Archive for the 'Social Transformation' Category

Is there Justice in Life?

 

peace and justice
                                Photo found here.

Big questions are those that are asked and answered by every person in every generation for as long as humans have been humans.

We do not tend to invent completely novel answers to these questions. Rather we shape our personal answers as we grow. We select and weave together the answers that resonate with our experience and acquired beliefs.

I woke up this morning thinking about this.  These are the answers that resonate with me:

Yes, there is Justice in Life.  

This is difficult or impossible to see for millions who are denied justice by others.   The tragic loss of justice must clearly remind us of how essential justice is for there to be life.

There are Laws of Nature, and if we act in accord with these our lives tend to be better than if we don’t.   Ultimately it is better to do good than to do bad. It is better to help others than to only use them.   It is better to forgive than to hold grudges and take reprisals.   It is better to love than to hate. It is better to avoid disease and the causes of disease; and likewise, to avoid negative habits and their causes. It is better to help those who are down rather than to say “They deserve it,” and walk away. Ultimately, Justice depends on how we treat each other.

Then why do bad things happen to good people?

Nature is complex, and the laws of nature interact with each other in almost infinitely complex ways.   We are not perfectly tuned into these laws and their interactions, and even if we have knowledge, the results are very hard to predict, or to influence with perfect precision.   But as we learn more our results are better, and we can avoid problems and we can help each other avoid problems.   And the more we continue to expand and share our knowledge, the more Justice we have.   Much of the suffering that occurs in the world is in fact due to one group or another grossly ignoring the laws of nature.   For example, only taking and hoarding, rather than sharing; only using rather than giving back and uplifting; only fighting back rather than looking for a new way.

Life is infinitely complex. We will not one day have all the details figured out, along with rational prescriptions for each possible complex chain of cause and effect.

And yet in the face of complexity it is possible to live simply while spontaneously increasing Justice in the world.

Living simply means to love, to forgive, to pay attention, to listen, and, in various expressions, to transcend our petty egos based on ‘me-first’ and ‘my group first’ – to build expanded egos that care for the good of all. These are ancient and true teachings from all cultures.

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?

Image

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.

A Long Affair with Three Big Ideas about Collective Consciousness

In thinking recently about what I like to do and think and talk about – for example, using and creating tools that enhance collective intelligence – I realized that my main interests have been pretty much the same for most of my adult life (about forty-five years) – and most of them were originally inspired by three Big Ideas that I came upon almost immediately after graduating from high school.

Of course my very earliest influences, from floating in the womb to end of high school also immensely affected me.  And my wife, and closest friends and family, and innumerable conversations and journeys have shaped me hugely, as well.  But the three Big Ideas gripped me and still grip me in their own special way.

The three big ideas were inspired and conveyed to me by two people and one group.  One of the people, Teilhard de Chardin, died when I was 7 years old and before I ever heard of him; the other, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a living saint whom I read about and then studied under; and the group was the Ecumenical Institute (EI), and it’s secular arm, the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA).

Rob, my older brother and only sibling, introduced Teilhard to me in the summer of 1966 after I graduated from high school.  We had a summer job together in Winfield, Kansas shoveling grain during the wheat harvest.  When not working we would often go to the local library, where he showed me Teilhard’s book, The Phenonmenon of Man.  I have no idea how the little Winfield library happened to have that book (which was first published in English just a few years earlier).  But it did.   The book was densely written for paleontologists, biologists and other scientists, and was not easy to read.  But the ideas had a huge effect on me so I kept reading it here and there for quite a while.

Rob also introduced me to the EI / ICA a couple of years later, during my visits to see him in Chicago where he was interning with them.   And in 1970, after returning from six memorable months in Europe, my closest friends, John and Bev, introduced me to Transcendental Meditation and to Maharishi’s teaching.

So here is a summary of these three great and widely influential ideas that together combine in me to guide what I want most to do and be.  Continue reading ‘A Long Affair with Three Big Ideas about Collective Consciousness’

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.


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