Transform the System
|Transform the System (4/17/12 Draft)|
|By Wade Hudson|
The following guide offers ideas for growing a Social Transformation Network of holistic communities that serve the whole person and advance fundamental/comprehensive/systemic social transformation. Anyone who chooses to use and/or modify any of these ideas is welcome to do so. I do not plan to initiate or organize any such project myself, but would be very interested in participating if and when the opportunity presents itself.
Humanity faces a turning point. Society produces ever more inequality, insecurity, limited opportunity, corruption, self-centeredness, social isolation, materialism, cutthroat competition, environmental damage, and a host of other problems.
The economy could collapse like a house of cards and rising seas could occupy Wall Street permanently. Life as we know it is at stake.
To prevent disaster, massive numbers of concerned individuals must learn how to work together in small groups and large movements to address the root cause of our crisis: our social system.
Would you like to participate in a joyous, holistic community whose members nurture the whole person, spread contagious happiness, cultivate caring friendships, foster personal growth, engage in effective political action, do life together, eat together, play together, commune with Mother Nature together, and thereby demonstrate the kind of society we seek – while recognizing that many members have limited time to contribute directly to the community?
Would you like to do more to influence public policy but aren’t sure how? Might you for example want to participate several times a year in a public forum with one of your elected officials to listen, learn, and express your opinion?
If so, you may want to join the Social Transformation Network.
Our mission is to help transform our society into a compassionate community dedicated to the well being of all humanity.
Our primary methods include:
- Evolutionary revolution;
- The Gandhi-King three-fold path;
- Deep nonviolence;
- The Charter for Compassion;
- The Contract for the American Dream;
- The Be the Change Pledge, and;
- A monthly dinner meeting.
If you already belong to a politically active organization, you may want to invite fellow members (and/or the organization itself) to form a Social Transformation Network home-based team that uses this guide (and helps to improve it).
If you already belong to a spiritual community or some other non-profit organization that is prohibited from political activity, you may want to invite fellow members to form a home-based team and engage in joint political activity informally.
If you don’t belong to any such organization, you may want to invite friends and relatives to form an informal, home-based team affiliated with the Social Transformation Network.
If you’re unable to recruit others to join a home-based team, you may want to participate in our online community (and perhaps eventually find others with whom you can interact in person).
In this way, we can work together to build the social transformation movement.
This guide is offered to assist your efforts. It is not a blueprint to be followed precisely. We don’t expect everyone to totally agree with every word. We encourage each home-based team to modify this guide as you see fit and report on your efforts.
|Step One: Understand the System|
To build a social transformation movement, we need to grasp the nature of our social system and learn how to talk about it meaningfully and effectively. One often hears references to “the system.” People intuitively understand the concept. But clear descriptions of the system are rare. So I offer the following description of the social system that prevails in the United States.
Like any system, the American social system consists of inter-dependent elements that work together to serve a particular function. These key elements include: major institutions such as governments, the economy, religion, media, and schools; informal institutions such as the family; our dominant culture; and we as individuals who reinforce the system.
Without a common purpose and shared values, societies disintegrate. Society holds itself together by integrating its sub-systems into a coherent social system.
Ever since the birth of centralized agriculture, wealthy elites have used their advantages to benefit themselves, their families, and their loyal friends by increasing their wealth and power. They’ve created and administered institutions that preserve the status quo and reinforce patterns of domination (and submission).
Previously monarchies prevailed. But with the advance of democracy, social inheritance has replaced biological inheritance and modern society’s major institutions have become self-perpetuating. The administrators of our institutions carefully select assistants and future replacements.
This dynamic has been the driving force in every major modern society. No other factor better explains the nature of modern society.
Since different individuals hold different degrees of power and influence within different situations, they have to be accountable for their actions. But no one element controls the system. Scapegoating is wrong. Each administrator is replaceable. The primary problem is the system, for which we are all responsible.
The picture is not black-and-white. Countless exceptions always exist. From its founding, the United States has also affirmed humanistic, democratic ideals. The preamble of our Constitution affirms that a central purpose of our government is to “promote the general welfare.” On occasion grassroots movements have managed to make the nation honor those principles more fully. And today a growing cultural revolution is laying the groundwork for another peaceful uprising that may move us forward with profound social changes.
But the old top-down ways persist. The dominant society adapts and remains fundamentally the same. To implement deep, lasting change, we need to understand what we’re up against and how we as individuals buttress the system.
Selfishness, cutthroat competition, materialism, and hyper-individualism overwhelm deeper instincts toward compassion, cooperation, generosity, and community. Human beings become cogs in the machine, thereby reducing one another to instruments.
We buy consumer products that are made under oppressive conditions, vote in elections, work in traditional businesses, decline to confront injustice, and reinforce cultural values.
To obtain favors from parents, teachers, and bosses, we learn to do what others want us to do. In certain situations, like at work, this submission makes sense. But these habits often carry over into other areas where honesty, transparency, spontaneity, and authenticity would be more effective.
We accept society’s self-centered focus and worry too much about what others think about us.
We rate people in terms of how attractive they are according to conventional standards and only mate with lovers who are more or less equally attractive.
We assume that some one person must always be in charge, domineer when we can, submit when we cannot, and engage in ongoing one-upmanship.
Political activists believe leadership is the ability to mobilize others to do what the leader wants them to do.
Families pass on society’s dominant values and train children to obey automatically.
Disabling professionals place themselves on a pedestal and teach clients to blindly accept their expertise, which fosters dependency and undermines self-esteem.
Schools rely on the one-way transmission of information and pressure students to compete by jumping through pre-defined hoops.
Doctors believe good health requires patients to do what the doctor tells them to do.
The entertainment and media industries make idols out of the rich and famous.
The sports industry glorifies individual achievements and believes that winning is everything.
The business world affirm that their main goal is to beat the competition and rewards subordinates who keep quiet and do what is expected.
Mainstream religious institutions claim that God will make the faithful prosperous.
Politicians are most concerned about winning the next election.
Most Americans are primarily motivated by the desire to enrich themselves and believe super-rich individuals are wealthy because they earned it.
To climb the ladder of success, we hold back from expressing our feelings or actually lie, because we’re afraid that being honest will backfire or hurt us in some way, like when we need a good grade or promotion.
Due to fear and lack of self-confidence, we often fail to be self-critical, for honesty can be disturbing and disruptive.
Honest dialog that enables us to get to know one another more fully is rare. Deep connections and authentic encounters are few in number. Ever more Americans have fewer close friends with whom they share hopes, needs, and fears.
Most conversations consist of a series of monologues. We tell stories about our past, engage in intellectual discourse, and gossip about others. Rarely do we really inquire about the feelings of those with whom we interact.
We become so ambitious and task-oriented, we fail to accept reality and enjoy life.
If we the people withheld our support, the system would collapse. If we engaged in ongoing profound self-improvement and united, we could transform our society. Instead, we accept the status quo.
By denying our true selves, we fortify the prevailing system that has become deeply embedded within each of us.