Archive for the 'Radical Middle' Category

How to Create a Group Mind

What is required to create a group mind?

Where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?

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Healthy human minds have the ability to resolve disputes without animosity, without making, or defeating enemies.

Our brains and nervous systems are wired to gather as much data as the time and circumstances allow, and to then understand and evaluate a myriad of possibilities, risks, and opportunities, and then to come up with the best solution – that time and circumstances will allow.

This enables the owner of the mind (the person) to take action as quickly as needed, rather than wasting time and energy fighting internal battles for supremacy, inside her mind, or becoming frozen with fear of making a mistake – fear of losing.

A healthy mind welcomes and thrives on diversity of opinions, including contradictory ones.

Such a mind does this routinely and often without our conscious awareness, for example when we are listening to a voice that is difficult to hear, and trying to make sense of what is being said, and what the underlying meanings and implications are; or when we are looking at the sky for clues about the weather.

A healthy mind also consciously welcomes a diversity of data and opinions, for example, when participating in a valued and trusted team, working to find a solution to a complex problem.

A valued and trusted team is like a healthy mind.

In a healthy team, as in a healthy mind, there is no dread of differences, of complexity, of apparent contradictions, or of periods of uncertainty.   There is also a willingness to take action to test ideas before final acceptance or rejection of a possible interpretation or solution.  There is a strong sense of working together, rather than competing.

Yet in a team there can be a healthy sense of competition; which is healthy only so long as the competition does not become more important than working together to solve a common problem.

A healthy, highly-functioning team is an example of a group mind.

So, actually, we already know how to create group minds.  We do it all the time.  We use common purpose and common sense, management techniques, group facilitation methods, scientific procedures, and methods for publishing, distributing, sharing, testing, and comparing data and knowledge.   We now use the Internet, high-speed, intelligent communications technologies, social media, complex, and data-intensive analytics.

A healthy, highly-functioning community, society, nation or world are larger examples of a group mind.

However, such examples are often more aspirations rather than realities, especially as the scale increases.   But they are all possible.  Very possible.

Creating healthy, large-scale group minds is more difficult

The problem is lack of health.  Lack of wholeness.   A dysfunctional society, or group mind, is full of emotion-laden biases, fears, animosity, internal hostilities, greed, bitter or violent competitions (winner-take-all), or is simply deeply fragmented and incapable of making good decisions.  All of these traits are indicators of very unhealthy group minds – so unhealthy as to be called insane, broken.  So broken it doesn’t feel right to call them minds at all.

So to create a group mind it is really necessary to create a healthy group mind.

The path to healthy group minds has this kind of progression:

Listening, empathy, acceptance, mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual appreciation (love), collaboration (team-work), the ability to make whole-group decisions and take whole-group action even when there is uncertainty, the ability to adapt, grow, and prosper together.

The first step is simply listening.  All the rest of the steps are about harmonizing.

To be able to really listen is a sign of great mental and spiritual health.  To really listen, one has to step back from dearly-held positions (at least temporarily).

This is ultimately a deeply spiritual practice: “Letting go,” “Trusting God” “Trusting Life”, “Transcending the ego.,”  – ultimately caring more about the whole, and each other, rather than about our own little (but important) part.

For many (most) it is not at all easy.  But there are ways that we, together, can make it easier.

Part Two:  Imagine a Conversation that can amplify trust and collaboration, and involve millions…  coming in the near future.

Dreams of Ending Gridlock

On this eve of Federal Government Shutdown, gridlock is on my mind for a moment.  So here’s a thought (that has probably been thunk before).

Currently members of the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives are under pressure by their parties to vote strictly on party-lines.  Yet this means that the members of the minority party essentially throw away their votes and miss a strategic opportunity to elect a more bi-partisan Speaker.  Voters should insist that their representatives make Congress more bi-partisan by having all members vote for their *best* choice from the majority party.

This seems like a good recipe for choosing a more collaborative Speaker.  House Speakers are way too powerful to be controlled by a single party.   Getting the House to work together should be the Speaker’s job.

And as we sometimes remember, the Speaker is also 2nd in line for becoming President.

Of course, other democratic reforms are extremely important – maybe especially getting rid of legalized corruption by changing election campaign funding laws and practices.

Election campaign funding is, however, complex, and likely to be hard to come up with the right formula that can’t be skirted by new methods.   So it will take take longer to enact.

Reforming the way top Congressional leaders are chosen (including committee chairpeople) is much easier for the public to understand and get behind.   There may even be enough Senators and Representatives who are sick of gridlock and could get behind the idea as well.

Please Sign this Petition asking Democrats and Moderate Republicans to elect a bi-partisan Speaker of the House.

Related content – Washington Post, 10/1/2013:

What if Boehner Decided to be the First-Ever Bi-Partisan Speaker

Follow the Money: “Privatization”

“Privatization” means converting publicly owned and managed resources to privately owned and managed resources.

Resources that have been targeted for privatized include schools, water systems, sewer systems, trash disposal, Social Security and Medicare, parks and recreation, transportation, military operations, and even the legislative process itself, that is, drafting laws that govern our states and local governments (see footnote at bottom).

Privatization is done in the name of efficiency, and there are some cases where it can be useful.

There are also many cases where the major effect of privatization has been to enrich private companies at public (taxpayer) expense.

Why would any democratically elected legislator transfer an important public resource to private companies? 

To answer this question, here is where “follow the money” comes into play.  It’s important to find out: ‘Who is profiting from the privatization?’

Do legislators who vote for a privatization bill get re-election funding (and other perks) from the companies or individuals who profit from the legislation?

Does the privatization create higher value and efficiencies with an important overall benefit for the public?   Or does it create higher costs to the public and/or lower value delivered by those who operate the privatized resource?

Footnote – ALEC’s nationwide agenda to privatize public services and resources:

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is a private association, that drafts legislation that is then introduced into state legislatures all across the country.  Many of these bills have been enacted into law.

Privatization of public services and resources is a major focus of legislation drafted and promoted by ALEC.  ALEC is funded primarily by corporate sponsors.

It is accurate to say that state legislatures that introduce bills drafted by ALEC are outsourcing a crucial part of the legislative process to the private companies who sponsor ALEC and take a lead in proposing, pitching, and drafting legislation.

More information about ALEC can be found on this post by the Center for Media and Democracy.  A great deal of valuable research has been done to “follow the money” that flows through ALEC and ALEC’s private sector sponsors.

This is the second part in a series about principles for restoring democracy.   The first part can be found here.

Restoring Democratic Government

Obviously a lot of people are working on this.  These ideas are a brief compilation of some of the best solutions.

An overwhelming majority of Americans, conservative, progressive, and moderate, want a well-functioning democratic government.   But we have different definitions for what that means – because we use different terms and listen to different sources, and because we don’t listen well to each other.

This has been a perfect opportunity for special interests and corruption to whittle away at “government for the people and by the people” and to shift our democracy to either government for the special interests and by the special interests, or else to gridlock.

The principles that make corruption work are:  “divide and conquer” (pit citizen against citizen) and “hide the true motives” (pretend to be interested in “reforming” government but in actuality work for one’s own profit and special interests).

To protect and restore real democracy, we the people need to re-unite, and to do that we need to explore and expose the corruption that has drastically weakened democratic government.

There are a few principles that can guide us:

To expose corruption: Verify the facts and Follow the money.

To restore democracy:  Listen to each other and Engage in authentic dialogue.

To regenerate governmentElect candidates who care about all Americans.  This means we must elect people who are not beholden to special interests and mega-contributions from super-wealthy people and corporations.

These are principles that we can all agree on.  Armed with these we can expose corruption, start dialoguing with each other, and restore democracy.

The 2nd post in this series will expand on “Follow the money” using privatization of public resources as an example.

Represent.Us and the American Anti-Corruption Act


Represent.Us
is a transpartisan non-profit organization working to pass the American Anti-Corruption Act. This Act – if backed by enough of us – has the ability to drastically reduce political corruption and restore fair elections by us, the People, and not the Money.

Represent.Us and the Act are supported by committed Progressives, Conservatives, Tea-Party founders, Occupy founders, etc.   See more about their board of advisers here.

To Increase Social Cooperation Speak to the Best Values of the 99%

I just read an interesting article regarding how to create an Empathic (i.e., Cooperative) Civilization.

How will the 99% Deal with the World’s 70 Million Psychopaths?

A lot of the world’s misery can be traced to people who lack the wiring for empathy. What can we do to contain the damage they cause?

July 26  Joe Brewer

This article suggests (not too surprisingly) that the 1% who control World power structures, mostly for their own benefit, are highly non-emphathic.   That is, the real 1% are not simply the richest 1%, but rather the most powerful non-empaths.  Not all wealthy people are non-empathic.  But our economic system is especially tuned to reward non-empaths in their struggle to the top.   In addition, our legal and regulatory structures favor the creation of extremely powerful corporations who by the predominant definition of “business” and “competition” are at the top of the heap of non-empathic “individuals.”  (Fortunately many corporations are socially responsible.  However, by their nature, corporations are expected to make a profit for shareholders and to obey the law, rather than to create the greatest good for all.)

We knew all of this of course, but the analysis in this article makes the situation clearer.    The author also makes good suggestions on what to do.  But all of his suggestions require the 99% who are empathic to take back control of society (that is, for the ‘meek’ to inherit the Earth).

For me a key question is – how do we break the unholy connection between the powerful non-empaths and the millions of ordinary ‘conservative voters’ who admire  powerful non-empaths and swallow their messages?   The non-empaths are able to put their messages into frames that conservative voters resonate with, even though most of those voters are actually empathic.

Some of best ideas that I’ve seen about how to counter this are in Lakoff’s new book:  The Little Blue Book:  The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic.  Lakoff’s premis is not that progressives must take over the “rulership” of the country from conservatives — who currently worship the private sector and denigrate the public sector.   But rather that progressives must stop using the frames developed by the 1% to gain the admiration and votes of conservative and independent voters.  Progressives must instead use frames that truly resonate with the empathic and democratic nature of all people among the 99%.   Our only way forward is to build true democratic partnership between progressives and conservatives to shape a better society that is good for all, rather than one that mainly benefits the 1%.

Two Remedies for Bad Thinking and other Bad Habits

Bad thinking is usually due to bad habits rather than to lack of ability.

This includes bad habits such as acting without thinking; accepting a “fact” or idea without independent verification; and taking in  news, ideas and interpretations only from sources with a  perspective that reinforces your own,  rather than differing from your perspectives or questioning them.

Such bad habits are correctable, and that’s encouraging.  However, if habits are deeply engrained they are hard to change.  Any habit can only weaken and leave if there is a will – motivated by an internal desire.

For deeply engrained habits, even a strong motivation isn’t enough for change.  A deeply engrained habit is no longer a habit, but an internal imperative which must be obeyed and can’t be ignored.  Such habits can become essential parts of individual and group identity.

There is hope, though, from at least two approaches.  Both of these approaches are methods to train the mind and produce clearer, broader thinking.

The first method is:  Regular exposure to other people one can respect, who have different ideas and behaviors, which they express and model well.  Having a motivation and an opportunity for exposure to new and different ideas and behaviors can begin to change even long-held habits of thinking.

The second method is less familiar to most people:  If people take up the regular habit of transcending – experiencing the silent, unbounded source of their own mind and being, then  life-restricting habits can begin to weaken.   There is plenty of evidence over the last several thousand years that this can actually work.  More recently, neurological, physiological, and other sociological evidence supports this approach.

Combine these two remedies – regular transcending and regular exposure to honest people with different perspectives – and even the most intractable bad habits will begin to loosen.


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