Do you feel like howling in protest at the electoral system's failure to meet the challenges of our times? Whether it's the behavior or philosophy of one candidate or the other, the limits of the two party duopoly, the corrupting influence of big money, the possibility that our votes won't be accurately counted, or some other aspect of this absurd circus, reasons for feeling frustrated, anxious, angry and fearful abound.

Join us for a conversation where we discharge our difficult emotions and then think together about what might be possible to create an electoral system that works, as well as ways to move from being passive "consumers" of political leadership to active citizens co-creating our future.

We are beginning our inquiry here on the forum, and then continuing with our regular Monday Cafe Call on October 29:

Register for our Monday Vital Conversation Series
8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT

This theme will also inform our Tuesday "Connect2012" and Thursday "Occupy Heart" calls.

We can start with the following questions:

  • What is the story about this election that you hear yourself most often telling?  The one that you are wedded to and maybe even take your identity from?*
  • What are the payoffs you receive from holding onto this story?*

*Question framing from Peter Block's Community: The Structure of Belonging

Photo courtesy of the Group Works Deck

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Yes, I believe that there is a synthesis... but first, let me respond to your first sentence...

Did I?  Actually I didn't attribute our 'refusal to see' to anything particular. 

But if I were to attribute it, I would attribute it to an aspect of the Mind.    Pawel, if we consider that the purpose of the mind is to cause the survival of the Being, then the mind knows that the being has survived the past.  (Well, duh, obviously it has - the being is still around). So the mind, being a good servant, wants only that the past keep occurring, for that is the safe place for the being (essence, spirit, soul - whatever you wish to call it).  Anything new, is a threat. And any future that is new and unlike the past... that's a real threat.   So... better to ignore that possibility, says the Mind.

So why do we keep on with the past and ignore what is right in front of us?  Because, according to the reasoning of the Mind, that's where our safety lies. The future is strange and dangerous,  So... avoid at all costs. 

And that cost is likely to prove horrendous...

So it is not because of something logical or deliberate like 'determination'.... rather I suggest that it is a default condition of the mind that keeps us from seeing.

Harvey, my reply refers to two of your posts, the first one about ostriches two days ago:

Yes, Ben, let us indeed consider the possibility that "our populace determinedly has its head in the sand”.

First, however, an overall view.   I am optimistic about the future of humanity 'in the long run.'  I believe that humanity will consciously evolve a worldview of You AND Me, a compassionate and celebratory view of our differences, a worldview whereby every child born is wanted and nurtured  to develop her uniqueness and creativity so she lives a long and joy-filled life....

I think first line attributes - state of humanity to determination.  I do not think it is worth an argument – the meaning of the concept depends exclusively on its context.

As for overall view both of your posts (in the context of the second one) are the first serious and coherent answer defining your (plural, OC) worldview in face of the one I represent.  Otherwise I am ignored, even if initial reaction is being intrigued (my experience  OC is almost a year).

I do not dare to hope it means you would be ready to argue.

May I ask you, to avoid disappointment, if you are ready to discuss (without hidden assumptions), the meanings of past, future, evolution, hope/optimism, mind, consciousness and the being/Being?  My general intention is to ignite the evolution of a worldview of “You AND Me”, starting by agreeing collaboratively the common worldview by you and me.

I read you, Ben and Dyck as one (aware of differences), so if your answer is positive we should probably move to one of the collaboration threads.

I do think it matters who is elected.

Iwant to make sure if/when they try to steal the election we are ready to protest it.

Protest it? Like we did when the Supreme Court stole the election in 2000 by stopping the vote count? Like we did when John Kerry stole the election for Bush in 2004 by conceding early before the votes could be counted? Like we did when Goldman Sachs stole the election in 2008 by financing both Obama and McCain so that no matter who won, they were guaranteed to continue to control the government?

The US government is quite capable of dealing with protesters, Kelly.

Thousands of Occupy protesters have been arrested, some beaten brutally, and you can't name a single government policy that has been changed due to protests. The wars and bailouts have continued just as if there had never been an Occupy movement and never been a single protester.

Who do you think is going to steal the election from whom, Kelly?

Who is this terrible "they" that will steal the election, and who is the "us" that you think they might steal the election from?

Is Goldman Sachs going to steal the election from Goldman Sachs?

All US elections were stolen when the US Constitution was drawn up, because it constructed an electoral system in which the voters did not have the final say. It meant that voters either voted the way that the plutocracy wanted them to, or the plutocracy could intervene and override the popular vote. How can anyone steal elections that were stolen from the people 225 years ago by design?

And why do you think it matters who is elected? Only two candidates have any realistic chance of being elected, and both will continue to build more nuclear power plants, even if Hurricane Sandy causes another Fukushima. Why is it more important to you that your candidate be elected than that the planet survive?

Having seen your posts before, my guess is that you want to be sure that women's reproductive rights remain in the hands of the Supreme Court, rather than in the hands of women, even if that means that whoever is elected will continue to wage wars of aggression that are killing innocent women and children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Mali. I have never understood how women who are willing to sacrifice the lives of women in other countries, to absolutely certain deaths no matter who is elected, for a long-shot chance that a President might ignore his big donors and appoint a liberal Supreme Court Justice who might or might not be able to swing a majority vote, can call themselves feminists. What's so feminist about sacrificing the lives of women in foreign countries in order to gamble on a possibility of protecting or gaining the rights of women here?

Or are women in foreign countries not really human, and therefore not really women, and therefore not worthy of feminist consideration?

Pawel, You wrote this,

May I ask you, to avoid disappointment, if you are ready to discuss (without hidden assumptions), the meanings of past, future, evolution, hope/optimism, mind, consciousness and the being/"Being?

. I would be interested in a dialogue whose purpose would be to discover the  background assumptions that I live within, as the fish lives in the water, and that I am blind to.   In my view, hidden assumptions have more power than my opinions, my reasons and my logic.  If I can discover my own, in the sense of noticing the puppet strings that run me, , then I can be so much more open to listening to other's views.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning of Meg Wheatley's new book, So Far from Home (pp.4-7), which speaks to me powerfully about the times we live in and the challenge of how to respond to events such as this election:

A Confession of Innocence
Many of us—certainly I’d describe myself in these terms—
were anxiously engaged in “the ceremony of innocence.”
We didn’t think we were innocents, but we were. We
thought we could change the world. We even believed
that, with sufficient will and passion, we could “create
a world,” one that embodied our aspirations for justice,
equality, opportunity, peace, a world where, in Paulo
Freire’s terms, “it would be easier to love.” (The gifted
publisher of this and all my books, Berrett-Koehler, aspires
“To create a world that works for all.”) This vision, this
hope, this possibility motivated me for most of my life.
It still occasionally seduces me into contemplating what
might be the next project, the next collaboration, the next
big idea that could turn this world around. But I’m learning
to resist the temptation.

This is not a book that contemplates what we might do
next, what we’ve learned from all our efforts, where we
might put our energy and experience in order to create
positive change. I no longer believe that we can save the
world. Powerful, life-destroying dynamics have been set
in motion that cannot be stopped. We’re on a disastrous
course with each other and with the planet. We’ve lost
track of our best human qualities and forgotten the real
sources of satisfaction, meaning and joy.

This book was born from my clarity that greed, self-interest
and coercive power are destroying the very life force
of this planet. I don’t know whether such destruction is
intentional or not, but I observe it happening everywhere.
I was hit in the face with this while in South Africa in
November 2011. South Africa is the country of my heart,
always teaching me about the depths of human experience.
I’ve been working there since 1995 and this was
my fourteenth visit. In the years of Nelson Mandela, hope
was palpable. Everyone seemed to be starting projects to
tackle huge social problems, eager to work with others to
create the New South Africa. They understood the complexity
of all the issues, they knew it was “a long walk to
freedom,”4 and they had great faith in their future.

But now, for many reasons, hope is hard to find and the
good people who have created successful projects and
built effective non-government organizations (NGOs)
are exhausted and demoralized. They keep doing their
work, but it’s now a constant struggle. They struggle for
funds, they struggle with inept, corrupt bureaucracy, they
struggle with the loss of community and the rise of selfinterest,
they struggle with the indifference of the newly
affluent. The dream of a new nation of possibility, equality,
and justice has fallen victim to the self-serving behaviors
of those with power.

Please do not think this is only true in South Africa. It’s
happening everywhere, as you may have noticed.

Indestructible Motivation
Yet I have not set out to write a book that increases our
despair. Quite the contrary. My intention is that we do our
work with greater resolve and energy, with more delight
and confidence, even as we understand that it won’t turn
this world around. Our work is essential; we just have
to hold it differently. This was beautifully described by
Václav Havel, leader of the Velvet Revolution, the poetplaywright
who then became president of the new Czech
Republic: “Hope is not the conviction that something will
turn out well, but the certainty that something makes
sense, regardless of how it turns out.”5

How do we find this deep confidence that, independent of
results, our work is the right work for us to be doing? How
do we give up needing hope to be our primary motivator?
How do we replace hope of creating change with confidence
that we’re doing the right work?

Hope is such a dangerous source of motivation. It’s an
ambush, because what lies in wait is hope’s ever-present
companion, fear: the fear of failing, the despair of
disappointment, the bitterness and exhaustion that can
overtake us when our best, most promising efforts are
rebuked, undone, ignored, destroyed. As someone commented,
“Expectation is premeditated disappointment.”

My great teachers these days are people who no longer
need hope in order to do their work, even though their
projects and organizations began with bright, hope-filled
dreams. As “the blood-dimmed tide” of greed, fear, and
oppression drowns out their voices and washes away their
good work, they become more committed to their work,
not because it will succeed, but just because it is right
for them to be doing it. I watch their inner struggles and
bouts with despair, but mostly what I notice is their perseverance
and confidence. They see how bad it is, they
know it is getting worse, they realize their work won’t create
the changes they have worked hard for all these years.
Yet they continue to do their work because they know it is
theirs to do. Sometimes they say, “I can’t not do this.” Other
times they ask, “What else would I be doing if not this?”

These brave people are true warriors. Seeing as clearly as
they can, hearts as open as they can bear, they keep doing
their work. They know how systems of power work and
they try to discern wise actions. Though in frequent battles
with politicians, leaders and bureaucrats, they strive
to keep their hearts open and not to succumb to anger
and aggression. Work is filled with constant challenges,
and they know there will be many more.

Perhaps you see yourself in this description. Or perhaps
you still rely on the hope that it’s possible to save the world.

Very appropriate excerpt, Ben, thank you.

Has Meg Wheatley been to Iceland or to Venezuela?

In Iceland they have brought about positive social changes. Rather than imposing austerity leading to starvation and riots, as Greece and Spain have done, Iceland put the corrupt banksters in jail, renounced the fraudulent debts they'd incurred, and their economy is now growing rapidly.

In Venezuela extreme poverty has been almost completely eliminated along with hunger and homelessness.

The people who are working in Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution and working on Iceland's new crowd-sourced Constitution also know how systems of power work, and are also continuing their work, but they are doing it with joy and hope, because they know that their work has already brought about change and will continue to bring about change.

There's a big difference between having the confidence that you're doing the right work because your work has already accomplished good things, and continuing to work when you know that your work has not and will not accomplish anything. Just because you don't know what else to do, are unaware of what others are accomplishing, and are resigned to failure, doesn't mean that failure is inevitable, always and everywhere. It might just mean that you are trying to work within a system that is designed to prevent change, such as a capitalist imperialist system built on hustling, greed, and an inequitable distribution of power as primary values, rather than within a system designed to bring about change, such as a socialist or democratic (democratic meaning a system of government where supreme, i.e., dominant, highest, and ultimate, power is vested in the hands of the people rather than in the hands of government itself) system.

What sort of closed mind would say that it is impossible to eliminate poverty and improve the economy when some countries have already accomplished this? How can people close their eyes to reality and insist on continuing to believe that what is actually happening in Iceland, Venezuela, and to a lesser extent in Bolivia, Ecuador, and other countries, cannot happen? Iceland and Venezuela were also under capitalist imperialist oligarchal rule. Iceland and Venezuela were also governed undemocratically. Iceland and Venezuela also had widespread poverty and corrupt governments in bed with corrupt banks and genocidal, environmentally destructive corporations.

Why does Meg Wheatley believe, and why do you believe, Ben, that the people of Iceland and Venezuela are so vastly superior to the people of South Africa and the United States, that we cannot possibly do what they have done?

When a system prevents change, in order to bring about change, it is necessary to first change the system. That can only be done by opposing such a system, not by working within it. What South Africa did, and what the United States does, is change the players, change the faces (and color) of the people in power, instead of changing the power structure. What Iceland and Venezuela did was change the power structure--the nature of the system itself. Once power is distributed more equitably, everything else is possible. Not easy--the hard work of bringing about change continues, but it continues with confidence and a light heart once it has become possible. That's why Venezuela and Iceland are two of the happiest countries in the world, while the United States and South Africa are not.

One more excerpt from Wheatley (p.12):

I personally aspire to be so free of hope and fear that I
don’t need some future far-off progress to commit to
my work right now. It doesn’t matter which way history
moves. What matters is now: how we live, work and create
together in this very moment, relying on and cultivating
our best human qualities, creating meaning by how we
are together in the present moment. Perhaps this contributes
to the arc of history that Dr. King describes, but who
knows? I’ve let go of my need to influence the course of
history. I’ve chosen between two paths: one path is offering
me meaning, strength, and contentment; one path
lures me into further exhaustion and despair. At least
that’s been my experience. I invite you to explore this for
yourself in the coming pages.

Oh, well then, if it doesn't matter if we succeed or fail, or whether history moves towards the survival or the planet or not, then why not just keep working?

After all, isn't it just as worthwhile to work on something that you know cannot succeed, as to work on something that has already succeeded in bringing a better life to millions of people and where there is no reason it cannot bring a better life to millions more?

If there's equal meaning, strength, and contentment in banging your head against a brick wall, as there is in actually alleviating poverty and suffering, then it is all in how you look at what you're doing, and what you're really doing doesn't matter in the least.

That, Ben, is the essence of New Age stupidity.

Mark, with due respect to your profound commitment, your questions show up for me as rhetorical and seem to arise from a certain kind of automaticity...first, that of Objection and second, that someone owes you an Explanation. Neither open  up possibilities for discussion.

Those two  show up for me as such a powerful foundation that I find it difficult to speak to the individual points. 

If you would consider writing  a short, clear, reasonably kindly,  thought-out statement of belief.... I would be much predisposed to enter into a discussion. 

Otherwise I am stuck with the accusation of Ben as being 'New Age Stupid'.   Or was that directed against Meg Wheatley?   Lighten up, Pussycat,  just 'cuz you be old, does not necessarily mean irascible....chuckle.... . Harvey

I'll go even farther.

There used to be a story about the United States, and I don't know if it is true or not, but it said that because we had immigrants from many different cultures, we tried to take the best from each and leave what wasn't useful behind. That we looked for what worked and abandoned what didn't.

I hope it is true, and I hope that we remember how to do it, if we ever really did, and I really, really hope that we start doing it again.

Mark, with due respect to your profound commitment, your questions show up for me as rhetorical and seem to arise from a certain kind of automaticity...first, that of Objection and second, that someone owes you an Explanation. Neither open  up possibilities for discussion.

Those two  show up for me as such a powerful foundation that I find it difficult to speak to the individual points. 

If you would consider writing  a short, clear, reasonably kindly,  thought-out statement of belief.... I would be much predisposed to enter into a discussion. 

Otherwise I am stuck with the accusation of Ben as being 'New Age Stupid'.   Or was that directed against Meg Wheatley?   Lighten up, Pussycat,  just 'cuz you be old, does not necessarily mean irascible....chuckle.... . Harvey


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Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

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