Thursday, June 14, 2007

Overview - Fundamental Change For A Loving and Just Civilization

Fundamental Change
For A
Loving and Just Civilization

The Central Role of Mutual Empowerment

Overview of This Paper

Can human beings create a civilization in which all people have the opportunity to live happy, fulfilled, empowered, and actualized lives (realizing their full potentials) and in which they

• have optimal health of body and mind along with the confidence that they have the competence and power to sustain that optimal health, and

• are connected harmoniously in life-affirming resonance with other people, with the natural world, and within themselves.


This paper is about the fundamental change that is required for us to create this kind of civilization and the steps to get there. Here are sections which constitute the paper. Each topic is presented as a separate topic on this BLOG.

I look forward to your feedback.

Take care, Bill

1 – We Can Create a Loving and Just Civilization
Even though a sense of disempowerment has grown over thousands of years of human history, we still have the capacity to create a loving and just civilization.

2 – Power and Mutual Empowerment: Changing From Power Over to Power To
The distinction between power over and power to

3 – Emotional Resonance – Growth, Development, Survival
Not only are love and emotional resonance wonderful human experiences, they also are necessary for our healthy growth and development, and, most importantly for our survival.

4 – The Opportunity
Mutually empowering relationships can transform individual and institutional behavior which will result in fundamental change.

5 – The Problem With The Supernatural
God, religion, the supernatural, truth – challenging areas to explore through mutual empowerment.

6 – The Practice
Some initial guidelines for mutually empowering relationships

7 – Actions to Move Us From Here to There
To create our desired civilization, fundamental individual and institutional change must occur.

8 – Guidelines for Individual Action for Individual Behavior Change
There is some behavior change that we may be able to accomplish individually.

9 – Guidelines for Actions for Institutional Change – Actions We Must Take With Others – Mutual Empowering Relationships
Fundamental change will result from the actions of people who have adopted the principles of mutually empowerment. Those of us who commit to these principles will work together both to develop our practice as well as to apply them to promote institutional change.

10 – The Practice of Love on the Path to Love
• Individually, humans instinctually (according to our genetic disposition) strive to be one with the free flowing, liberated universal energy, the spirit of the universe.
• We also strive instinctually to be whole and integrated within our individual beings.
• The final piece of this instinctual trinity is that we strive to be deeply connected with, to be one with, to be in emotional resonance with each other.


The Grateful Gardener said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, Bill! I see the concept of mutual empowerment (or lack of it) often in my work with nonprofit organizations. It would be great to document examples of it in use. If we're working for fundamental change, we need to use practices that lead to it. (Can you guess who this is?)

lenerickson said...

Having read earlier versions in .doc form, I'm look forward to the blog version and to seeing comments from the larger community you'll reach.

Craig Morgan said...

Good stuff. Good references (Baker, Lewis, Armini, Lannon). Sensational quotes (MLK). I recently saw mention of another book, "I Am a Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter that seems to support the theme of limbic resonance, adding a cerebral component.

It is interesting to me that the vision developed in this blog is secular, yet still bears similarity to that offered by the Jewish Prophets (starting with Moses and ending with JC). Central is our relationship to one another, treating one another with decency, respect, understanding, and love. And when Jesus (and Rabbi Hillel, a bit before him) enjoined us to love our neighbors as ourselves, they anticipated 21st century talk about resonance, nonviolence, conflict resolution, and no doubt anticipated however this will be discussed in centuries to come. But, an area where the Judeo-Christian vision differs is in regarding the individual struggle to be good as constant.

Readers of this blog will be interested to hear about a recent incident in downtown Washington, in which a masked gunman invaded a small backyard dinner, but was emotionally disarmed by one of the guests offering him some wine. He ended up asking for a group hug before leaving them in peace. Here is the link to an article about it in the Washington Post by Allison Klein, titled "A Gate-Crasher's Change of Heart"

This incident does illustrate limbic resonance at work. But then some friends of ours who live nearby are not feeling all warm and fuzzy about it. They are very glad the gunman was disarmed with a hug, but have no assurance that his inner struggle is over -- a realistic assessment, it seems to me.

Bill Leland said...

Thanks Craig for your comments.

I look forward to checking out the Hofstadter book.

The article, “A Gate-Crasher's Change of Heart" raises some intriguing issues. We don’t know enough about all that was going on to comment with certainty. I like to think that in circumstances such as this when the person being attacked treats the attacker with respect and attempts to connect with that person in a caring way, the attacker may be dislodged from that frame of mind that which supports the attacker’s violence towards another. Yes, once out of the mode of violence, the attacker has the potential to experience some degree of emotional resonance and mutual empathy. Of course, we would be na├»ve to suggest that such an approach would disarm all potential acts of violence. My references to Aikido in the paper on this blog are quite relevant to this topic.

Craig, you wrote: “But, an area where the Judeo-Christian vision differs is in regarding the individual struggle to be good as constant.” I would appreciate your saying more about “the individual struggle.” As I write in the paper, while there is some change that the individual can achieve alone, I think that the most essential change must come through mutually empowering relationships which, by definition require two or more people.
– Bill Leland

Craig Morgan said...

Hi Bill,
You ask for clarification on my view of individual struggle in contrast to mutual empowerment. I feel that they go together-- that the first is a prerequisite of the other. In my experience, improving one's relationship with someone else usually requires first understanding, acknowledging, and struggling with one's own faults. If one does not lead off by understanding and acknowledging same, then one often gets a fairly defensive reaction. Even if one takes a no-fault approach, one can get a very defensive reaction. The problem, it seems to me, is that in addition to having the good in our DNA that you describe--our seeking the instinctual trinity---we also have less pleasant stuff as well. I include for your consideration section from p. 263 of Steven Pinker's "Blank Slate", where he cites work by evolutionary psychologist Robert Trivers --

According to Trivers, every human relationship—our ties to our parents, siblings, romantic partners, and friends and neighbors—has a distinct psychology forged by a pattern of converging and diverging interests. What about the relationship that is, according to the pop song, "the greatest love of all"---the relationship with the self? In a pithy and now-famous passage, Trivers wrote---

Beginner of Pinker quoting Trivers ===>
If.... deceit is fundamental to animal communication, then there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray—by the subtle signs of self-knowledge—-the deception being practiced. Thus, the conventional view that natural selection favors nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution.
<===End of Pinker quoting Trivers

The conventional view may be largely correct when it comes to the physical world, which allows for reality checks by multiple observers and where misconceptions are likely to harm the perceiver. But as Trivers notes, it may not be correct when it comes to the self, which one can access in a way that others cannot and where misconceptions may be helpful. Sometimes parents may want to convince a child that what they are doing is for the child's own good,n children may want to convince parents that they are needy rather than greedy, lovers may want to convince each other that they will always be true, and unrelated folks may want to convince one another that they are worthy cooperators.These opinions are often embellishments, if not tall tales, and to slip them beneath a partner's radar a speaker should believe in them so as not to stammer,
sweat, or trip himself up in contradictions. Ice-veined liars might, of course, get away with telling bald fibs to strangers, but they would also have trouble keeping friends, who could never take their promises seriously The price of looking credible is being unable to lie with a straight face, and that means a part of the mind must be designed to believe its own propaganda---while another part registers just enough truth to keep the self-concept in touch with reality.

I agree with you that the struggle with one's own self-deception can be greatly aided by help from friends and lovers. but ultimately it is one's own responsibility. Yes/no?

Bill Leland said...

Thanks Craig for the clarification.

I have no important challenges to almost all that you write and cite.

Your summary question gives me the opportunity to make a couple of points which I think are important. You state and ask:

“I agree with you that the struggle with one's own self-deception can be greatly aided by help from friends and lovers, but ultimately it is one's own responsibility. Yes/no?”

There are two different issues here: the matter of personal responsibility and the matter of how most effectively to bring about behavior change—through individual action or through mutually empowering relationships.

On the matter of personal responsibility for one’s own life and behavior, yes one needs to take maximum responsibility. Without discounting that maximum responsibility, the circumstances, age, experiences, social environment in which the individual exists, and the like are relevant variables which influence one’s freedom of action.

The matter of pursuing behavior change through actions taken alone or actions taken in a mutually empowering relationship is complex. I will attempt to make just a couple of points in addition to what I have written in the sections of this blog.

First of all, let me acknowledge that there are many worthwhile practices – mindfulness meditation, Tai Chi, yoga to name just a few – that people can pursue on their own. I also acknowledge that it can be healing and revitalizing for a person to retreat for a time to practice exclusively, for example, mindfulness meditation. My concern here is one of balance over a period of time. Retreat into some form of individual practice, if embarked upon for too long can become disempowering. It is not uncommon for people to pursue their individual practice with the belief that they have to pursue that practice or perhaps that purification before they can fully participate in the day-to-day world of social and economic interactions. This course pursued too long can lead to this course being never ending. The person will never deem their self to be sufficiently purified or clear or kind or ….

Rather, I suggest that their individual practice will be enhanced by mutually empowering relationships. We bring to that commitment to pursue and learn about mutual empowerment all of our imperfections, some of which to at least some extent we will always have. Through mutually empowering relationships we learn how to love fully in spite of, because of, and with full loving acceptance of our imperfections. And, as you indicate, we are more likely to see clearly those imperfections along with self-deceptions in a mutually empowering relationship.

So, balance is probably the key – the unique balance which is most life-affirming for each of us – the balance among mind, body, and spirit – the balance among self integration and love, love with others through mutual empowerment, and unity or the sense of oneness with the natural world.

Craig Morgan said...

We agree. Your point about the error of withdrawing from society to pursue one's own purification is well-taken. I am reminded of the 60's Jules Feiffer cartoon of the woman who wants a perfect relationship with her pets first before she starts on people. So, when I said individual struggle with one's own faults is a prerequisite, I should not have implied that it is a prerequisite in time, rather that mutual empowerment cannot take place without such a struggle. Or, as you say, balance is key.