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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Here's a post on this topic from my FB friend Julie McGovern, which she agreed to let me share here:

When I became disenchanted with Occupy because of their position of not making any demands whatsoever, I still realized and remembered that among the things that I liked about Occupy was that it was nonpartisan and welcomed everyone. Since then I have been polite in all my posts and comments. I don't get angry. I agree with any policies from republicans that I can - for example, I truly think Pres Reagan was a great president. It was logical to try trickle down--we didn't know then (as we do now) that it wouldn't work. I also use as many facts as I can. For example, did you know that tax rates under Pres Reagan were higher than they are under Pres Obama? I think that many on both sides of the aisle realize that the more than $2Billion that will have been spent in this Presidential campaign could have been better used for infrastructure, education, or even to reduce the deficit further. (The deficit is lower now than it was when Pres Obama took office.) Anyway, there are patriotic Americans in both parties & I agree that we have some things in common. I also agree that the idea of a Pres Romney scares the living daylights out of me...

Ben, if I demand that you and Jitendra devote half of Occupy Cafe forums and phone conversations to topics of my choosing, do I have the power to compel you to do it? No, I don't. But if I were funding Occupy Cafe, owned it, and had the power to remove you, I could.

Politeness and civility are worthy attributes, but they have their limits. There's a video going around now showing cops grabbing people at random, even silent passersby who had nothing to do with Occupy, throwing them to the ground before they can say a word, and brutalizing them. Is it people's fault for not being civil and polite enough? Or is there something basically wrong with a system where cops can grab innocent people at random and brutalize them without reason or cause--punish them without due process?

One of the things I discuss in my talk is why it does no good to vote for a good guy, since people are almost equally divided as to who is the good guy (or at least the slightly less evil guy), sometimes people mistake the bad guy for a good guy, and the Supreme Court, which has the final say, might not agree with the majority of voters as to who is the good guy.

Elections may appear to be the only game in town, and it might be the final game of the World Series, but if the house is on fire, I'm not disrespecting you by trying to get you away from the game until we can put the fire out.

See my reply above, Mark.

  • 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?*
  • What is the price?


The story I tell myself about this election... mostly that I do not tell others... is that it probably does not make much difference who is merely the President of the U.S. 

Humanity’s issues are all global and a function of an insufficient world view... a worldwide worldview  of You OR Me.   This worldview is a junior view, that of an adolescent species, and is based on two assumptions ― that of disconnection and of scarcity.   Neither is true. 

Yet, true or not, our world-as-it-shows-up is a world that is in ‘overshoot’, according to Limits to Growth:  Thirty Year Update. Each of it’s ten-year updates ― in l982, 1992 and 2002 ― are increasingly pessimistic for our future.  The core message I hear is that our planet, to be sustainable at its present level, requires 1.2 planets.  And it is worsening, for India, China are demanding 'theirs', too.

Does either candidate address this?   No.  Can they?   No.  Not now, not before the election, for our populace determinedly has its head in the sand. 

 Must the president address it?   Absolutely.   Will he, no matter who he is?   Yes.   Why?  Simple.  Because the upcoming global financial crisis will force it upon him.

 Unfortunately my guess is that it will be way too late.   As a metaphor. Wile E. Coyote, having chased the Roadrunner of ‘More and More’, has run off the edge of the cliff... and is now running in midair, refusing to look down.    He will look and he will crash.  And, he will hold up his traditional sign – “That’s All, Folks.”

What is the payoff for my holding this story?   Oh, the usual....I get to be right and everyone else gets to be wrong. And I get to sit back and watch.  And I get to say that ‘there was nothing I could have done, not really.  

On the other hand, no matter that I am busily ‘rearranging my little deck chairs on the Titanic’, when our Titanic hits that gigonda  fuckin' iceberg   I can smugly say... "well,  what did you expect?"

And I shall be right.   And dead, of course... but, hey....  being right is way more important, isn't it?

And the price of my holding that story  .... oh ....deep ... deep ...sadness ...resignation ...and the feeling of powerlessness....

 Sorry, Ben, but you DID ask...


Thank you for posting that story, Harvey.

It is clear that you see through the illusion of elections because you say, " probably does not make much difference who is merely the President of the U.S."

Voters hold a different story, that it is the President who has power and who can be a greater or lesser tyrant, they do not take things like the global situation into account, or that any US President is, in accordance with the design of the Constitution, a mere puppet of the plutocrats who own the country, run the country, and fund the elections.

I felt sad, but not resigned because I became aware that election boycotts have sometimes succeeded in nonviolently discrediting governments by demonstrating that they lacked the consent of and did not represent the people they were claiming to represent. But I did feel powerless until just in the last few months when I began to find myself in the majority on many forums, rather than the lone voice I was for so many years, and became part of an active and organized Election Boycott Movement with other activists and organizers.

Although I'm hoping for a low turnout this year, I'm sure it will be written off as mere apathy, because the media cannot admit the truth--that more and more people really care and don't want to leave important decisions like the future of the planet and our own futures, if there are to be any, up to governments that do not represent us and over which we have no bona fide power. Power doesn't plead and beg, power commands.

So we're working for 2016, just in case the country lasts that long, and asking people to take responsibility for and to take careful notice of the results of their votes, and to consider not making the same mistake over and over again. We may not succeed, but at least we'll die knowing that we tried our best.

It is those who are willing to continue delegate their power to a government that has consistently acted against their best interests, who are apathetic. The story they hold, that changing the deck chairs on the Titanic can stop the collision and save the ship, is irrational, but they are, due to the stories they hold and the ways in which they relate to the world, incapable of acting rationally. In fact, the story they hold is that exact same story: that the ship is unsinkable and the Captain and crew are at least minimally competent, or at least more competent than they and the other passengers could possibly be, and that, therefore, their energies are best spent rearranging the deck chairs rather than trying to take over and steer the ship. Oh, many of them say that they are trying to create alternative systems, but when the government asks for their consent to continue to govern them, they drop everything and rush to the polls to authorize the government to continue to decide whether they should or should not be allowed to grow organic gardens or hold peaceful assemblies. Anyway, they may grant the government power over everything else, but they retain power over their own inner beings, so the loss of their mortal shell and its habitat is of little or no import to them.

Perhaps my activism is just a means of avoiding the sadness, resignation, and powerlessness that I should be feeling in this situation. Maybe when bad things happened it was only because people weren't being positive and optimistic enough, not because they foolishly allowed others to make their decisions for them. 

Or maybe not.

Thank you, Harvey.  Nothing to apologize for!  I empathize with your story completely.  It seems very close to the one I tell.  At the moment, it's the "our populace determinedly has its head in the sand" piece that is really intriguing me.  I identify with that analysis too--it's a lot like Mark E. Smith's guy watching baseball while his house is on fire.  And... I wonder if that's one aspect of this story we might reconsider together? 

I wonder if this might be relevant to the discussion, Ben:

"So, I am revisiting the whole way humans (including myself, of course) relate, or not, to power. I just read one account of the collapse of the Mayan civilization circa 900 AD in which it appears that the vast majority of workers who were struggling to keep the kings and their palaces well fed with food, clothes, and trinkets, as they themselves were receiving fewer calories, simply walked away and refused any further cooperation/complicity. Some died, as others went to the mountains to subsist. But the kings starved. And in my several trips to visit with the Mayan Zapatistas over the past 17 years, I am relating to the offspring of those Mayans who refused cooperation 1200 years ago, and continue to do so today since their 1994 revolution coinciding with  NAFTA coming into effect. So withdraw of support for and complicity with the state is a model of empowerment."

That's an excerpt from the thoughts about the election that peace activist S. Brian Willson posted to his blog a few days ago.

It isn't as if the guy doesn't know that the house is on fire. He doesn't have his head in the sand. He is fully aware of the problem. It is more like he's been told over and over again that it is possible to put out a house fire by watching TV, he believes it to the very core of his being, and unless the firemen forcibly drag him out of there, he is not leaving of his own free will, even if he burns to cinders.

It's as if the Mayans had believed that you couldn't accomplish anything by walking away--that no matter how bad things got, the system was basically sound and could be reformed, and that what they needed to do was work harder and try to get different kings in power.

More than 90% of the people in the United States understand the problem. But only 50% are willing to try a different solution from what they've been told and believe to be the best way to bring about change, even if it has never worked in the past. They tell stories about how it has worked in the past, but they're not true stories. Every bit of "progress" they claim, turned out to be ephemeral, while the bigger picture, Harvey's worldview, has steadily and consistently gotten worse.

Look at all the people now voting for GMO labeling in California, while the spent fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4 hangs precariously and corrupt governmental authorities are trying to ensure that the same thing happens at San Onofre and other aging nuclear power plants in the US. If anyone survives, I think they'll be trying to get an initiative on the ballot for Cesium and Plutonium labeling instead of denying plutocracies and oligarchies popular consent to having any legitimate right to kill us, and to destroy the planet, in order to retain their profitable industries.

Thank you, Mark and Ben.

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.

 It is the short run that I find myself focusing upon.  And that looks....gee, what to say... maybe... 'challenging’?  What a useless euphemism for an exciting, horrifying, catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.

I wrote this the other day.  It speaks to the sadness I sometimes feel. Perhaps I might have sent it to you.   Either way, here it is:


“There is none so blind as him who will not see”

Of course we have our heads in the sand.   The view up here on the ground is much too frightening. 

 Everybody knows... and no one wants to know.  We simply refuse! You.  Me.   Almost everybody.  

It’s over, you see.  

It’s all over, but it just doesn’t look that way. So we say it can’t be over.    We still have the job, we still have the car, we still have the shopping and the movies and all those goodies at the shiny shops. We still have the grocery stores. And gasoline and vacations and big hospitals.

So how could it be over? That would be just plain wrong.  It would be unthinkable. 


So we say it is not over.  It will be business as usual.   It will be life as usual.   It has always been that way. So it will be back to normal soon.   That tsunami won’t happen. Global warming is a myth.  That atomic bomb won’t be launched. Those stupid Europeans and their Euro will get their act together ― that’s got nothing to do with us.

We’ll just elect the right president and we’ll balance the budget and everyone will go back to work and the good times will roll again.  

And I’ll feel safe and everything will be swell.

Yes, it really will.  It will be fine.       Just fine.

Right now I doubt if many people on the east coast are thinking that everything is just fine and will continue to be just fine. It is impossible to keep your head in the sand when the entire area is about to be flooded, including many exposed spent fuel pools in the areas surrounding the 16 nuclear power plants in the direct path of Hurricane Sandy.

Some Greens on the west coast may still be thinking that everything will be fine for the next four years while they continue to grow their party and plan for the distant future, but Greens on the east coast might not be that optimistic at the moment.


My head has certainly been in the sand about ' spent fuel pools...16 nuclear power plants... in the direct path...of Sandy".   Never heard of them, Mark.   Never heard a single acquaintance mention them.  Is that real?

Given my not knowing this... and thus, my being the tip of the usual 'iceberg of unknowing', most others don't know it either.... why on earth would you doubt that we think all is 'just fine'?  That is the name of the game... DENIAL.  And I am as guilty as the next guy. I know  I am part of the problem. As Pogo once said,  "We have met the enemy and he is us."

On the other hand... and this is the BIG hand... you know and I know that everything is NOT just fine.  That we are in Overshoot, as the seminal book,  Limits to Growth: Thirty Year Update, puts it. And it is about to hit the fan.

And it is my intention also to be part of the solution, not just part of the problem.

You have put your finger on something important.   Irresponsibility.   A global epidemic of irresponsibility.  The transferring the responsibility of creating a great life for ourselves over to the authority of the OTHER.   It is this lack of willingness to declare...and act from that declaration... that it is I who is responsible for my my life... that is missing. 

But it won't be missing for long, in my view, Mark. The massive shift of circumstances that I believe is coming will sort out, by its very nature, those who wait for the rescuer to come and those who rescue themselves and their loved ones.  The rescuer will not be coming.

Not to await The Prince.  Not to await the Lone Ranger.  They quit already.

The power plants have been ordered to shut down if winds reach 90 miles per hour. But what if the power goes out when the winds have only reached 80 miles per hour and the plants run into difficulties trying to shut down?

And what about the radioactive rods in the "spent" fuel pools around those reactors? They can't be removed to a safe place because there are too many of them and there is no safe place.

As for the mandatory evacuations, during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans many people wanted to evacuate but couldn't. They didn't have cars and there were no buses for them. With public transportation being shut down in NYC, people like that don't have a chance, and most New Yorkers don't own cars.

I've been following the nuclear industry and several leading anti-nuclear experts like Dr. Helen Caldicott, Ace Hoffman, and Harvey Wasserman for decades. They warned about events like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, which did come to pass.

All nuclear power plants, nuclear materials processing plants, nuclear weapons manufacturing plants, nuclear aircraft carriers, and nuclear submarines, have what they call "routine radioactive releases" of radioactivity. The public is assured that these routine releases are safe. What we are not told is that radioactivity is cumulative and that the cumulative radioactivity from repeated safe releases is not safe.

As for the safety of the nuclear power plants themselves, many have been found to be unsafe, but regulatory agencies subject them to a monetary fine without forcing them to make their plants safe. Some have been fined repeatedly for the same safety defects. A lot of nuclear power plants in the US are operating on extended licenses well beyond their planned decommissioning date. In a capitalist society it should be obvious that in a situation where every day that an unsafe nuclear power plant continues to operate it brings in profits, but where decommissioning would not only forfeit those profits but cost money that nobody has, unsafe power plants are unlikely to be shut down before they melt down.

If you really, truly, care about something, like yourself, your family, your community, your country, or your planet, the very last thing you'd want to do is to vote to delegate your power and entrust your future to a government that cares only about money and has demonstrated no respect for human life whatsoever. Not even if you think it is only for four more years while you grow your party so that you can change things. That is not the responsible thing to do.

Properly prescribed medications, taken exactly as prescribed under supervision, are one of the leading causes of death in this country, and every single pharmaceutical drug that has been recalled for causing the deaths of patients for whom they were prescribed, was first approved for sale by the FDA. The Johns Hopkins doctor who wrote the JAMA paper over a decade ago proving that doctors (no offense intended and present company excepted, Harvey) are the third leading cause of death in the United States, recently died of a brain hemorrhage due to a drug that was later recalled but had been prescribed for her by her cardiologist. She wasn't in denial. She understood the problem and had written about it. She trusted her friend and colleague out of habit, because if you can't trust your friends and colleagues, who can you trust? But the colleague trusted the government which had trusted the pharmaceutical companies which routinely lie because it is profitable.

You are correct that nobody is coming to the rescue. Not Obama. Not Romney. Not Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, or anyone else. We're on our own and it is up to us. How many lives could be lost if people delay leaving the east coast just long enough to mail in their ballots, and then the storm approaches more rapidly and turns out to be more severe than expected?

I've actually seen several articles expressing concern that due to Hurricane Sandy, people might not vote. As if voting hadn't brought us to the brink of extinction already.

I'm 72 years old and I'm a lunatic, Harvey. I have no credentials, no credibility, and I spent the early part of my adulthood in nuthouses and then homeless, living on the streets. But in a country run by the criminally insane, a mere lunatic might be worth listening to. Particularly in a country where kids who are considered to be too damned smart for their owned damned good, and to have a bad attitude towards authority, are likely to be disagnosed, labeled, and discredited before they can upset the status quo.

Harvey, you attribute our refusal to see and think to determination.

Observing the discussions @ Occupy I would say it is a deliberate choice, the path leads to conclusion, state of the world is the consequence:

I am not my body,

I am not my mind,

I am not this

I am not that.

I am nothing but a living lie of that Truth that is me.

And unless the lie is dead, the Truth cannot be.

[Dyck Dewid  quoted Eruch's Prayer on collaboration thread yesterday]

Is any synthesis of both threads possible?


Weekly Cafe Calls

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

"Vital Conversations" 

8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT 

Tuesdays (except 10/16)
"Connect 2012"

1-3p PDT | 4-6p EDT | 8-10p GMT

"Occupy Heart" 

3-5p PDT | 6-8p EDT | 10p-12a GMT

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