to our commonalities.”

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Democrats, Border Walls, and Social Polarization

Democrats, Border Walls, and Social Polarization

As Lilliana Mason reports in her shocking, disturbing Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became our Identity (2018), many scientific studies prove that human beings are afflicted with a deep-seated instinct to polarize into highly competitive, mean-spirited tribes. Emotions rooted in the body associated with politics and sports are remarkably similar. Those powerful feelings, often unconscious, can distort reality and undermine ethical behavior. Winning becomes primary, consequences secondary.

In order to win, polarized tribes will sacrifice their own self-interest as well as the needs of others. Tribal members enjoy seeing opponents suffer even if they themselves don’t benefit. Their unconscious bias results in destructive discrimination and produces a self-reinforcing downward spiral. Rather than reach agreement on how to relieve suffering, they prefer to fight win-or-lose symbolic, ideological battles over abstractions like “the government,” “capitalism,” or “the wall.” Meanwhile four percent of the world’s children die by the age of five and the planet is burning up.

Mason argues that both Republicans and Democrats are examples.

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Multiple Identities, Politics, Freedom, and Equality

Multiple Identities, Politics, Freedom, and Equality

For me, the most important article of 2019 may prove to be “The Philosopher Redefining Equality” by Nathan Heller in the January 7 issue of The New Yorker. The article’s subhead is “Elizabeth Anderson thinks we’ve misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society.” The caption for the lead illustration is “Our real concern should be equality not in material benefits, Anderson argues, but in social relations: democratic equality.”

Heller writes:

Her work, drawing on real-world problems and information, has helped to redefine the way contemporary philosophy is done, leading what might be called the Michigan school of thought. ...She brings together ideas from both the left and the right to battle increasing inequality,...

Born in 1959, Anderson specializes in moral and political philosophy. Right out of graduate school, Princeton University offered her a tenure-track job, but she decided to stay at the University of Michigan, where she is now the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies (which she named after Dewey when the university elevated her to its highest professorship). As soon as I get it, I plan to read her 2017 book Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk About It).

Heller reports:

“The Industrial Revolution was a cataclysmic event for egalitarians,” Anderson explains.... “We are told that our choice is between free markets and state control, when most adults live their working lives under a third thing entirely: private government.”

As summed up by Heller:

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The American Dream, Redefined

The American Dream, Redefined

Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations by Amy Chua is a valuable, challenging book. The American Dream, however, is more complicated than Chua acknowledges.

Chua affirms a self-critical American Dream “that recognizes past failure.” She also rightly criticizes those who reduce America to “a nation founded on genocide and on the backs of slaves.” She writes:

In America, it’s the progressive elites who have taken it upon themselves to expose the American Dream as false. This is their form of tribalism…[which] creates a virtuous Us and a demonized Them.

Her point is well-taken. Progressives often express a holier-than-thou attitude toward typical Americans and do not adopt a balanced stance toward America’s strengths and weaknesses.

Chua’s less judgmental perspective declares that “generations seeking justice have done so for the promise of America….  [which] allows -- indeed, gains strength from allowing -- all those subgroup identities to flourish…. “ She proposes strengthening America’s identity as the only nation that is not based on ethnicity, but rather is an inclusive “super-group” with everyone “united by their common humanity and love of liberty.” She believes:

It’s not enough that we view one another as fellow human beings; we need to view one another as fellow Americans. And for that we need to collectively find a national identity capacious enough to resonate with, and hold together as one people, Americans of all sorts…. What holds the United States together is the American Dream.

But her definition of the American Dream is mistakenly rooted in the pursuit of great wealth.

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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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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.”


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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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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