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On Hubris (or, how to combat ‘scandal fatigue’)

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(Note: Originally written in 2017, this post seems even more relevant today, in 2019).

By Dan Franco, Oakland, California

It seems to be necessary to clear up confusion and doubt. Around the nation today, many are dismayed to see the shabby state or our Republic. Not only that – they believe this situation will not get better. They fear it is only going to get worse, and they are powerless to change it.

They are correct. And that’s the good news.

We’ll get to the bad news in a moment. First though, how could this possibly be good news? Well, simply put, because defeatism is a huge drain on the energy of those who are actually trying to win. It’s good news because those folks will take them selves out of the discussion, and sit on the sidelines while ideas are contested in the arena.

Is this you? Do you feel fatigued, weary? Do you think the Right Wing and their craven business cadres will run this country into a sewer? Are you giving up on pushing back? Good.

I’m not. Outta the way, ya lump! Don’t need ya, kvetching and harrumphing but ultimately not lifting a finger.

As you may have guessed, this note will contain no small amount of ‘tough love’. I aim to ruffle your feathers, but will also offer some perspective and insights that may snap you out of the fugue that likely has been dogging you for months now.

I’ve been around long enough to know that this moment in history isn’t the end of anything; neither is it the beginning. I’m “tanned, rested, and ready” as they used to say in politics before a Cheeto got elected to high office. I’ve got all my tools and weapons prepared, and am motivated for the coming campaign to return America to sanity and fairness. By the end of this letter, I hope you will be too.

)*( )*( )*( )*(

California-based activist Gary Snyder once said, “Don’t feel guilty. If you’re gonna save the world, do it because you love it.” He was right. Activism is hard, and boring. There are endless setbacks and complications, negotiations and surprises. It’s also totally worth it, because often enough you eventually win.

A fundamental problem today is that too many people confuse ‘the world’ with ‘the present situation’. The present situation sucks, and most folk don’t actually think it’s worth trying to save. No really, despite all the hype in the media, the vast majority of people have been tricked, cheated, or plain old beaten down too many times to keep trying. Those who are talking and engaging are a tiny few, they merely seem to be magnified by our 24-hour / 7-day news cycle.

But the World is still very worthy, and our mission needs to be to show people the difference between the two. Then we can present a better example of what can be. We can activate those folks, we can build a nation that finally works for all it’s citizens. You see I was just trolling you in the opening paragraphs, because I know something really important that get’s overlooked all too often.

The people in this land are good people.

They really are. They maybe don’t vote the way you do, don’t embody their faith traditions as you might like them to. Yet they have, for generations, set down roots and built communities and done the tedious but necessary work of creating the towns and cities we call home. Sure, they are often badly misinformed. We can do something about that – and we’ll discuss that in my next letter. What we need to deal with first though is YOU. We need to get you re-vitalized, so you will understand how much power you have.

To do that, we ought to start with some history. I said above that this time we live in isn’t the end of anything, and I meant it. Every generation tends to fall into a trap. I’ve seen it at least three times in my lifetime – the 60’s hippies, the 80’s yuppies, and now again today. It’s the ‘Last Generation’ fallacy, and it’s a dangerous delusion. In the 1970’s all the idealists saw their efforts crash and burn against a tide of indifference and hostility, largely because they’d ‘dropped out’ of society but found out the hard way that they were not free, they had merely moved to a different part of the prison yard.

In the 80’s the Nukes were going to drop on us “any day now”, and so the masses concluded the best thing was to say “I Got Mine” and go out with a bang. Obviously they were wrong, because decades later we are still here. And for a great many Americans, life got steadily better during those 4 decades. How did that happen? Because some folks quietly worked in meetings, on city councils, and at conferences to find solutions where they could.

Now here in 2017 and it seems the only things getting done are protests and demonstrations. Well, those were going on too all throughout those years, and they were as vital then as now. They raised awareness, and then folks set about fixing problems. So from both ends – policy and public awareness, things got done. As they say, ‘good news never makes the front page’ so it’s easy to overlook the thousands of tiny achievements. Instead the ‘big bads’ suck up all the ink – healthcare, a border wall, etc.

Perspective! We cannot let weariness and fatigue at all these scandals and outrages cause us to give up. Because in the face of those, I offer you decades of examples of progress. We cannot defeat ourselves just because the cops are still doing horrible things, or because Wall Street robs Main Street every chance it gets. The problems we face today are solvable; have been already greatly remediated in many cases (compared to decades ago).

Hubris is a concept that comes to us from the Classics, and most folk know about it as the traits of Pride, Vanity, or Arrogance. The current President is a fine example of Hubris demonstrated on a daily basis. BUT – Hubris is not only those traits. Defeatism is also a part of it. So when I hear someone tell me that the problem is too big, or the battle is already lost, I know they too are displaying hubris. And Hubris in all it’s forms is a characteristic each and every one of us should seek to root out and remove from ourselves. It is a mistake for any one of us to presume we have all the facts, that we alone hold “truth”. This is because it often leads one’s thinking to one end of the spectrum or the other, away from the middle where the truth often lies.

Giving in to defeatism is EXACTLY what the opposition wishes for you to do. They have planned and executed a multi-decade strategy, with nearly endless funding, specifically to suppress your voice, to create the illusion that they are right and they are undefeat-able. THEY ARE WRONG.
So, yeah sure, Trumpy is a narcissistic hubristic fool. But so too are far too many on the other side, and that needs to change. Because folks who are unaware of their failings will fall prey to those failings.

So too are those who have said over the last six months that ‘things are not normal’. If only that were true! Things are not ACCEPTABLE, but that is very different. In 240 years we’ve veered back and forth, back and forth, from extreme to extreme in our politics. At every turn there were the same teeth-gnashing and recriminations as we see today. So, sad but true – this is the norm. We got lucky, and for about 30 years it was tamped-down, so that has allowed many to forget that this is the normal pattern. But I need you to focus on the fact that the present situation is not Acceptable, not the suddenness of it. Again, no letting your fears get the better of you.

Having this much naked corruption is wrong; and as we have done before it must be stopped. Having theocrats and sycophants meddling in the affairs of government is wrong; and as we have done before they must be turned out.

We routed the Robber Barons. Twice, technically, if you count both the Great Depression and the Great Panic of the late 1800’s. We enacted strong Civil Rights laws, and seem to be on the cusp of doing so again since it’s become clear that the last round wasn’t sufficient. We cleaned up our air and water. We took a tiny and long overdue step towards fixing our healthcare mess. Nothing about the present regime is new, or goes further than previous ones, let’s get that straight. It seems new and shocking but it’s not. We have so very many resources to draw from, when engaging them in the war of ideas.

So, yeah, sure, if you choose to believe you are powerless to act, then you are correct. “Argue for your limitations, and guess what you get to keep them!” – Richard Bach.

I don’t believe I am powerless, I don’t believe you are powerless. I have witnessed the Occupy protestors go on to organize themselves and quietly get taxes passed for building bike lanes. I have witnessed them get engaged locally in their home cities and cause those places to move steadily leftward and become more progressive. I see that globally we are somewhere in the middle of a vast ‘sea-change’ that began in the 1990’s and is only just now coming into common awareness in the US. I know you, reader. I know that you care deeply, or you would not have read this far. YOU CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS, and the time is coming soon to do so.

)*( )*( )*( )*(

And now for the bad news.

Yeah, sorry, I’m going to talk about the Democratic party now, and how they have every potential to blow it. Not “take us over the cliff”, because as I mentioned above that kind of thinking is a fallacy. But they (at this moment) could screw up so badly that these cretins will solidify their hold on power for generations. That would be a pity, to say the least.

There has been too much ink shed already about the DNC and their heart-rendingly wrong-headed election strategy in 2016. I have to add some more, regrettably, because it’s so important to this discussion. By and large it is far too soon to be taking any lessons from this election cycle. History offers us valuable lessons, but in almost all cases history has been vetted and checked and reconfirmed dozens of times over decades before we safely draw any conclusions.

So I will merely point out that once again Hubris was at play here, and that is such an obvious fact that we don’t need to wait for the academics. The Dem’s by their own admission suffered from a gigantic case of arrogance, and they realized it far too late in the game to alter course. Many in their leadership have not yet accepted this, actually, and *that* is the Bad News of which I speak. Because part of our task is to convince them to climb down from their high horses and start listening to the people on the ground. More than Russian meddling, more than an insurgent Bernie Sanders campaign… more than anything it was their overweening certainty that turned the electorate against them. This too, is not Acceptable. This can never happen again, if they wish to exist as a party. Because their leaders do not seem to realize that this is their last chance. We-the-people have endured their compromises and collusion with Wall Street long enough. We don’t believe in them because their Integrity has become so tarnished.

The Democratic Party is at a crossroads. It must move to the left, far to the left, and it must do it today. Because the people all across this land have already done so. Or, it can be eviscerated in the next election, and my earlier prediction will come true – – it will then break into 2 weaker parties. (The GOP faces a similar crossroads, and similar fate, but I’ve no desire for them to do anything BUT implode so let them go ahead and do so).

All around the world the message is clear – Centrism and Austerity are ideas whose time has passed. They may once have been winning ideas, but no longer. So as you go along be mindful of this fact. The future of this country belongs to those who seek to restore Integrity to the processes of our government. It belongs to those who understand that the next economy will be the one that retires Capitalism and replaces it with a better system.
The past is a useful teacher, and it can teach you many ways to remain enthusiastic about the work to be done in the coming years. Yet it’s also true that the solutions of the old days only go so far. We need not bring them back as creaky scaffolds to build upon. Instead we can invent a more solid foundation by avoiding the mistakes of days gone by. It will not happen quickly, but as you will see in future letters it is indeed already underway.

And YOU can choose to be a vital part of this change – that’s the best news of all.

Push back: where you can, when you can. Get even more engaged locally. Take over your local Democratic party and then stick around for the long haul. Be kind to yourself. “Each one, teach one.” When you can do nothing else, study history, (recent and ancient). Better days lie ahead, for you and yours.

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A note from the Publisher

New Report by National Academy of Sciences (USA): Social Media is Hazardous to Your Health

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Why some biologists and ecologists think social media is a risk to humanity

At a time of information overload, when most people can’t decipher truth from fiction, when our world and corporate leaders bow down to the corporate interests that are destroying all life as we know it for their short term personal gains, there are billions of social media accounts attached to mechanisms that continue to amplify misinformation and corporate propaganda. All of this inflicts tremendous damage to all life and our life support systems.

The report is attached below.  In Summary, it states:

Collective behavior provides a framework for understanding how the actions and properties of groups emerge from the way individuals generate and share information. In humans, information flows were initially shaped by natural selection yet are increasingly structured by emerging communication technologies. Our larger, more complex social networks now transfer high-fidelity information over vast distances at low cost. The digital age and the rise of social media have accelerated changes to our social systems, with poorly understood functional consequences. This gap in our knowledge represents a principal challenge to scientific progress, democracy, and actions to address global crises. We argue that the study of collective behavior must rise to a “crisis discipline” just as medicine, conservation, and climate science have, with a focus on providing actionable insight to policymakers and regulators for the stewardship of social systems.

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Editorials

Everything Connects

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For the sake of planetary and personal health, business will have to change.

Special Presentation: Sarah Savory

Our existing systems of media and education provide a limited worldview. This reductionist worldview limits our ability to see and exist in the world properly, effectively and in total health.

For us to truly thrive as a species in harmony with the natural world, we will need to see the world as ONE LIVING BREATHING ORGANISM, and our part and place in the world as a part of this organism.  This will require a shift in our thinking, in our action and in the ways we make our decisions.  This very forward-thinking conversation will clearly identify where we are at, how we arrived at this point, what needs to happen, how we get there, what are the obstacles and how will we overcome these obstacles.  And yes, business will have to change.

As Bucky Fuller said: “Nature is a totally efficient, self-regenerating system. If we discover the laws that govern this system and live synergistically within them, sustainability will follow and humankind will be a success.”

But humans don’t know how to manage the complexities of our world. The increasing social, economic, and ecological disasters we are experiencing across the world are the mounting symptoms of our not considering the whole and managing our societies, economies, and nature in isolation of each other when they are an inseparable whole – no person or nation on earth can have physical or financial stability without ecological health.

Sarah Savory has worked alongside her father, Allan Savory who created the Holistic Management Framework. In this exhilarating conversation, we’ll discover a new and improved decision-making process to enable us to manage and balance the inseparable complexity of human societies, economies, and nature. Remember, we’re all in this together

Sarah Savory

Sarah Savory is the single mother of 2 young children, Luke and Mika. She is the youngest daughter of Allan Savory, world-renowned ecologist and developer of Holistic Management (a decision making process which successfully guides us through the complexity we manage by ensuring simultaneously socially, financially and ecologically sound decisions.)
Sarah is following closely in his footsteps and has become a very successful Holistic Management Consultant and Educator in her own right.
In an effort to simplify the framework, she has written illustrated, educational children’s books on Holistic Management and has also broken new ground by teaching HM as a subject in Zimbabwean schools, with demand for education and educational materials growing rapidly and is now writing the first school curriculum for Holistic Decision Making and Ecological Literacy to be taught as a subject in schools.
She is a part of Africa Centre For Holistic Management’s new training and education team and she is part of a new, global policy task force which is focusing on breaking through in government policy. Sarah and her father recently met with President Mnangagwa to begin talks about working with the Zimbabwean government to develop the first ever agricultural policy using the Holistic Management Framework.
Sarah spends the rest of her time writing articles, giving presentations and being interviewed both locally and internationally.
A personal note from Sarah to our youth – you are the key to the future:
Holistic Management involves introducing people to new scientific insights that will not only help them to better understand the incredibly complex social, economic and ecological connections in nature and how earth’s ecosystems function, but teach a new way of managing which makes sure our decisions flow with the unpredictable, ever-present and constantly changing variables of that complexity.
Managers learn how to make decisions or develop polices in a way that guarantees they never lose sight of the whole picture and the fact that our physical and financial security and stability are intricately connected and entirely dependent on the health of our environment – the only economy that can ultimately sustain any nation is one based on healthy soil and the plant’s ability to turn the sun’s energy into food because everything we use or consume comes from the land.
When it comes to making a change and adapting to new knowledge and thinking, history shows us that most adults and institutions are almost incapable of it. I truly believe the key to the future lies in educating our children, rather than pinning all our hopes on the possibility of “old dogs learning new tricks.”
Let’s give young people the solutions and show them how vital it is to look at the whole picture and to focus on and address root causes instead of symptoms.
If we can have school leavers going off into the world ecologically literate and capable of successfully managing and balancing the unavoidable social, financial and ecological dimensions of their decisions, rather than being stuck as we are now, on a hamster wheel reacting or adapting to the inevitable and increasing symptoms of our current management, they will be proactively making decisions in a new way that will bring about the physical and financial stability we all want, reversing the current problems and preventing any more knock-on symptoms further down the line. When we do that, it will change everything.

Related Stories:

Barry Dossenko interview with Allan Savory

Allan Savory: How to effect meaningful transformation to address the global climate crisis.

For a healthier planet, management must change

 

https://mobilized.news/a-timely-message-for-world-leaders-from-holistic-management-pioneer-allan-savory-of-savory-global/

 

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Arts

Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!

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Our future is in OUR Hands

We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.

 

 

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