Old Brain, New Brain, Cross-Partisan Dialog

Old Brain, New Brain, Cross-Partisan Dialog

By Penn Garvin, Lois Passi, Wade Lee Hudson

Penn Garvin, an activist and organizer living in rural PA recently wrote the following:

How to Listen:

(1) Put aside your own beliefs and enter into new territory as an anthropologist

(2) Watch your reactions to what you hear – when do you get angry, defensive, scared, etc. – try to understand how you are being triggered

(3) Try to listen for what is the anger, fear, etc. underneath what the other person is saying – don't just listen to the ideas, policies, “what we should do” that they are saying

(4) Validate with the other person anything that you can – don't be fake because people sense that – but are there things being said that make sense to you even if you don't agree and maybe there are things being said that you agree with in part

(5) Don't try to work anything out or agree on anything at first – just be able to feed back to the person accurately what they have said to you so that you both know that they have been understood.

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Lois Passi, a Unitarian Universalist living in PA who works with her local United Way to end poverty, recently included in one of her sermons the following:

•Old and New Brain:

The old brain’s job is to detect threats to survival, and to respond to those threats either by fighting the enemy, fleeing from the enemy, or if neither of those is possible, hunkering down and enduring (fight, flight or freeze responses)….

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George Lakey and How We Win

George Lakey and How We Win

A review
How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning
George Lakey
Melville House Publishing, 2018, 221 pages

George Lakey and How We Win
By Wade Lee Hudson

George Lakey understands internalized oppression. If anyone would support mutual support for self-improvement, you’d think he would. But his new book, How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning, primarily relies on top-down training. 

Though the book presents many valuable recommendations concerning tactical nonviolence, as well as a compelling overview of Lakey’s rich, long history as an activist and nonviolence trainer, it does not propose intentional, open-ended, peer-to-peer support as a way to unlearn negative conditioning and become more fully human. 

How We Win includes some material about personal issues. It affirms the need to “avoid competition” between activist groups and to “establish productive relationships” between activists. …

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Mutual Support for Self-Improvement

Mutual Support for Self-Improvement
By Wade Lee Hudson

Love, altruism, spirituality, partnership, community, and cooperation thrive when humans feel safe. These feelings also emerge in response to disasters when we tap reservoirs of compassion and restore faith in humanity. 

But when we’re afraid, we become angry, selfish, materialistic, domineering, individualistic, and competitive. Economic insecurity inflames those emotions.  Social conditioning, mainstream media, TV, movies, political rhetoric, and highly competitive schools reinforce these negative tendencies.

Supportive, joy-filled communities that provide safety help us rise above our negative emotions. Families, extended families, close friendships, neighborhoods, churches, synagogues, mosques, sanghas, community-based organizations, and workplaces nurture growth. We can use fear and anger to stop injustice, spread positive emotions, and help each other become better human beings. 

Intentional commitments strengthen self-improvement efforts. Wedding vows and mission statements illustrate the value of placing commitments in writing. These affirmations remind people of their commitment, help them hold each other accountable, and spread their values to others. By adopting clear, written policies, organizations can encourage their members to support each other with their self-improvement. 

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Religion, Spirituality, and the 2020 Election

Religion, Spirituality, and the 2020 Election

Religion, Spirituality, and the 2020 Election
By Wade Lee Hudson

Several Democratic candidates and some pundits have injected promising spiritual commentary into the 2020 presidential primary campaign. Some have even gone beyond discussion of public policy to address how ordinary Americans conduct their daily lives. Trump’s example has certainly opened the door for this conversation. However, to the best of my knowledge, none of those candidates and pundits have thus far affirmed the need for an explicit, intentional commitment to mutual support for self-improvement.

The most popular Google search term during the second round of debates was “Marianne Williamson.” This surge of interest in the New Age author was prompted by her statement:

This is part of the dark underbelly of American society: the racism, the bigotry and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight. If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.

We’ve never dealt with a figure like this in American history before. This man, our president, is not just a politician; he’s a phenomenon. And an insider political game will not be able to defeat it.… The only thing that will defeat him is if we have a phenomenon of equal force, and that phenomenon is a moral uprising of the American people.

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Diderot’s Encyclopedia

Diderot’s Encyclopedia

A review
The Encyclopedia
Stephen J. Gendzier
Harper & Row, 1967, 246 pages

Diderot’s Encyclopedia
By Wade Lee Hudson

With forty collaborators, including writers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu, and many more contributors, the 18th Century French polymath Denis Diderot served as principal editor of the Enlightenment’s remarkable The Encyclopedia. Diderot wrote many of the entries himself. Exactly how many is unknown because he didn’t sign much of his work in order to avoid a second prison sentence. He and other co-editors were imprisoned at times for offending the Church and the Monarchy. 

Among other innovative thoughts, the 28-volume series promoted natural human rights, opposed slavery, advanced democracy, and vigorously supported the scientific method. In so doing, they helped lay the groundwork for the French Revolution. …The Encyclopedia inspired the structure of this Systemopedia, which consists of interrelated subjects arranged alphabetically.

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Charles Hartshorne: Neoclassical Metaphysics

Cultural/Polarity/Articles

Charles Hartshorne: Neoclassical Metaphysics
By Donald Wayne Viney
(Excerpts)

In spite of the extreme generality of metaphysical concepts, each such concept entails a polar contrast to it. Even the highly general concept “reality” requires that the concept “unreality” be assigned some meaning. …

For Hartshorne, then, each metaphysical concept has a corresponding contrast: necessity requires contingency, being requires becoming, unity requires variety, and so on, for any concept that is non-restrictively general, having applicability across possible states or state-descriptions. The two interdependent contraries in each case warrant the term dipolarity….

Monopolar theories allow expression of only one pole of a pair of contrasts; stated obversely, they completely deny one pole of a pair of contrasts. …

in his view, a neoclassical process theory of reality is structurally dipolar and offers comprehensive accommodation of both necessity and contingency, both causal determination and a degree of freedom from such determination, both internal and external relations, and so forth, throughout the range of metaphysical polar contrasts….

b. Inclusive Asymmetry/Concrete Inclusion

Hartshorne’s principle of dipolarity is complemented and qualified by a principle of inclusive asymmetry or concrete inclusion. As Hartshorne points out, the principle of dipolarity does not justify metaphysical dualism. One should distinguish between asserting that a metaphysical concept requires a contrary polar conception in its definition, and asserting that two polar concepts have an equivalent metaphysical status. It may well be the case that one concept requires the other polar concept in its definition, while the other polar concept both requires the polar contrast in its definition, and yet is itself the ground or source of that polar contrast. In other words, it may be the case, as Hartshorne asserts, that dipolarity is itself grounded in a logically asymmetrical relation between the contraries….

“p implies q” means that p both implies itself and q…

No comparable argument can show that being can include becoming without destroying the contrast. The concrete or definite, the creatively cumulative, is the inclusive element, and is the key to the abstract, not vice versa. The concrete and the abstract are neither sheer conjuncts as posited by varieties of dualism, nor some mysterious “third” entity, but, in consonance with both Whitehead’s ontological principle and Aristotle’s ontological priority of the actual, is rather, “the abstract in the concrete.”….

contingency in a relevant sense “includes” necessity rather than vice versa….

Once Again, the System Wins and the Democrats Lose

Political/Multi-issue/Articles

Once Again, the System Wins and the Democrats Lose
by Wade Lee Hudson

The Democrrats should have opened the Mueller hearing (months ago) with an expert counsel posing questions for 30 minutes to highlight the key points in Mueller’s report. That could have provided a clear, concise, compelling narrative that would have been devastating to Trump. But no. They chose to give all of their politicians face time on national television (in disjointed five-minute segments) to help them get re-elected. First things first. So the most compelling testimony happened in the last hour of a seven-hour hearing (which dragged on and on, losing most of the audience and the hearing’s impact).

As I discussed in “Democrats, Border Walls, and Social Polarization,” the Democrats acted in a similar manner with regard to the government shutdown over border-wall funding and the Kavanagh hearings. Maneuvering for re-ellection was primary then as well.

The System teaches everyone to climb social ladders and look down on those below and look up to those above. The goal is to boost egos and accumulate status, power, and/or money. Congress is a near-perfect example. Unfortunately, the System has conditioned all of us.

Political Tribalism: “Ideologues without Issues”

Political Tribalism: “Ideologues without Issues”

Political/Tribalism/Articles

Political Tribalism: “Ideologues without Issues”
by Wade Lee Hudson

…angry political tribes are tearing the country apart. Driven by primal passions, they call themselves “liberals” and “conservatives.” But their policy beliefs are secondary. What matters most is tribal victory. 

Americans largely agree on most specific public policies. But highly committed political people are like die-hard sports fans. They’re identify with their team and feel a deep need to crush the “enemy.” Tribal leaders, in their quest for the power to dominate, manipulate followers’ innate instincts. In particular, they promise to protect their tribe from threats by conquering “the other.” 

Political psychologist Lilliana Mason has marshalled considerable evidence in support of these conclusions.

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Humility and Rationality

Humility and Rationality

Humility and Rationality
By Wade Lee Hudson

A review
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011, 512 Pages

Controlling emotions, instincts, intuitions, and biases is like riding an elephant. As Jonathan Haidt wrote: “The emotional tail wags the rational dog.” In his magnum opus, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman sums up decades of research and urges readers to strengthen “slow thinking” to better manage “fast thinking.” Rationality demands discipline, practice, and effort, but over-confident, we often fail. A humble understanding of why and how we don’t always choose the most rational action can help us be better human beings. 

Kahneman argues that humans

often need help to make more accurate judgments and better decisions, and in some cases policies and institutions can provide that help. The assumption that agents are rational provides the intellectual foundation for the libertarian approach to public policy: do not interfere with the individual's right to choose, unless the choices harm others. For behavioral economists, however, freedom has a cost, which is borne by individuals who make bad choices, and by society that feels obligated to help him. The decision of whether or not to protect individuals against their mistakes, therefore, presents a dilemma.

Whether to require motorcyclists to wear helmets is an example. Requiring everyone to get health insurance is another.

Social-change activists have much to learn from Kahneman’s work, which calls for a commitment to overcome the arrogance that interferes with learning from mistakes. No wonder pride has been considered the number-one sin, and humility the number-one virtue. 

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Still Looking for a Holistic Community

Still Looking for a Holistic Community

I seek a community whose members promote systemic transformation, engage in political action to improve public poilcy, aim to become better human beings, and set aside time to support each other with those efforts. 

That’s it. The essential ingredients of a holistic community that involves the whole person and helps change the whole world. It seems straightforward and sensible. From time to time, I’ve tasted holistic community enough to convince me it’s practical. But those experiences, including my own efforts to organize one, have been fleeting, and I know of none I can join.

My primary motivation is that I believe holistic communities could help relieve suffering. As I address in Transform the System: A Work in Progress, it seems to me that most social change efforts specialize in ways that undermine their effectiveness. Most focus on either the outer world or the inner world. Holistic communities that integrate the two could provide mutual support for both open-ended self-development and improvements in the external world, including political action to impact public policy.

A mission statement for a network of holistic communities might be something like: 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. That wording would enable people in any country to endorse it.

To help achieve that mission, community members might adopt a commitment such as:

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Beyond Left and Right: Compassionate Pragmatism

Beyond Left and Right: Compassionate Pragmatism

Edited 7/15/19

Beyond Left and Right: Compassionate Pragmatism
By Wade Lee Hudson

There’s no widely agreed-on definition of “liberalism” and “conservatism.” More specific terms like “egalitarian economics” vs.“free-market fundamentalism, and ”liberal democracy” vs. “authoritarianism. make sense. So do more general terms like “moderates” vs “revolutionaries,” or “pragmatists” vs “purists.” But supporters of one of those terms may agree with the other side on many sprecific issues. They can’t logically be lumped together on one “left-right” spectrum, which is incoherent and serves to divide and conquer. The three pre-Trump legs of the “conservative” Republican Party — fiscal conservatism, cultural conservatism, and militarism — could not logically be placed under the umbrella of “conservatism” on the so-called political spectrum. The “liberal” Democratic Party has had its own internal contradictions. There’s not one spectrum; there’s many.

Traditionally, the “right” has been said to affirm authority, order, hierarchy, duty, tradition, and nationalism. And the “left” has been associated with liberty, equality, solidarity, human rights, progress, and internationalism. But most people believe in all or most of those principles — because each holds value. 

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The Left-Right Spectrum: Email to Ezra Klein

I just sent the following email to Ezra Klein, founder of Vox.com and host of The Ezra Klein Show podcast.

--Wade

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SUBJECT: Critique the “Political Spectrum”

Ezra, I love the show, the format, and how you conduct it. I especially like the concluding three-book question.

I suggest you engage with a guest who challenges the left-right spectrum. I have not heard you adequately explain that frame. Please explore:

  • What is “liberalism” and “conservatism”?

  • Why do you want to defeat conservatism?

  • Does “conservatism” affirm some, or many, valuable principles?

  • Do we need another worldview that integrates legitimate elements from each ideology?

I suspect you could consider these issues in a way that would help me and other listeners clarify our thinking on this important issue.

Harry Boyte [“Populism and John Dewey: Convergences and Contradictions”) is one possible guest. Ken Wilber, Trump and a Post-Truth World, (good summary here) might be another.

With great respect,

Wade Hudson

TransformTheSystem.org
Wade's Wire (daily)
Wade'e Weekly
Wade's Monthly



The Politics of Petulance: A Spirited Defense of “Mature Liberalism”

The Politics of Petulance: A Spirited Defense of “Mature Liberalism”

Wade Lee Hudson

Donald Trump is another Joe McCarthy. So says Alan Wolfe in The Politics of Immaturity: America in an Age of Immaturity. Wolfe’s passionate, eloquent affirmation of “mature liberalism” is not uncritical of post-war liberals who challenged McCarthyism. But Wolfe urges us to remember “what they got right.”

Trump loved McCarthy’s lawyer, Roy Cohn, who was “notoriously malicious” and practised “the dark arts of American politics.” They became close friends and Cohn greatly influenced Trump.  When James Comey and Jeff Sessions frustrated Trump, he famously declared, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” His link to Cohn was more than personal. They shared the same worldview: demagoguery. Trumpism parallels McCarthyism .

Concerning many of the liberals who criticized McCarthyism and the radical right that emerged from it, Wolfe acknowledges:

Their rightful hostility toward the Soviet Union translated itself into a rigid anti-communism that became, for some, an ideology unto itself. Seeing fascism in unexpected places, they exaggerated the dangers posed by both the student movements and the black protest of the 1960s. Equality for women was the furthest thing from their minds…. Indeed, most of them, with the exception of Richard Wright and Reinhold Niebuhr, seemed to have not all that much interest in the question of race at all…. There may have been an antidemocratic tinge….

Nevertheless, Wolfe insists

for all their flaws, these thinkers stand redeemed today because they brought both the classical and the Enlightenment understandings of politics back to life and thereby offered a starting point for trying to understand why Americans, who profess to love democracy and freedom, elected as their president in 2016 a man and a party that seemed to respect neither….

One could dismiss or even attack their positions so long as American politics showed some signs of stability. Alas, such complacency, given the right-wing demagoguery shaking both the world and this country, is no longer affordable…. That is why, despite their occasional blind spots, it makes sense to return to what these intellectuals had to say…. If Trump's accession to the presidency does not cause intense introspection, nothing can. It is, furthermore, not an explanation of one rogue election we need. It is a discussion of what kind of nation we have become.

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Rural Resentment and 2020

Rural Resentment and 2020

By Wade Lee Hudson

Hillary Clinton might be President today if she’d read articles Katherine J. Cramer wrote prior to 2016.  A Wisconsin native, Cramer has studied political attitudes in rural Wisconsin since 2007. She’s informally visited with residents, engaged in extensive conversations, and listened closely. What she’s learned is revealing. Now that the University of Chicago Press has published her book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, Democrats have no excuse if they don’t pay attention to her discoveries in the 2020 elections.

Cramer’s book echoes Enchanted America: How Intuition and Reason Divide our Politics (see “Irrational Populism”), which calls for “an overarching theory beyond the idea that all elites and outsiders are bad and the people are good.” In a similar vein, Cramer argues that ordinary people should understand their circumstances “as the product of broad social, economic, and political forces,” rather than the “fault of guilty and less deserving social groups.” She says, “The purpose of this book is...to illuminate how we blame each other.”

[You’re invited to help develop an overarching theory that explains those broad forces by  participating in the Transform the System Dialog.]

According to Cramer, her term “rural consciousness”

signals an identification with rural people and rural places and denotes a multifaceted resentment against cities…. I heard them complaining that government and public employees are the product of anti-rural forces and should obviously be scaled back as much as possible…. It informed their frequently negative perceptions of public employees.

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Irrational Populism

Irrational Populism

Irrational Populism
By Wade Lee Hudson

Intuitions provide insight, but “gut feelings” can lead to irrational dogmatism if they aren’t subjected to scientific logic and deliberative thinking. Enchanted America: How Intuition and Reason Divide our Politics concludes that the rising global populist threat calls for “an overarching theory beyond the idea that all elites and outsiders are bad and the people are good.” TransformTheSystem.org offers such a theory. Its aim is to counter scapegoating, demonizing, and counter-productive, misplaced anger.

Our primary problem is not the elite. Our primary problem is not how our economy and government are structured. Those problems are symptoms. Our primary problem is the System---our domination-based social system that weaves together all of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals, who reinforce the System with selfish daily actions.

Enchanted America, by J. Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood, documents how “Intuitionists” are gaining ground against “Rationalists.” They write:

The Intuitionist/Rationalist split is not like other political divisions in the United States. Intuitionism poses an threat to democracy. It is neither benign nor temperate. It bristles against open inquiry, is intolerant of opposition, and chafes at the pluralism and compromise modern democracy requires. It is prone to conspiracy theory, drawn to simple generalizations, and quick to vilify the other.

Intuitionists reflect an “absence of conscious purposeful thought [and] rely on their internal feelings.” They just “know” that some things are right. One form of Intuitionism is “magical thinking,” which contradicts ideas “that are validated by testing and observation.”

Rationalists, on the other hand, “utilize abstract theories, philosophical deductions, and observable facts.” They view problems “in a dispassionate manner, seeking pragmatic, technical solutions.”

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A Shallow, Leftist Critique of “The Coddling of the American Mind”

By Wade Lee Hudson

Google’s top result for reviews of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt is Moira Weigel’s scathing criticism published by The Guardian. Numerous well-credentialed pundits lauded the essay for having “eviscerated” and “systematically demolished” the book.

But Weigel’s review illustrates the problem Lukianoff and Haidt document: leftists often violate liberal principles. Many conservatives also violate their own principles. Condescending authoritarianism across the political spectrum sows division.

Until activists stop being so defensive and learn to be more self-critical, they’ll continue to undermine massive popular action. Prospects for establishing compassionate policies supported by super-majorities of the American people will fade.    

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Crime, Scapegoating, and Daily Life

Crime, Scapegoating, and Daily Life

By Wade Lee Hudson

In a New Yorker essay, “Who Belongs in Prison?”, Adam Gopnik comments on several recent books that address key criminal justice issues, including scapegoating and the desire for revenge. Those concerns apply throughout society.

Locked In by John Pfaff argues that prosecutors have been given freedom to imprison whomever they wish for as long as they like without going to trial…. Gopnik reports that Charged by Emily Bazelon "puts flesh and faces to Pfaff’s statistical and largely abstract proposition." …Revenge is an issue Gopnik examines in some detail.

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Trickle-Down Tolerance

Human beings are a bundle of contradictions. Multiple instincts compete. Then, from time to time, external factors trigger particular inner experiences and the national mood fluctuates. Politicians, especially the President, amplify one human potential or another. To garner support, new leaders contrast themselves to old leaders. The pendulum swings.

In Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America, John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck examine this dynamic. They argue:

Simply being a member of a group is not the same thing as identifying or sympathizing with that group. The key is whether people feel a psychological attachment to a group….

The...power of group identities...depends on context. One part of the context is the possibility of gains and losses for the group…,[which] can be tangible...or symbolic, such as psychological status….

Another and arguably even more important element of the context is political actors. They help articulate the content of a group identity, or what it means to be part of a group. Political actors also identify, and sometimes exaggerate or even invent, threats to a group. Political actors can then make group identities and attitudes more salient and elevate them as criteria for decision-making.

Group loyalties “can and often do” create hostility toward other groups. But relationships to other groups “do not have to be competitive.

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The New Age Gets (Somewhat) Political

The New Age Gets (Somewhat) Political

A review
A New Republic of the Heart:
An Ethos for Revolutionaries
Terry Patten
North Atlantic Books, 2018
384 p., $17.95

Only a few political people are becoming more spiritual, but many spiritual people are becoming more political, aiming to integrate the personal, social, cultural and political dimensions of human experience. This development is encouraging.

The Shift Network, a clearinghouse of information about such integrative projects founded by Stephen Dinan, is “a transformative education company” that aims to “work together to create a better world…[by] shifting toward a planet that is healthy, sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous for all.” Their offerings do not “focus solely on your personal transformation but also on how we can shift our world.”

Marianne Williamson, an American spiritual teacher, activist, and author of 13 books, including four New York Times best sellers, is a candidate for President. Her new book, A Politics of Love: A Handbook for a New American Revolution will be released April 23. She declares:

Corporatocracy has replaced democracy as our primary organizing principle, our government has become little more than a system of legalized bribery, and politicians too often advocate for short-term corporate profit maximization before the health and well-being of people and planet.

And Terry Patten’s 2018 magnum opus, A New Republic of the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries, rooted in Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, has received strong praise from many New Age thinkers as well as Joan Blades, MoveOn.org co-founder. Presented as “a guide to inner work for holistic change,” Patten’s 384-page book includes many valuable insights, especially with regard to personal and spiritual growth, often presented with poetic passion. Unfortunately, his political perspective is weak, and the book is redundant, contradictory, and inconsistent with its logic.

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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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