Will We Ever Stop Dragging Our Knuckles?

Update August 14, 2019: I wrote this post seven years ago. It’s every bit as applicable today as it was then – maybe more so. That said, even with the transgressions on the inhabitants of the White House, I have hope that by the uncovering of the evil that is possible at high levels of government we will wake up to the need for us reassess our personal role in society and how we influence it.

The references I make to several of the tech companies are also relevant as are the questions … as we are still awaiting answers.

I would like to thank John Kelden for our discussion yesterday. It got me thinking about this again – which is always a good thing. 🙂

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Neadrathal

From February 23, 2011

Yesterday I commented on a provocative blog post by my friend Greg Rader, “The Future of Status – Conspicuous Production.”

Imagine if there was no money and no things to buy. How would you show the world your worth? Or how would you show yourself?

Would your value lie in the number of friends you have – physical or electronic? Would it lie in the quality and depth or your relationships with these friends (kind of three-dimensional assessment)? Maybe it would lie in the number pieces of art you produced, or books and articles you’ve written.

Or better yet … what about the number of karma points you’ve accumulated by doing random acts of good? Haven’t we reached a point on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where we can at least flirt with self actualization?

Over your last couple posts, I think you’ve been us leading to this. It’s obvious, the standard societal measurement of wealth and worth just isn’t cutting it for you. I join you brother.

Maybe this is the first step – discontent. Only then we can find our own “store of value.” and from there truly maximize it’s worth. Maybe this is what mean when I talk about “On the Road to Your Perfect World.” Thanks for pointing me the way. 🙂

I viewed the focus of Greg’s piece as: “Isn’t there a way of presenting our value to world other than just through the money we make and our consumption habits?” As you can tell from my comment above – it’s a topic that’s been on my mind also.

Recently, in light of the sky-high valuations of several dotcom 2.0 stocks, such as Facebook, Groupon and Twitter, this matter seems to be especially relevant. Recent investments have Facebook worth $52 billion and Twitter at $10 billion, while Groupon recently turned a $6 billion offer from Google.

But I ask you … on what are these values based. In the first two it’s their ability to act as an advertising platforms and Groupon is worth what it can take as a cut of the pie. Isn’t there more though … more than just money and advertising, more than just a vehicle to accommodate more and more consumption. God I hope so.

Let’s put Groupon aside, they are what they are – a group buying coupon service … nothing more, nothing less. Eventually they will fall prey to another ‘new and improved’ version of the same.

But Facebook and Twitter are different. To label then as just advertising platforms is to vastly understate what they really are – what they’re really worth. One needs to look no further back than one month. Only thirty days ago the political environment in the Middle East was much the same as it’s been for the last thirty years. No longer. Tunisia is liberated. Egypt is liberated. Libya will be in a matter a days, and whoever is next is anyone’s guess.

While Facebook and Twitter didn’t overthrow these dictatorships … they played an integral role. They facilitated strategic and tactical communication that was on the level of a sophisticated military sorte, only performed primarily by young civilians. These social networks provided something that wasn’t there before … coordination. The results to this point have been the liberation of tens of billions of dollars and ten millions of people, people who now have the prospect of governing themselves and having a say in their future.

What’s that worth?

How can you put a monetary value on person’s freedom? How can you say in dollars and cents what it’s worth to know you have something to get up for in the morning; to know that just maybe your children might just have a better life than you … a life you could only dream of.

Why does everything have to be based on money and what we spend it on. Just because you drive a Mercedes 450SL (and I drive a Ford Taurus) – does that make you worth more than me. I could make a case on the contrary. We focus so much on our children making sure they go to college and get a job that pays a lot of money. How many us even discuss any other options – any other means of worth? This valuation system seems Neanderthal in the light of what’s happening in the world these days.

I have been there and done it. I’ve had the nice car, the apartment on the water, the original art on walls. But it sure wasn’t “the be all end all.” The car’s gone, the apartment gone and the art … well, Blake, Brody and Sydney are enjoying it. The memories are good, but now it’s time to move on.

It’s like the pursuit of possessions had put me in a cloud. I had other pursuits, but the almighty dollar reigned supreme. No longer.

My valuation lies not in my financial net worth, but rather in what Greg says, “my conspicuous production” and what results from it. Production can be anything. It could this blog post. It could be the comments that result from it. And as I said in my comment above, it could be in the karma points I accumulate by doing good things. So here it is, here is my definition of “my value:”

My value is the sum total of all positive synaptic connections I have a role in creating, both in myself and in others. In other words, the more I can get people thinking in ways they wouldn’t otherwise think in – and correspondingly act in ways that benefit themselves and others … the more I’m worth.

There you have it.

Now it’s time to pick up my hands … my knuckles are bloody.

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What If Things Would Never Be The Same?

Update, January 15, 2019: I wrote a version of this seven years ago during the midst of the Occupy Movement. The change that many of us hoped for never happened. What is happening in the United States today is a whole different matter. It’s struggle for the definition of change. Some believe it’s a retreat to a time we can never go back to while others are pushing for an idealistic version that is fraught with unrealistic implementation and unintended consequences. But one thing I know is that the status quo isn’t an option – and it shouldn’t be.

As I write this, America’s federal government is in the midst of a three-week partial shut-down; a result of a vanity legacy project concocted by a president who has created the exact crisis that he contends this “beautiful wall” is going to solve. Like a petulant toddler, he’s threatened to declare an unprecedented national emergency by diverting federal funds from the Puerto Rico and California national disasters to build the project. Aside from the grave effects this diversion will have on those affected – what precedent does this create? What next will this president … or any other president do in aim of feeding their ego and thirst for power and eternal fame.

change cloud

Will things ever be the same?

It’s obvious that we are in a period of transition; a period of change. And whether we like it or no … there’s nothing we can do about it. But what if the change was so profound that, “things would never be the same again?”

It’s becoming painfully obvious that humanity’s addiction to fossil fuel is leading us down a path of extinction if we don’t make drastic changes in our personal and collective behaviors. But to make this happen, we’ll have to move past political rhetoric and attempts to appease those stuck on a life cemented in the past. Politicians have made it habit appealing to the lowest denominator of human rational and those exhibiting it.

When will the realization finally set in that a college degree no longer provides that fail-safe career protection with a Fortune 500 company and iconic the gold watch after decades of service? Instead of the promise of a BMW in the garage and an ever-increasing 401K – you get a five-figure plus school loan debt. When will the societal norms we put on our young people instead release the shackles of past expectations and let them live for the realities of today and the future they want?

What if investing in that “white picket fence” doesn’t provide that retirement security it did for you parents? What if that possibility no longer exists? And what if that mortgage you’ve sacrificed everything for instead anchors you professionally in a world where flexibility and mobility is a prized commodity? Your “white picket fence” now surrounds not your security, but rather imprisons you in a sinkhole of geographically restrictive professional stagnation.

Unfortunately too much of the time, we evaluate ourselves by the money we have in the bank, the toys we have in the garage and the school on that diploma on the wall. As we will find out, during times of change – monetary worth is fragile and often irrelevant. We may try to hedge, set up backup plans and do whatever we can to preserve our “things” – but we can’t stop the wheels of change. And often our “things” get run over in the process. What will you do to break your addiction to “things” and evolve to a state beyond personal consumption; one where the contribution to our relationships with our friends and neighbors dictates our real wealth?

If we choose to pursue a life based on security and the preservation of the status quo, we have to make assumptions, assumptions based on the past and the value systems of prior generations: Energy is and will always be plentiful, college is a safe bet, buying a house is your retirement and success is “things.” These are life views that may no longer be relevant.

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What would you do?

A few years ago, I saw a movie about life after an economic and societal meltdown. I don’t remember the name of it, but the imagery still sticks with me. The things that were valuable before, were no longer. And what wa taken for granted, such as water and gasoline – were invaluable.

Now I’m not predicting Armageddon, but it’s obvious that we’re staring right in the face of change – not just here in the United States, but worldwide. Just ask my friends in Great Britain. The things you hold near and dear, may soon be gone. That economic and societal security that was always first and foremost in your mind, may now become nothing but a memory of “the good old days.” All the constants you believed in … are now just more variables, variables you have to figure out. What are you going to do?

You have two options. You can attempt to hang on to yesterday – a yesterday that most definitely will never be back. Or you can look forward to living life differently – shedding yourselves of the same, the convenient, the comfortable – and replacing it with the unpredictable, the inconvenient and the exciting. Rather than fearing the inevitable change, what if you embraced it? What if you built your life and raised your children to expect the unexpected?

When I say unexpected though 
 I don’t necessarily mean bad. Not having rock-solid security is not a death sentence. In fact it may be the key that unlocks the door of your self-imposed prison. Imagine every morning you looked forward to what the day could bring you; who you could meet and what opportunities could unveil themselves to you that could change your life forever.

One thing we know for sure, change is a constant. Tomorrow is not going to be the same as yesterday, no matter how much you may want it to be. The only question will be is how you handle it.

” The mind can make heaven of hell 
 and hell of heaven.”

Personally I don’t do well in the heat, how about you?

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Imagining a ‘Perfect World’ for 2019

2018 has been … well, let’s just say I won’t spend a lot of time looking in the rear view mirror. Instead I’ll be looking to 2019 and the road ahead; visualizing what can lie ahead and do what I can to make it a reality. Let’s imagine what this ‘Perfect World’ could look like.

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Imagine if the default was to include 
 not exclude. Instead of leaning on our race, ethnicity, gender and especially where we live or where we came from; we all looked at ourselves as just citizens of the world – like anyone else, anywhere else.

Imagine if we embraced change and yearned for the future, looking to better – rather grasping for the past, the ways things were (or how we mistakenly thought they were) and obsessing on the word “again.” The future is a blank template, a canvas for creativity; while the past, important as it may be, is a cerebral prison, constrained by the walls of only what has been … not what could be.

Good morning full

Imagine if we were all social seamstresses mending the “safety net of life” for all those around us, rather than sitting by idly as our friends and neighbors fall through the torn fabric of their daily struggles. Everyone adds to the unique tapestry of our community. They all have something to offer – no matter their age or social standing. It’s up to us as individuals, as a community and as a society to find that something, and help them see it and build around it. Not only does their construct benefit them 
 it benefits us all.

Imagine if we looked at our health and well-being not as a profit center, but as a journey we all go on together throughout our entire lives. The collective “us” is only as strong as each one of us. Our health and well-being does not lie in some building labeled a clinic or hospital, or even on a piece of paper alleging to be insurance. It lives in all of us; in our hearts, and in the civic norms and expectations we use to guide our actions and influences as we create communities of proactive health complete with all the amenities that reflects it.

Imagine if older generations embraced the young and saw them as a source of knowledge, rather than as irrelevant showing indifference and assuming them a threat to their beloved status quo. What if retirement wasn’t thought of as a reward and recreation, but as a way of passing the touch through the mentoring and guidance of the next generation. And also imagine the young not only recognized the knowledge of the elderly … but looked for opportunities to seek it out as part of an assumed succession of civic and social responsibilities and duties.

Imagine if we viewed our children’s education as not the responsibility of the state or other antiquated institution, but as ours and that of those around us in our community. Why would we absolve ourselves from the most important function of our lives, that of preparing our offspring for the future, by turning it over to a system that has shown to be not prepared for the job. While our schools provide a valuable function, it’s us as parents who must show our children the future’s possibilities and keep lit the light of life-long learning and the importance or a never-ending curiosity for all things they encounter.

Imagine if we were immune from the constraints of “so-called” societal norms cemented generations ago. Instead of being shackled by the expectations of “past times behind” – we viewed ourselves free to determine our own fates dictated by our passions and our own definitions of happiness and success.

And imagine, after just finishing an election year and the absurd disconnect between the words of campaign rhetoric and subsequent actions, we don’t immediately fall back into the spectacle of Washington narcissism. The never-ending media-driven horse race of election hypothesizing has left us blind from seeing our civic potential being anything more than a search for that elusive savior who we believe will deliver us from our plights in life (regardless their political persuasion) … real and imagined. The solutions and our future lie within ourselves and those close to us in our neighborhoods and our communities.

2019 is here – and that is my ‘Perfect World’ for it.

Dream I may … but doesn’t everything start with dream.

Moving Beyond The Hierarchy

We assume our way of life in 2018; one of governments and states, and the endless media coverage of their every detail are the pinnacle of civilized existence. We depend on these hierarchies to delivery us from evil or whatever else ails us. I suppose we believe this since that’s all any of us have ever known. And in contrast, we view leaderless societies stereotypically as less-evolved primitive groups of hunters and gatherers running around in loincloths hunting mastodons with spears made of tree branches and flint.

What if this wasn’t true. What if the more evolved society was the one closer to that of the ones with the spears. What if the societies they created, ones that didn’t need to be dictated by an overarching authoritarian power, represented a higher state of human evolution. These communities of hunting and gathering were not governed by force, intimidation and manipulation; but rather by group norms of altruism, fair play and cooperation. Isn’t this what we teach our children in kindergarten? Why does our society abandon it as we supposedly mature.

Hierarchy In The Forest

Through decades of research in the fields of conflict resolution, altruism, and moral origins; cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm makes a compelling case our assumed anthropologistic evolution isn’t so much “evolved.” Boehm, director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at University of Southern California, believes the decentralization of power represents a higher level of human behavior.

Boehm outlines decades of research in his seminal book, Hierarchy in the Forest. Combining an exhaustive ethnographic survey of human societies from groups of hunter-gatherers to contemporary residents of the Balkans with a detailed analysis of the behavioral attributes of non-human primates (chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos), Boehm investigates whether humans are hierarchical or egalitarian by nature. Boehm also suggests that democracy, both ancient and modern, could be understood by looking at the egalitarianism of nomadic bands and sedentary tribes. In short, do the ideals we strive for in a truly democratic society actually originate with the actions and norms of the hunting and gathering tribes of Africa and Asia thousand of years ago. And is the version that has permeated our government today actually one that is a step back on the evolutionary scale.

Starting about five thousand years ago 
 societies functioned as chiefdoms, with highly privileged individuals at the top of the food chain. But before then, humans basically were egalitarian. They lived in what might be called societies of equals, with minimal political centralization and virtually no social classes. Everyone participated in group decisions, and outside the family there were no dominators. For more than ïŹve millennia now, the human trend has been toward hierarchy rather than equality. (Overcoming Bias)

All primate societies, Boehm notes, were governed by similar dynamics. If any one individual had the opportunity to climb the hierarchy, he or she is likely to seize it; unfortunately, as soon as power is gained, others resent it. In such a society, there are three potential outcomes. One is conflict, in which newcomers continually and overtly challenge the powerful for a position at the top. Another is stable dominance, where the powerful relentlessly and permanently dominate the rest. And a third is an equally stable social structure which Boehm calls “reverse dominance hierarchy,” in which those on the bottom of the pyramid figure out a way to band together and “deliberately dominate their potential master.” In such a society, dominance is still exercised. It just comes, collectively and consistently, from below. (New Yorker)

Boehm’s main thesis is that forager egalitarianism is sustained by moral communities that enable the rank and file to build coalitions to put down would-be “alphas.” Forager bands, in his view, have “reversed dominance” hierarchies that prevent bullies and aggressors from creating a dominance hierarchy of their own: egalitarianism (equality) is sustained by the coordinated dominance of the strong by the weak. Without the ability of the rank and file to form large coalitions to put down would-be dominators, the primate tendency is to establish dominance hierarchies, as we see in chimpanzees and bonobos (and now ironically in the vast majority of human societies, even our current so-called democracies). The ability to form large and stable coalitions in turn depends on the development of the capacity for communication. Low-ranking chimpanzees can sometimes band together and put down alpha males (as the chimpanzees at Yerkes Primate Research Center are reported to have done) but they do not seem to be able to create stable coalitions that get rid of the entire dominance hierarchy, unlike human beings can [in theory]. (Abandoned Footnotes)

In order for status and functional equality to be resilient against attempts to subvert it, it requires a vigilant community to sanction provocateurs and bullies; primarily made possible via a set of norms that strongly promote values such as generosity, altruism and sharing. These values in turn eclipse those of arrogance and selfishness.

That said – critical to establishing these values in a complex society is a universal assumption of “permission.” This societal state of permission must empower everyone in the community, regardless their socioeconomic standing (or other outlying difference), to be able to contribute to the community. This is easier said than done though. Existing hierarchies will fight, both figuratively and literally, to retain their power. Fortunately for the most part (although in an anything but perfect manner), technology and social media can level the playing field. It gives us implied permission, as well as vehicle, to express ideas and organize around a cause. I view it as a modern-day means of “reverse domination.”

Advantages of Self-Policing

Team survival has a fundamentally different logic than self-maximizing. Hunter/gatherers are ever vigilant against free-riding and elite-exploitation; as both can be as threatening to team survival as any predator would be. This self-policing rigidly enforces social rules to ensure that skilled cooperators fare better than self-maximizers. For example, meat is never distributed by whomever made the kill, but by another stakeholder. Enforcement can be by ridicule, shaming, shunning, and, ultimately, exile or execution. Socially enforced rules create powerful pressures. Lowest-cost strategy to avoid social penalties becomes preemptive self-control. This phenomenon even applies to powerful humans, as “counter-dominant coalitions” punish “resented alpha-male behavior” (like hogging an unfair share of meat). Ultimately this becomes inverted eugenics: eliminate the strong, if they abuse their power. In addition, our moral emotions enable “self-policed” social contracts. Conscious, reputation-based social selection for collaborative activities become dominant. Those known to be poor cooperators would not be selected for joint ventures – ultimately acting as a societal control mechanism.

Competitions for positional rank in a hierarchy generally drive added, and often avoidable, overhead costs.  Resources expended for these “arms races” (longer trunks, larger antlers, fancier cars, etc.) could be minimized by intelligent coordination and better allocated for mutual group benefit.

The Evolution of the Theory of Evolution

A few months ago I explored an alternative theory of evolution, spurred by the work of Bill Hamilton in the piece The Evolution of the Theory of Evolution.” Hamilton believed evolution extended beyond the individual organism to that of the family unit. He proposed that altruism could have evolved within family groups, whether genetically or through shared environmental habits and tendencies. Normally an individual altruist would seem to be at a disadvantage, but that was not the whole picture because other individuals who shared the same genes associated with altruism would all influence each other’s “inclusive fitness” by reward this behavior through increased involvement.

Hamilton’s extrapolation of Darwinism, while seemingly radical – made complete sense. By choosing to open the door to new thoughts on evolution – we’re not necessarily kicking Charles Darwin to curb, but expanding on his work based on new levels of research and observation. Consider it letting the theory of evolution evolve. I believe any scientific discovery should be looked at not as an end – but rather a journey down a new road to another level of enlightenment.

“I believe that the community – in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures – is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a  contradiction in terms.” – Wendell Berry

If we embrace Hamilton’s idea that evolution can occur in family units as well as in individuals – what’s saying we can’t take it a step further and expand it to that of the community unit as well.

If we view our community as an evolutionary unit, then we must look to enhance the components that can contribute to its sustainability and prosper – specifically those that proliferate benevolence and kindness. A community is really nothing more than the aggregation of individuals and the interactions between them. Every member of your community is unique and adds to its fabric. Everyone has something to offer and everyone should be heard – no matter their age or social standing. If they are not included in the conversation, or given permission – they still will be heard, but it may not be in a socially accepted way (e.g. crime). Prejudice, bigotry or even indifference hurts not only them, but us as part of the overall community. All of our actions, or lack there of – have collective consequences and establish norms that will be carried forward … whether we want them to or not.

The question we should be asking ourselves is how can we evolve our actions (and as a result our norms and expectations) to ones closer to that of the egalitarian societies of hunters and gathers of the past … while adapting them to today’s societal complexities? How can we prioritize generosity and cooperation from early ages and not hypocritically abandon them as we fall into adulthood – adopting them not only individually, but also as fixtures in our beleaguered institutions.

Breaking Hierarchies to Combat Authoritarianism

A lot of us, me included, are still wallowing in the “sugar high” of the mid-term elections. The last two years of Trumpism seems a little less dark looking at how voters repudiated it by establishing a new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. We shouldn’t be so quick to think the battle has been won though; nor should we think a similar result in 2020 in the next presidential election will be the panacea either. While these steps are definitely an improvement: the underlying reasons we are in this situation, and by us I include Europe also, are still very much with us. We have turned over the state of our political affairs to mechanisms and the manipulation of often corrupt hierarchies. We might get lucky and elect a “leader” with integrity and compassion – or at the sight of inevitable demographic changes, where “things just ain’t like they used to be” … we fall for the next modern-day Pied Piper. In the end, we’re giving up our agency by absolving ourselves from any personal or civic responsibilities, responsibilities our fore-fathers fought with their lives to acquire.

We have to step up and take control — and not just at the voting booth, even though that’s a positive step. And it’s not enough to lobby for local control if that control still resides in just a different level of government. While I’m not an anarchist and believe government and institutions hold a valuable place in our society, over reliance on them in lieu of personal agency is rendering us impotent to dictate the terms of our own futures.

We have look to ourselves and our neighbors for the solutions not only for our problems – but also for societal norms that will dictate the composition of our communities’ relationships far into the future. And we need to build the infrastructure (physical and virtual) that will empower them. Existing constructs only reinforce the hierarchies we must disassemble.

We need to look to altruism as what we should teach our kids – not just rules and laws that we take to the very brink of what we can get a way with (and often beyond that). We need to aspire not to dominate, but cooperate. We have to establish expectations of rising to the occasion and embracing those around us by helping them see what they can contribute to tapestry of our community – and not penalize them for not adhering to the rigid framework of hierarchical preconceptions set forth by those who reside in ancestral positions of power in their ivory towers.

We must mold our modern-day society to synthesize a rational and appropriate level of self-maximizing with collective self-actualization. This needn’t mean being “devoutly egalitarian”; nor delegating our interdependent futures to mindless market forces and inept governments we entrust to control them that is neither rational, nor survivable. We can and must regulate better than the invisible hand’s invisible brain.

But for us to accomplish this we need everyone on board. Inclusion is paramount in today’s diverse society, one of inhabited by a plethora of ethnicities, religions, ideas, wants and needs. To feel included is synonymous to be given permission to truly be who we want to be, free of encumbering societal norms and expectations. And when society gives us permission … anything is possible.

See Community 3.0 for my version of a prescription for speaking truth to power by organizing your community around decentralized empowerment, inclusion and altruism.

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Moving Beyond The Movement

Well here it is, May of 2018, and we’re six months away from the mid-term elections. We have descended into Dante’s Hell of campaign missives. All news is to now to be framed in a political narrative – yet none of it is really informing us to make better decisions at the polls. Combine this bi-annual event with Trump being at the helm of this Titanic of a federal government … and retaining ones sanity is easier said than done.

Here in Billings, Montana, I’m subjected to a daily barrage of GOP hopefuls on full display strutting their stuff in hopes of uprooting the Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester. You have Troy Downing, out-Trumping even the orange clown himself – trying dearly to conjure up a bucket of patriotism by enlisting Mike, the felon, Flynn on the campaign trail. Not to be outdone, we have Billings’ own former judge Russell Fagg. His message to the world is death to them murdering marauders from south of the border. But of course the vengeance will have to wait until after his weekly morning prayer meeting for the local business community. God help us all please … as I cry from the depths of Circle Five and the River of Styx just hoping Cheron the oarsman doesn’t toss me overboard with the other wallowing souls. Come to think of it … put me out of my misery.

Regardless of what end of this ideological political absurdity you reside – there’s still one question virtually no one asks. Can these politicians subjecting us to all of this narcissistic babble do the job they so desperately want. We just had the Tester/Trump battle over Trump’s pick for the VA, Ronny Jackson. All the attention was on whether on his character was suitable; as if that has really mattered for any of Trump’s other picks. While this definitely should be addressed – shouldn’t also the fact the man had nowhere near the background to do a job like this. Nothing indicates any level of ability coinciding with the magnitude of running the VA. Unfortunately this is normally always the case. Ideology trumps ability.

Corporations and business have interview processes that hopeful identify competent candidates and then from there a qualified decision is made. This isn’t always the case, but at least the attempt is there. Politics doesn’t work that way. And unfortunately neither do social movements and cause-based activism.

Let’s look at gun control efforts. Since Columbine, there’s been many opportunities to launch strikes against the NRA and those beholden to them. In addition to Columbine, the Gabby Giffords’ shooting and Sandy Hook being two in particular. None of them have really gained any traction. They have NGOs set up and I’m sure there are people out making an effort, but if anything the gun lobby is as strong now than ever. Donna Dees wrote an interesting article for Fast Company, just yesterday on her experience founding the Million Moms March after Columbine. She blames branding primarily for its lack of being able to “change the game.” I think it goes a lot deeper than that.

Now we have the #MarchForOurLives student crusade that seems to be making some headway. The founding high school students from Parkland, Florida have social media followings several times that of any effort to date. They may also be more organizationally adept than any other movement also … believe it or not. We’ll see how this all plays out come November and the midterm elections though. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

Let’s not forget Occupy Wall Street and all the other hundreds of Occupys. This was supposed to be the start of a decentralized push to bring down “the man.” No one was in charge, so all participating voices would be heard and no one could be targeted by the establishment. Emotional momentum is a hard thing to maintain though. This is especially the case if there’s no one leading when the inevitable push back comes from those in the status quo who are affected.

Historian Bill Moyer wrote an excellent account of movements called, History is a Weapon: A Movement Action Plan.” Moyer’s essay is a strategic framework describing the eight stages of successful social movements. Moyer outlines the decades long fights for the curtailment of  nuclear power in American. He details the eight stages activists and their opponents battled through. The piece is a must read for anyone who wishes to make it a life protesting against “the man” … and a life it is. Ask anyone fighting for a woman’s right to choose. Just when you think the battle is done and you can finally go home and put your feet up … out pops the latest reincarnation of pathetic sexist zealotry.

Another movement I’ve been following is #MeToo. For all accounts, it should succeed. It has potentially huge numbers with what should be virtually all women and the men who aren’t assholes. That said, what’s actually happening though? What’s being accomplished? We’ve had some women come up publicly and face their abusers. We had a favorable Bill Cosby verdict (which I attribute to #MeToo). But what about women’s equality in the workplace. What’s the game plan by those in charge? Is there anyone in charge? Unfortunately these questions are all too common.

Social movements normally arise out of nowhere with a tsunami of momentum – only to burnout just as fast. There will be a few people who will hang on, create an organization and try to stay relevant. Is anything accomplished … normally not. Implementation is hard, and those who ignite a movement (if many can even be called that) are not qualified or have the resources to sustain it once the media and its twenty-four hour news cycle moves on. These people are not hired to run and grow an organization like those hired to run a corporation. They weren’t chosen … most often the movement chose them.

New Power … and maintaining the momentum

Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms just released an excellent book called “New Power,” which has been getting a lot of attention. Jeremy’s organization, Purpose, has been groundbreaking in its support for “new power” efforts worldwide. And Henry made a historical impact with Giving Tuesday. New Power is a manual for anyone who wishes to create change through the empowerment of the “people in the street” in their battle against the status quo of what they call Old Power.

For most of human history, the rules of power were clear: power was something to be seized and then jealously guarded. This “old power” was out of reach for the vast majority of people. But our ubiquitous connectivity makes possible a different kind of power. “New power” is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It works like a current, not a currency–and it is most forceful when it surges. The battle between old and new power is determining who governs us, how we work, and even how we think and feel. (Amazon description)

Now let’s say we all follow Jeremy and Henry’s book – very well we could see results and things might start changing. But ultimately it’s going to come down to actions and leadership of a few to organize, and keep the momentum going. This is not easy and much of the time – it takes what seems like forever – as Bill Moyer so aptly chronicled with the anti-nuclear movement

Wael Ghonim, the main instigator (and I say that in the best possible terms) in the Arab Spring protests articulated the Participation Scale in tweet outlining the multiple steps we can take to sustain a movement.

Ghonim’s suggestions are excellent when it comes to making the movement go – and keep it going. But what happens after the movement? How do we keep the supply of devoted coming, not just for this cause – but for other causes that should follow? How do we create a fertile ground where there is always the manpower to fight that next worthy cause.

But it’s not enough to just have these often random and reactionary outbursts against the Old Power of the status quo. We need a new societal mindset that doesn’t default towards conformity and obedience to Old Power institutions in the first place. Today we have the modern-day Gutenberg printing press in everyone’s hand – social media. The potential is there to create a new way. We just have to decide that we’re willing to do it.

We need to create a new civic norm and power structure that isn’t so much a structure, but a flow. And specifically we need a flow that comes not through the whims and selfish obsessions of “representatives” (and I use that word loosely). We need direct response that truly represents an engaged populace. The advantage will go to those who are engaged, connected and informed; not naive and obedient to a “higher power” that falsely claims the path to the promised land.

Rhizomes and Decentralized Civic Engagement

An increasing mass of people agree that long term human survival depends on us replacing the status quo with a fundamentally different set of behaviours and structures. I believe the root of that challenge is essentially cultural, and the best place to grow culture is in small groups. And until we’ve got a critical mass of activists that are embedded in a new way of thinking, relating and communicating, any mass movement is going to replicate the errors of the past. (5 Reasons to Build a Network of Small Groups – Richard Bartlett)

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Biologists say trees are social beings. They can count learn and remember. They nurse sick members, warn each other of dangers by sending electrical signals across a fungal network and for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through roots. (Marije van Zomeren)

We need to look no further than our backyard to find a perfect example of decentralized civic participation. One of nature’s most effective means of sustainability is the rhizome. The rhizome is a modified subterranean stem of a plant that is usually found underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes. Rhizomes develop from axillary buds and grow perpendicular to the force of gravity. The rhizome retains the ability to allow new shoots to grow upwards, giving rise to a new node of above ground activity.

rhizome
Credit: Debi Keyte-Hartland

“A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles 
 the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs, and even non-sign states 
 The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots.” A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. (A Thousand Plateaus)

This phenomena of decentralized activity in rhizomes was best articulated in the philosophy or Gilles Deleuze and FĂ©lix Guattari in the ’60s. Rather than using the organizational structure of the root-tree system which  looks for the single origin of “things” and looks towards conclusion of those “things,” a rhizome continually establishes connections between threads of meaningful communication, organizations of power, and other influences (including arts, sciences, and social struggles). The planar movement of the rhizome resists chronology and formal organization, instead favoring a Nomadic system of growth and proliferation. In this model, influence and application spreads like a body of water, occupying available spaces or in the application of community – maximizing the resources available to it, regardless of the type. This is a perfect alternative to the morass of governmental hierarchical dysfunction we’re current immersed in.

Front Porches

In every town and every neighborhood are places where informal leaders go to hang out and do the real business of the town. In Minot, North Dakota where I grew up, we had Charlie’s restaurant and the Elks Lodge. These were the places where the “business of the community” was done (not at the city council meetings). This is where ideas were hatched and where the future of Minot was mapped out 
 often under the influence of a libation or two.

These informal meeting places, most often locally owned businesses, are what I call Front Porches, named after the front yard gathering spots so often seen in Latino communities that are used for neighborhood discussion and connection to the street. These Front Porches are where the Middle Ring flourishes and what the French political philosopher, Alex de Tocqueville, observed in the 1800’s as the source of America’s “inclusive exceptionalism.”

Your neighborhood’s Front Porch can be anywhere or anything. It can be the local pub down the street or the coffee-house where you get your morning sustenance from. It can be Bill’s garage where everyone gathers to watch Sunday football games. It can even be your kitchen table. What happens at the Front Porch is what matters 
 not what is looks like or where it is. These Front Porches are what provides the bridge from the naturalistic examples of the rhizome organization articulated by Deleuze and Guattari and your community’s civic sustainability.

Growing New Power In Your Community

With a rhizome-based civic philosophy built around your community’s Front Porch network, the foundation has been laid for a sustainable implementation of New Power; one that will endure well beyond a single movement or display of activism. Your activism will be organized, but not from a conventional hierarchical sense, but rather from a case-by-case basis emanating from Front Porch tactical execution.

In the end, the effectiveness of a movement is dependent on more than structure. It needs the strength and abilities of the individual members of your community. It needs talent. This talent also needs to be schooled in the functions and use of New Power. Just as important though is training future members and new generations to keep the cause going. This is where long-term thinking and a decentralized activist game plan is needed. Sustained engagement requires a learned mindset of change, one that stresses inclusive involvement by all members of the community, regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic level. Imagine if Front Porches were used as the classrooms and incubators honing the skills for mindsets of change, encouraging engagement at any level; be it simple participation, project organization and even social movement development.

Nurturing “Civic Self-Efficacy”

Now imagine this effort to build “civic self-efficacy” was a concerted effort nationwide, if not worldwide. The Front Porch concept scales well beyond neighborhood businesses in single communities. As long as the tenets of rhizomatic growth is adhered to, and local issues and needs prioritized – why can’t community empowerment scale worldwide? 

Why can’t a farmer from Oregon, via their Front Porch, share a success story with farmer from Nigeria via theirs. Their civic needs and resource availabilities may be different, but the serendipitous sharing of insight could “turn on the light;” solving a problem with a solution not otherwise seen. And why do we limit collaboration to only those of common vocations when anyone, anywhere of any profession should cross-pollinate and share solutions to civic fixes in their respective locales. Why can’t our worldwide Front Porch network establish a civic empowerment help line. In fact the Parkland kids behind the #MarchForOurLives have done exactly that. They created Outreach For Our Lives to answer questions and lend assistance to student leaders setting up and running their own local chapters of gun control activism.

We need to find organizers in our communities’ Front Porches who can lead, much like the students of Parkland. We then need these leaders to train and mobilize fellow members and friends from these Front Porches … seeding the process to continue on. The act of activism is preparation for more activism. So in essence, a movement is not just cause or content, but rather a platform to individually build civic muscles, or “civic self-efficacy.” Collectively we can then build an organization (and database) that can be mobilized for additional movements, causes and even structural changes. And with each movement and each participation our collective New Power strengthens and proliferates. No longer will we be dependent on the illusion of the “man on the white horse” riding in to save us. We will save ourselves!

We must evolve, individually and collectively – even if some don’t seem to think so. But to do this, we will have to change our thinking. Instead of relying on past expectations and cultural assumptions as our guides — we must envision what could be …. not just what always has been.

But the vision is only part of the journey. We have to look past how things in past have been done. No longer should the Old Power of government and traditional institutions be looked at as our first line defense 
 rather should be looked at only as a last resort. Our reaction should be to assemble our friends and neighbors at our local Front Porch, organize and flex our New Power muscle.

We can make the change we need — but it won’t be by thinking the way we’ve always thought, and doing what we’ve always done … the way it’s always been done.

“If not us 
 then who? If not now 
 then when?”

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If you’re interested in moving on from the status quo – join me in building a New Power coalition in your community … one that is more representative, inclusive and equitable. Please check out Community 3.0, my vision of an evolved society where self-efficacy and well-being is priority.

I can be reached via email me, at clayforsberg@gmail.com and we can set up time to have a conversation.

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Related Posts:

New Power! Using Those In The Streets To Make Change

Since Donald Trump has taken office, we’ve seen the streets of America come alive in ways we haven’t since the Vietnam protests of the ’60s. Last year millions protested in the #MeToo movement and for the rights of women. This year we’ve seen the students of #NeverAgain take their turn in like numbers to protest the insane gun culture that has infected the United States. And just last month, teachers in Oklahoma and West Virginia and beyond protest the equally insane disregard this country has for funding education. The country has had it. We are no longer willing to idly sit by and let this decimation of democracy continue brought on by Washington D.C. and state capitals nationwide.

In my last post I followed the lead of Parkland organizer Jaclyn Corin and implored we get up and scream at the healthcare industry for their refusal to make any effort in fixing the bloated fiefdom they’ve created. Now I’m asking for a new target to scream at: the Democratic party.

Now it’s easy to target the GOP. I’m not to go into why. Let’s just say – it’s been said, in copious detail – starting with Trump. The Democratic party on the other hand has been getting a free pass during this year of civil awakening. It’s time for us to rethink this though. The absence of their formal endorsement of either the striking teachers or the #NeverAgain kids is conspicuous.

Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms just released an excellent book called “New Power,” which has been getting a lot of attention. I’ve known Jeremy’s organization, Purpose is groundbreaking in its support for “new power” efforts worldwide. “New Power” is a manual for anyone who wishes to create change through the efforts and empowerment of the “people in the street” in their battle against the status quo of what they call Old Power.

For most of human history, the rules of power were clear: power was something to be seized and then jealously guarded. This “old power” was out of reach for the vast majority of people. But our ubiquitous connectivity makes possible a different kind of power. “New power” is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It works like a current, not a currency–and it is most forceful when it surges. The battle between old and new power is determining who governs us, how we work, and even how we think and feel. (Amazon description)

Political parties have traditionally concerned themselves with the money and big backers of Old Power. They believe the road to personal and political power is paved by those outside of government in the private sector who hold the gold and silver. Once in a while a politician tries the buck the system and enroll the actual people in their cause – but the gale winds of Old Power eventually knocks the effort of course careening it in the rocks only to sink like yet another ship of democracy at the bottom of the political sea. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign of 2016 was a perfect example of this. Just when Sanders’ campaign was gaining momentum, Democratic kingmaker Debbie Wasserman Schultz extinguished it by cutting off access to the supposedly unbiased national party database and voter logs. These shenanigans would eventually get her tossed from her perch as the national party chair. But alas … the damage was done, Sanders stalled and Hillary Clinton was awarded the nomination. Now every morning we wake up to clown tweets … each one more absurd than the last.

Even without Wasserman Schultz – would Sanders have won the nomination? Probably not. I don’t believe he was the right vehicle to rally the “new power” to a level where it could have successfully scaled the castle walls of Old Power. Heimans and Timms believe change only occurs when a movement has garnered both enough Old Power and New Power to topple the status quo. Sanders didn’t have enough of either. Does the #MeToo movement or #NeverAgain or the teachers have enough ground-level support as well as traditional affluence to affect change. We’ll see.

That said, the GOP – helped by the extremist positions of anti-gun control NRA adherents along with religious zealots protesting abortion, Planned Parenthood or most anything else they deem a violation of their mutated take on the bible … have succeeded in rallying their disciples. Instant mobilization of this “new power” working in unison with bought and paid for politicians in all levels of government have taken the castle and turned it into a modern-day Caligula.

In the case of the NRA, much ado is made about how much they donate to political candidates – their Old Power. But where their real effect lies is in their New Power, or ability to rally their membership (as well as other gun owners) by using paranoia and scare tactics. Regardless of their views on other issues – the NRA faithful come out in droves to vote on that one thing – keeping their guns, however credible that threat may or may not be. The GOP have the NRA and the abortion foes at their disposal for New Power. These one issue voters will overlook any shortcomings, or horribleness in the case of Roy Moore and their other white-supremacists candidates, if they align on these two issues.

The Democrats, well I don’t what the hell they’re doing. They couldn’t ask for a better opportunity for a rallying cry. By Democrats, I don’t necessarily mean all of the individual candidates. I’m referring to the party establishment and the politicians that have been running it for decades. Few of these career power mongers have any idea what’s going on in the streets, let alone respect their efforts and take an encouraging role. The primary driver behind the New Power efforts has been social media. Most of those in the party establishment look at it as a threat, not an asset or a tool. Even though much their constituency lives on it (young people and technologically adept educated professionals) – few of those in the ivory towers can coherently compose an original tweet that isn’t self aggrandizing promotion.

Now what’s up here? Why hasn’t the Democrat power structure embraced this display of New Power? The logical answer is that the Democrat party, like the GOP, is beholden to corporate interests for campaign donations. The Democratic party steadfastly stands behind the House leadership of Nancy Pelosi due to her fundraising prowess. This is definitely Old Power thinking. It’s all about the money. The irony of the situation is money is only as good as it’s ability to deliver votes. And the votes of the current Democratic party are not to be had through traditional media buys and party bosses. It’s about making yourself relevant, accessible and immediate to the voters through the media of THEIR choosing – which is Twitter, Facebook and Instagram … not CBS, NBC and ABC.

The streets are full of voters who have passion for change in areas of gun control, women rights, education … but the Democratic party hasn’t joined them in this passion. This New Power is already organized and mobilized – and waiting for the members of the Old Power they can get behind. This is even more bewildering in the fact that these movements are intertwined. To sit on the sidelines while these voters, present and future, are “screaming” to be heard and represented is frustrating.

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But just because we’re frustrated in the Democratic party or even the GOP if you believe in its older version of fiscal conservatism, not moral hypocrisy (back when it was a sensible alternative) – we shouldn’t dismay.

Politics aside, what can we do with this concept of New Power. Up to this point we’ve talked about New Power in the context of trying to get people, mainly politicians and elected officials, to do things for us. But how can we use this power of activism and engagement for direct civic action.

Instead of just lobbying for more money for education – why not organize a mentoring program implemented by you and your fellow community members. Every community, regardless of it socioeconomic level has human resources that go untapped just because they don’t fit into the normal realm of government-run programs. For example: the generational disconnect of retired people and adolescents is a crime of waste of resources that we can not afford to ignore any longer.

Instead of just lobbying for more money for elder care, what’s stopping you and your friends at your local watering hole from organizing a food give-away for elderly people and shut-ins. Or why not set-up a weekly coffee delivery for those who don’t get out, isolated from friends and family – if they even have any.

Instead of lobbying for legislation for equal pay across all genders – you and your neighbors should patronize those businesses that provide it without being legally forced to. And by the same token – those businesses who don’t should be shunned and avoided. No one’s forcing you to shop at the sexist bigot down the street. Hit them where it hurts most – their business.

Not all change can happen at street level through direct civic engagement though. Changes in federal laws – such as immigration policy, and international trade pacts can only be affected through lobbying and getting legislators to do the right thing.

But still, amazing things can happen without legislation. We just have to open our eyes to the possibilities.

In 1986, John Gage, then of Sun Microsytems, organized NetDay in California. NetDay was historic grassroots effort in the classic American barn-raising tradition. Using volunteer labor, their goal was to install all the basic wiring needed to make five classrooms and a library or a computer lab in every school Internet-ready. If the same work was financed by taxpayers, it would cost more than $1,000 per classroom. Volunteers from businesses, education, and the community acquired all of the equipment and installed and tested it at each school site. As a result 20,000 volunteers helped to wire 20 percent of California schools to the Internet. In addition, by bringing together these diverse elements, NetDay established a framework for lasting partnerships among business, government, educational institutions, and local communities provide ongoing support for the schools to this day.

And John Gage didn’t have Twitter and Facebook.

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If you’re interested in moving on from the status quo that will inevitably take anyone and anything down with it 
 please check out Community 3.0, my vision of an evolved society where self-efficacy and well-being is priority. Or even better email me, at clayforsberg@gmail.com and we can set up time to have a conversation.

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Related Posts:

Hobbes, Hume … and Healthcare

A recent 60 Minutes episode on the Stoneman Douglas leaders of the #neveragain movement included a discussion with Emma Gonzales’ mother. We stand behind her, Emma’s mother’s friends said. “You go out and get that law changed. But where are we – we should have done this 20 years ago.” – was the elder Gonzales’ response.

In the six weeks since the Parkland shooting, the kids of the #neveragain movement have successfully waged war on the ridiculous gun promiscuity in the this county. They’ve helped spearhead a nationwide student walkout that took place in over 3000 schools. On March 24th, a week ago, they organized the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. and over 800 other cities worldwide. Crowd estimates in D.C. alone were over 700,000. Limited gun control legislature has been passed in several states as well as nationally. These kids of the “no fear” generation have become the adults in the room – while the adults are at the kids table throwing peas at each other.

The older generations in power are standing behind the kids. But that’s as far as it goes. As adults we sit by paralyzed – hoping the kids will fix the problems we created. We’ve become fat and lazy. We complain about special interests in government yet we keep electing the same clowns. We complain about the Russians manipulating our beloved Facebook news feeds getting us to believe some nonsense that any 12 old year with common sense wouldn’t fall for. The fat from our McDonalds quarter pounders has seeped into our brains and made us functionally illiterate barely able to conduct our daily lives without help. So instead we look for a crutch – “the man in the white hat … riding in on the white horse.”

The most basic of human instincts is fear. And fear was the main reason Trump was elected … and now it has become an integral part of our society. We’re so scared we don’t even try to think whether the perceived threat is real. The prospect of the bogeyman under the bed dictates our daily decision-making. Trump and his GOP minions are portraying anyone and anything that isn’t white and god-fearing as being evil and out to take your job, your right to the American dream … and most importantly your guns.

America’s Cable News Democracy

“Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Politics is no longer something we participate in. It’s something we observe from our living room couch while watching whatever cable news channel we’ve become addicted to. We take sides with our television remote and go to battle on Facebook and Twitter slinging mud via anonymous usernames like @JesusLovesGuns. The actual work of civics and building of communities – we have no time for that. @JesusLovesGuns has too much work to do battling the hordes of teenage heathens out to impose their George Soros implanted communist mind control on us true patriots. God, guns and good old American whiteness … that’s what we’re here for. In the end though, we know the “big man” in the White House will do the real work for us … white hat and white horse right along with him.

After all, we’re American and we deserve it. We deserve it all. It’s our birthright. The government (even though we hate it) is here to ensure our American Dream – regardless what decisions we personally make. The idea we would band together and work ourselves to create something for the collective good – no that’s not how it works. We got the White House, the white hat and white horse.

Health and the Fallacy of Care

But our abdication of responsibilities doesn’t end with our misconstruct of civic duty. Maybe more impactful than America’s distorted opinion of democracy – is its view of health and the role we play in our own. We’ve elevated the profession of medicine to unhealthy levels. Most of us, no matter how intelligent we may be, seem to turn off our brains when in the presence of a doctor. And if it’s not bad enough that we stand there self-imposed intellectually naked – we’re rarely thrown a metaphorical robe … instead peppered with jargon and really, really big words designed only to intimidate us. Claustrophobic nondescript exam rooms, and accompanying clinical props create the psychological equivalent of an alligator-filled moat separating us from parity and any human aspects of the experience.

I don’t mean to be insinuating that physicians aren’t caring (most are) and empathetic (many are). Instead I want to bring to light the role of the ill-designed concept of Electronic Health Records. Fueling this physician/patient disconnect is the abomination otherwise know as EHR systems. These EHRs are billing software that have morphed into the central nervous system for the convergence between computer technology and healthcare. They are universally hated by practitioners, but the C-Suite continues to pile them on, oblivious to the detrimental effects they have on the health of the life blood of the their organizations – physicians. These EHR systems now dictate the parameters of the physician/patient relationship. It’s like physicians have given up and turned their careers and the healthcare industry over to the Boss Hoggs in the C-Suite. But the true losers are patients. Instead of ways to restore humanity to the healthcare process, all I hear are high-tech bells and whistles like AI, VR and blockchain. I’m as technical as anyone – but is the solution really to add more technology on top of a fundamentally flawed foundation to start with.

The technical solutions I see having have promise are related to patient engagement and collaboration, mainly communication-based behavior modification. But even here – imagination is lacking. Most firms seem to be focused on creating apps reminding us taking take our pills. It’s probably no surprise that the when discussing careers in healthcare, we say medicine. Instead of saying they were in medicine, imagine if a doctor said they were in the field well-being and self-efficacy enhancement. You’d tell them to take a pill.

I find it bizarre when it come to healthcare we feel the need for patient advocates. Do we have advocates for our experience at McDonalds or 7-Eleven? It’s not like we’re given our healthcare for free. On the contrary, the healthcare industry should have advocates to justify their unaccountable high prices. Unlike any other industry, we can’t describe ourselves as customers. It’s akin to blasphemy. Being a customer means we have a choice and that alters the balance of power. Whether intentional or not – the concept of patient subservience is baked into the healthcare model. In some cases it applies and needs to … but in most it’s purely a choice (or lack of) we make when we personally define what health and being healthy means to each of us.

I feel like we’re dogs walking around with leashes around our necks only there’s no one holding onto the other side. We just assume there is. In fact we just assume that’s someone holding onto the leash in most everything we do. In fact it’s so bad that we spend our days conforming to societal norms and expectations. We seldom think about where they came from or question whether they have relevance today. Conformity is what we strive for.

Locus of Control, Hobbes and Hume

In 1966, renowned behavioral scientist Julian Rotter developed the concept of locus of control – a variable that describes individual differences between people. Based on this concept, people vary in terms of the degree to which they have an internal locus of control (meaning that they believe that outcomes in their world follow from their personal actions) versus those who have an external locus of control (meaning that they believe that outcomes in their world are generally unrelated to their personal actions). If you have an internal locus of control, you are confident that your actions will lead to change. But if you have external locus of control, you might not even bother trying, because you have learned across your life that little follows from your actions. (Psychology Today)

This tradition of giving way to the external locus of control is rooted in the philosophies of Englishman Thomas Hobbes and his theory of social order. From his perspective, individual actors pursuing their own interests and trying to maximize their welfare lead inevitably to chaos and conflict. From that is derived the necessity of a single center of power imposing order. In Hobbes’ view, social order is the creation of the unique “Leviathan,” which wields the monopoly power to make and enforce law. Self-organized and independent individuals thus have nothing to do with making order. Most modern theories of “The State” have their origins in Hobbes’ vision of Leviathan.

Thomas Hobbes and his theories of the Leviathan have forged the foundation of industrialization. While at the time it seemed only applicable to the reverence of the church and royalty, it morphed once Adam Smith arrived in the 1700s. Even though Smith’s philosophy is the gospel of capitalism – his real message was much deeper and humane. To Smith, every business transaction is a moral challenge to see that both parties come out fairly. Unfortunately much of that message has been lost in transition or just discarded over the years for not fitting into greedy overlords’ predetermined agendas.

I suppose America can take solace in the fact that we’re not the only ones who choose to be subservient to a greater human power. In so-called industrial nations, industrialization isn’t necessary synonymous with being cerebrally evolved. In fact there’s a case to be made that industrialization has hindered our ability to make decisions for ourselves. Years of working for “the man” where “the man” makes our decisions for us; giving us long-term employment, health insurance and the such has cauterised our synapses – making us unable to forge the new cerebral pathways needed to function in a self-determinant society.

On the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum are the social constructs of 18th Century Scottish philosopher David Hume. Hume theorized that people are inherently good. What if rather than religiously following the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (proponent of all-encompassing government) and his pessimistic views of humanity 
 we looked instead to Hume. He believed we were born with the virtues of benevolence, trust and commitment. This ‘spontaneous order’ did not need to be enforced by a greater overarching power or institution of human or theological making, but rather would individually and collectively be more efficient and ordered on its own. Hume’s argument was that, in the absence of a system of centralized command, conventions emerge that minimize conflict and organize social activities (including production) in a manner that is most conducive to the Good Life.

The No Fear Generation and Future of Healthcare

Let us not lose hope though. Even as us adults continue to fight over the toys in the toybox – the real adults in the room, our nation’s youth, all full of internal locus of control and self-efficacy, might actually be “the man in white hat on the white horse” riding in to save us. They don’t fear the system. They don’t expect the system to fix anything while they sit idly by. And they are not acting individually. They are taking the social media tools they’ve grown up with and are using them collectively as weapons to battle the unjust, inequitable system they see as functionally and morally wrong. Many call it a David and Goliath story – and that it may be. But because of their organizational and technical savvy, unbridled energy and intolerance of bullshit – today’s youth may actually be the Goliath. The status quo is walking dead and it doesn’t even know it.

The questions us adults should be asking ourselves is – how we be like the young and harness their sense of self-efficacy? How can we break free of the shackles that bind us to the couch as we get fatter and lazier pounding out keystrokes, parroting what we see in front of us on cable news.

While we could focus on the sad state of politics and civic engagement in this country – all that’s contingent on the more pressing issue of how do get and keep ourselves well. How do we decide that keeping ourselves physically, mentally and socially healthy is our responsibility – not of a healthcare system that we can all agree on is an operational disaster. And when we do – what steps must we take to set us on a path of self-efficacy and internal locus of control.

This internal locust of control needs to start with us by defining who each of us are and who we want to be. Then can we create an action plan to connect the two. This action plan is a road map for what I call our “Journey To Our Perfect World.” The emphasis is on the journey rather than the destination. Below are the ground rules for our new plan of self-actualization.

  • Our locus of control is internal: What we do as individuals matters to our health and well-being. We are not tools of fate. We understand many parties play a role – but we are the ones who have the greatest stake in the outcome of our actions. As a result; we may want to incorporate new ideas, additional players and new technologies to help us elevate our self-efficacy and improve outcomes.
  • We want collaboration: Our goal is positive health and well-being – and from whomever we choose to join us on this journey, we expect to work together collaboratively (including physicians, stakeholders, other friends and family and even fellow community members).
  • We are customers: At times we may be patients, some of us more and longer than others – but in the end, we’re still customers. And with being a customer comes choice, a choice that is ours.
  • Our community is an integral part of the solution: Not only do our own actions dictate the level of our health – so do our interactions with those around us where we live. We are products of our communities and the level of health is dependent on the engagements we have. The healthier and stronger our communities are – healthier and stronger we will be individually.

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The Journey To Our Perfect World: The Map

  • Overview and Assessment:
    • Where do I want to go and when do I want to get there (personally and professionally)
    • Where have I been (personally and professionally)
    • Where I am now (personally and professionally)
  • Resources:
    • What do I need to go where I want to go (personally, from others)
    • What do I currently have
    • What do I need that I don’t current have and where can I get it

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How can we demand the healthcare model I described above – one where we’re at the center of the process? How can we demand that our doctors and healthcare providers view us as true collaborators? How do we break the nonsensical cycle of unnecessarily procedures, appointments and tests that produce little benefit and only further perpetuate the inefficiencies of the status quo? How can we break the norm of thinking that our health begins and ends at the clinic walls? And how can we get our healthcare providers to see the community as integral part of our health and in turn use their power and financial resources to make it better?

In the end, it will be up to us to organize like David Hogg, Emma Gonzales, Jaclyn Corin and Cameron Kasky. Even though their cause is gun control … we can learn from them and the other young empowered leaders of the #neveragain movement. The healthcare industry won’t change on its own. It will have to be forced to – screaming and yelling … and throwing up unimaginable obstacles along the way . But we have power in numbers … and our numbers can speak truth to power … if we only dare.

We just need to keep screaming … and may we have half the insight, passion and courage Jaclyn does.

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See Community 3.0 for your prescription for speaking truth to power by organizing your towns and cities around the Front Porches of your community by elevating the health and well-being of you, your neighbors and friends.

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