Tom Hayden died in October 2016 at the age of 76. He was a founder of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). It was a half-century ago, June 1962, when Hayden and some twenty-somethings of the SDS got together to examine their values. In just a few days, they wrote down ideas and criticisms that remain solid common sense today, yet we still struggle to make them real as the number of thieves that “rule” continues to grow.
The week they met, John F. Kennedy was at Yale giving a commencement address. The invention of the first communication satellite that year included building missiles to chase the moon and no one at that time could even imagine having phones in their pockets more powerful than the computers used to guide those rockets. They could not have dreamed of the capacity to connect everyone to everyone else on an issue. What they did was prepare a very useful vision of a democratic society. The SDS gathered to write the Port Heron Manifesto for their generation. It is a statement about the values and principles of participatory democracy.
The eight principles (below) led Hayden and the group above to Chicago and the Democratic National Convention in September 1968. Their ability to mobilize resulted in their arrest by the federal government for conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges related to anti-Vietnam protests. Their principles have been rewritten and re-interpreted below using the future perfect tense. Doing so adds accountability to sustaining their vision because the main lesson of having control is the ability to create recurrence. A restatement of their platform would, therefore, read, by the year 2020, we will have:
- established a political order that defines problems with facts to set goals
- discovered the means to share the social and economic consequences of public decisions equally
- enabled people to come out of isolation and participate
- accepted the privacy of social relations among all people
- added new ways for people to find meaning in public leadership
- provided outlets for the expression of grievances and aspirations
- illuminated a broad range of choices that facilitate goal attainment
- acknowledged questions that help to reformulate well-defined issues.
If these principles recur in our experience, they become instructions for participation in a democracy that filters oppression out of the social context. Not surprisingly, fulfilling these principles by 2020 remains unlikely; therefore, each occurrence in our experience and in your organizational experience needs extensive identification and authentication.
Political leaders can be helpful as individuals or as local delegations when principles attach to data measured in days, months, years, decades, or generations. Connecting these principles to an issue such as the “health of the nation, or my city” leads to useful evaluation. An implementation of this method would say, we will have “x” by the end of “y.” In this example, health problems and goals to resolve them will have measures of improvement or decline as an assessment of the existing political order to create a useful and helpful system change.
The writers of these principles also knew that the measures of economic change whether caused by fresh capital or human sweat, also require a statement of values. In the future tense, as follows:
All aspects of (our) work at the end of each day will be:
- worthier than incentives, money or survival
- educative, creative, self-directed and collaborative
- a source of independence, human dignity, and respect for others
- subject to democratic and social regulation
- responsive to ethical standards and guidance
- a decisive personal experience that instills self-determination
- an influential economic understanding that strengthens every community
- a means of production open to democratic participation
The ideas developed in Port Heron offers insight into our current, highly polarized political condition. They sensed the danger of replacing goal-oriented and idealistic thinking with a kind of general chaos even though a year later (1963) they would hear “I Have A Dream” by Martin Luther King in 1963 and learn of plans to put men on the moon. Leadership was pushing us to be better and to be the best.
Another aspect of the papers was the criticism of appeals to American “posterity” as insults justifying “present mutilations” of that time. They observed how searching for answers could slip far too easily into the ratification of the conventional. They sensed a critical detachment from the catastrophes facing humanity. They observed that the central purpose of privately held power in a democracy is to assure an organized political stalemate. Today we still watch millions desperately feeling the anarchy of war and drought. Only the consensus for war remains. Human environmental impacts are now global. The flow of wealth accelerates toward the few as if it was a means to escape and tragedies are used to amplify war instead of peace.
“Two fundamental changes have occurred, somewhat ironically in the economic sphere since June 15, 1962, when the Port Heron Conference concluded that it might advance the quality of political change in the democracy we have today. First, ending the separation of people from power, relevant knowledge, and effective decision-making is more than a possibility today. It is probable. The wealth held by anyone at any time, however, can disappear with the ease of a few billion keystrokes. Second, to become one of the bright, thoughtful members of a generation, one no longer needs to be born in comfort or from a university adorning privileges.”Rex L. Curry
The separation of people from power, relevant knowledge, and effective decision-making are more than a possibility today. It is probable. On the other hand, the wealth held by anyone at any time can disappear with the ease of a few million keystrokes. This contrast in power is because any one person can become one of the bright, thoughtful members of a generation and no longer need to be “born in modest comfort” or from a university “adorning privileges”.
We are an Internet experience. The capacity for knowledge, consensus, and collaboration is enormous. Along with a few core competencies, all that is required is the injection of some serious, task-oriented curiosity and some chops in organizational development experience to look ever more efficiently at the world you want to inherit.
As the contradictions of this new wealth begin to sink in, there are opportunities to deal with assessments of the “takings threat” that make stealing a futile, even laughable practice. If these changes hold, the streets will not be where the battle is won’t. There are other places to win this one.
Whether your organization has a whole earth viewpoint, a human and civil rights strategy, a distinctive liberation theology, or an agenda of everyday politics, it is important to focus on the content of liberation movements to identify common ground. The important work for all of them is to recognize the complexity of the patriarchy, the exploitation built into capitalism, and the detritus of militarism. These are oppressive forces but claim to be so in the name of our well-being, freedom or liberation.
A society’s patriarchal system (male-dominated) gets attached to dominance. When masculinity includes this emotional appendage, it is a drug with the side effect of unfairness. The movement for liberation from this situation begins when people assemble and learn to fight for structural change best envisioned in democracies. Small groups easily produce revolutions of thought and action. As these groups tend to be isolated at the start, the attempt to find ways to make combinations of them big enough is motivated by creating a pulse positive outcomes. The backlash experienced in the push for these changes leads to disruptions but it includes many opportunities to raise consciousness about the continuing need for change.
Movements for race and gender equality collect the experience of unfairness toward power. It is uncomfortable but encouraging lateral rather than vertical relationships is the best way to uproot old hierarchical systems and untie knots. This work leads to projects such as taking back state legislatures through vote-education that stops normalizing hierarchy.
The motivation of a liberation movement is to define the damage done to individuals and the well-being of entire cultures. Embedded within the analysis of emancipation, especially in recent decades, is the critique of multinational, multi-trillion-dollar corporations building bold, unapologetic forms of unchecked Darwinist philosophies of supremacy, as part of the white, mostly male, western European and American establishment. It is as if these institutions are paying attention to global challenges to their vision of authority and power, yet find it impossible to create positive change. Perhaps they fail because they continue to fail ordinary people at an accelerated rate for the lack of belief in democracy and where hope can be capitalized.
The general framework for compromising a rising level of dissent in the name of transparency or borders is to establish divisions between the known and unknown. Accepting the contradictions of the news/fake news, or the truth and lies experience reveals a hidden demand for change. Develop a super keen sensitivity to the nature of vague oppression of any group of people and work to understand them with the intensity of social companionship. If small groups of people are to initiate political mobilizations with any success at all, know that the goal of organizing new institutions to replace the old is a vast enterprise requiring generations of intelligent observations and the facts to back them up.
Threats to personal safety and the general welfare of a community are familiar. Maintaining command over solutions to common problems requires a localized capacity to respond to new threats. In the past, oppressive forces made it dangerous for large groups of people to breathe the air, eat safe foods, or drink clean water across significant stretches of the American landscape and the world. Reversing the environmental damage caused by these problems became law by consensus, not because solutions were easy but for one fact. Air, food, and water quality are inseparable.
Today, the rise of the localized threats to safety and welfare are far more subtle, and it has little to do with what you might expect such as, seemingly newsworthy acts of random violence or senseless brutality. A more telling example is available. Recall the time Bernie Sanders said to the liberation movement protesters of Black Lives Matter (BLM) that, “all lives matter!” Blurting such a truism at that moment was dismissive and only proved that he did not get it at that moment. He knows the fight for the protection of one is a struggle in defense of all, but he was not aware of the moment he spoke to, and it is safe to say now he does. It tells us that understanding the call by Sanders for an American political revolution is far less complicated than building the ground upon which it will move forward. In this example, the ease with which liberation movements split apart internally exposes external forces that feed on these divisions.
The first question is, how do you build trust in an instantaneous communications regime? The diversity of the Nation (or the world) contributes to the cultural cohesion of groups but sustains values that find forced separation intolerable. Poor interpersonal and group-to-group communication is more likely in a diverse society, but free expression is a simultaneous opportunity for continuous improvements. The first step in this direction is to discover shared values clearly including arrangements to disagree.
Good examples for build trust are compelling values that express reverence for the potential of every child, or the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but no matter how persuasive, values alone they do not protect the American-born sixteen-year-old child of parents who overstayed no more than they define life itself. These are areas where the ability to disagree or allowing for human error with a sense of love or forgiveness requires a process of continuous human discovery.
Combinations of restorative and transformative justice systems prove that safe methods can repair harm, heal broken relationships, and address the underlying causes of pain, suffering, and violence for participants. These are opportunities to produce specific investments at a personal level in the education, health, and safety of people suffering harm, as well as, the offenders. In an economically and socially diverse community, the metrics of reparation establish a direct relationship between the rates of specific events such as unlawful incarceration or immigration with the speed of healing. Slowing, even ending the increase in these rates and its attendant causes move society toward the collective ownership of its future.
In the song that is America, the most constant refrain is that change occurs because it is hard, not because it is easy. What Martin Luther King described as the “urgency of now” in America is the stuff of which this nation promises to build a future for its people. A second question comes with systems that effectively build trust, what new controls are needed for system change?
Positive outcomes come from the structure of public services that can remake standing systems. Local institutions such as fire, police, and schools not only provide, protection, security, and education they are training grounds for the invention and implementation of new democratic political systems. Fire, Police, and Sanitation Departments are free to not act like a military regiment or an enlightened new form of first response; schools can replace stone-cold lectures with hundreds of creative opportunities for dialogue, debate, and social exercise.
The civil and human rights movement has a similar power, but unlike traditional services, it is an example proving the freedom to change. It creates new abilities in people. It assures positive, generational impacts in the lives of communities, places, and cultures. The actions of liberation movements are in direct response to some plain observations, such as the unprincipled disregard of anti-Black institutions or policies that deny the fundamental rights of a citizen due to crossing a State border. Allowing these activities to occur is to deny malfunctions in the structure of a viable Republic that openly commands itself to be one nation with liberty and justice for all.
In the whole earth movement, there are observations of political, economic ideologies that celebrate corporate and individual wealth accumulation at the lowest capital cost that includes an aggressive disregard of the societal costs, including the idea that damage caused is unintentional or collateral, but must continue until a new capital enterprise design can make repairs profitable. The logic of this idea is to destroy a community to save it and remains as untenable as it has ever been and alarming when this system of values refers to the earth itself.
The demand for a political revolution calls attention to the caring economy as a new economic system. We know it well, it produces and reproduces, it is family and friends, the foundation of culture and the arts. It is organized and concerned with the goods and services needed by a community of known people as opposed to “a market” of consumers. It offers local first-level services such as childcare, education, and health all with the idea of good care, instead of sick-care. Many of these service activities are in trade and outside of the monetary economy.
Recognizing the work of the caring economy continues to occur with ideas such as the “double bottom line” that give financial and social goals equal footing. Attempts to implement these measures move routinely in and out of our lives through government initiatives and cutbacks. Most are in the provision of essential social services that substantially reduce the burden of unpaid work carried primarily by women. Other services work to reverse disinvestment trends that takedown whole neighborhoods. The political revolution or liberation efforts of any kind will not succeed without the leadership and sensitivity that will stand for the full promotion of priorities grounded in this vision of a caring community. They are central to the expansion of a new economic model that carries sustainability as its core value.
A new economic model under the heading of “resilience” is a step in this direction. It is defensive, but it could determine new ways to control the pace, shape, and structure of political change at local levels in common ground areas. New challenges such as the coastal impact of climate change and reinvestment in urban housing and transportation are real consensus-building opportunities.
Regional, state and national levels of action will build trust through small, but routine efforts in community development that provide proof that liberation practices work. Once underway, a far more responsible and accountable system of measurement can solve the organizational change and reform needed to restructure the economy. Among these measures are living wages or a guaranteed income, adherence to ethical labor and investment standards with a well-established response to errors in the system, mitigation reserves, resource streams, and long term financially backed rainy-day systems.
That is my take on it… got one yourself?
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