How to Create a Tikkun/Spiritual Progressive presence in your community.
Our goal: A change in consciousness. Nothing will change in our world till we have popularized the following notions:
1. Our well being depends upon the well-being of everyone else on the planet and the well-being of the planet itself. So our goal is to create The Caring Society—Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.
2. A New Bottom Line, so that our corporations, our economic policies, our political institutions, proposed legislation, government policies, our health care system, our legal system, our educational system all are considered “rational” or “productive” or “efficient” not only to the extent that they maximize money or power, but also to the extent that they maximize love and kindness, caring and generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity, compassion and empathy, justice and peace, and enhance our capacity to go beyond a utilitarian approach to others and the world (“what’s in it for me?”) so that we can respond to all human beings as embodiments of the sacred and respond to the natural order around us with awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of the universe.
3. The fundamental changes that have happened in society happen when people decide to stop being “realistic” ( because what is or is not realistic is almost always defined for us by the powerful) and instead use our creative energies to struggle for what is desirable and needed to maximize the future well-being of humanity and the planet Earth. So we don’t engage in causes, campaigns, political activities based on our assessment of how likely we are to win them, but rather on the basis of whether they are helping people define for themselves what kind of a world they really want to live in and give to their children and grandchildren. In short, our activities are judged by whether they open up possibilities for us to educate ourselves and each other about our vision of that which is worth struggling to achieve. Any activity that opens the minds of others to our way of thinking is valuable, whether or not we “win” or “lose” in more narrowly defined terms. So, don’t be realistic—put your life energies behind a new vision of a world based on our New Bottom Line.
It follows from this that there is no one correct way to spread the Tikkun/Network of Spiritual Progressives worldview—there are many, many paths that can work.
And what we have learned in our experience building Tikkun and the NSP is this:
Groups that come together around a specific project are more likely to work than those that come together with the idea that the people who come to the first meetings are going to democratically decide which projects to follow.
So our advice:
Pick a project, or two, and make them the goal of the group. Start from there, and then recruit people who want to do what you want to do. Start with what turns you on—because then at least there’s someone in the group that really believes in whatever you choose to do. The people who want to do that project with you will become your allies, and those who do not will simply not be attracted, or, if they are already attracted to NSP, they’ll find ways to create their own local group or activity. And that is all fine.
So here are our suggestions for possible focus for the group you are planning to create. Remember that if there already is an NSP group in your area, but it’s not working on what sings to you, please feel free to create a second or third NSP chapter or project group around whatever it is that really does sing to you!
There can be many local chapters or project groups in one geographical area, each with a different major project. We recommend that all of them get together at least once every two months for joyful celebration of the universe and its gift to us of the opportunity to participate in the healing and transformation of our world, mutual support, veggie pot-luck (and one way to show caring for others is to bring something really delicious to share), shmoozing, singing, meditating, small group discussions, and building new friendships!
1. A Tikkun Magazine Study Group
Pick a date for a monthly meeting. Assume that you’ll have between four-ten people (likely small enough to fit in your apartment’s kitchen or living room). Each month, pick at least two articles in the current issue of Tikkun magazine which you wish to read and discuss together. At first, you have our permission to make a copy of the articles you are going to discuss and circulate it at least two weeks before the meeting at which the articles are scheduled to be discussed. Then, either read the article out loud together, or have someone chosen in advance who has agreed to summarize the main points being made in the article. Then discuss. Eventually, this study group can take on reading books, including those by leading Tikkun thinkers and writers. Use the discussions to repeatedly bring up the core ideas and consciousness we are trying to foster, but of course encourage vigorous debate, because it is only when people learn how to argue against the dominant worldview of a materialist and selfishness-oriented society that they can become effective organizers for a different kind of world. Urge people in the group to become paid up members of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (one of whose perks is that they will then be able to get Tikkun magazine in the mail four times a year) at www.spiritualprogressives.org.
2. The Domestic and Global Marshall Plan. Details and resource can be found at www.tikkun.org/GMP.
The first task of a GMP-oriented group is to get all members of the group to really understand that the goal of this campaign is to popularize the notion that Homeland Security and our domestic well being are best achieved through a Strategy of Generosity (the GMP) rather than through a Strategy of Domination and power over other. The best way to get people on board is to use the first few meetings to read and study together the full version of the plan (so far) as developed at www.tikkun.org/GMP on the part of the page which says: Please READ THE WHOLE CONCEPTION and DETAILS. Download the full color NSP Global Marshall Plan brochure (PDF). Make sure that people who join the group after the first few meetings at which this has been discussed are asked to go through this reading carefully so that they can share the same assumptions as the rest of the group. Also study Why the NSP version of the GMP at http://spiritualprogressives.
After studying the GMP, the next task is to role play how you deal with all the possible objections. Make sure each person in the group has had to play both the role of the skeptic and the role of the supporter. If you come up with questions you can’t answer, email them to RabbiLerner.firstname.lastname@example.org This role playing must become an ongoing activity at meetings, as new objections will inevitably come up. The key here is to combine a spirit of humility with a spirit of self-assuredness (“yes, there may be many questions yet to answer, and we don’t have all the answers, because they will evolve along with the evolution of the program itself, but yes, we do know that this is the best idea to have come down the pike in a long time, so we will be focused on this in this group even while acknowledging its limitations”).
Next, get organizational support. There will be groups in your community who would sign on to your campaign for a Global Marshall Plan if you approach them and deal with all their reservations. But finding them is a process. Among the groups you should contact by phone, and then personal visit, are: unions, churches, synagogues, mosques, ashrams, local chapters of national political parties, non-profit organizations, and social change organizations in your community.
Ask them to:
a. Endorse the GMP.
b. Invite you to a membership meeting of their group at which you could present the GMP.
c. Write a letter to elected officials in the name of their organization asking those officials to endorse the GMP.
d. Let your group write a letter to their own membership explaining why the GMP should be actively supported.
The next step is to approach members of your local city council, representatives to your State Legislature and to the House and Senate of the U.S. and seek their endorsement through passing a resolution backing the GMP.
3. The Money out of Politics Campaign (The ESRA Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)
The first task of an ESRA-oriented group is to get all members of the group to really understand that the goal of this campaign is to popularize the notion that the only way to reclaim our democracy is get money out of politics in every respect. This requires a full understanding of why overturning Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited monies from corporations in elections, IS NOT ENOUGH (though the ESRA also overturns Citizens United).
The 2012 election showed how billionaires were able to pour tens of millions of dollars into the campaigns of many officials, and that tendency will only grow in future years unless all elections are publicly financed and any other source of funding is banned, while media is required to provide free and equal time to all major candidates.
Moreover, recognizing that corporations can play a powerful role by refusing to hire or by moving their enterprises abroad, and that threat makes many liberal politicians buckle under to the “needs” of corporations to have “a corporate-friendly environment” (translation: no carbon tax, no serious restrictions on corporate misuse of the environment, no “living wage” requirement for corporate employees, and no social responsibility demand on corporations), the ESRA not only goes further and establishes a requirement for the large corporations to get a new corporate charter once every five years which will only be granted to those corporations which can prove a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens. The jury would hear testimony from representatives of the various “stakeholders” impacted by the operations of the corporation (including people around the world). And to ensure that we would have an environmentally literate pool of ordinary citizens to draw from, the ESRA also mandates environmental education from grades kindergarten through college and graduate or professional schools.
The best way to get people on board with the ESRA is to use the first few meetings to read and study together the full version of the ESRA at www.tikkun.org/ESRA. Make sure that people who join the group after the first few meetings at which this has been discussed are asked to go through this reading carefully so that they can share the same assumptions as the rest of the group.
After studying the ESRA, the next task is to role play how you deal with all the possible objections. Make sure each person in the group has had to play both the role of the skeptic and the role of the supporter. If you come up with questions you can’t answer, email them to RabbiLerner.email@example.com This role playing must become an ongoing activity at meetings, as new objections will inevitably come up. The key here is to combine a spirit of humility with a spirit of self-assuredness (“yes, there may be many questions yet to answer, and we don’t have all the answers, because they will evolve along with the evolution of the program itself, but yes, we do know that this is the best idea to have come down the pike in a long time, so we will be focused on this in this group even while acknowledging its limitations”).
Next, get organizational support. There will be groups in your community who will sign on to your campaign for the ESRA if you approach them and deal with all their reservations. But finding them is a process. Among the groups you should contact by phone, and then personal visit, are: unions, churches, synagogues, mosques, ashrams, local chapters of national political parties, non-profit organizations, and social change organizations in your community.
Ask them to:
a. Endorse the ESRA.
b. Invite you to a membership meeting of their group at which you could present the ESRA .
c. Write a letter to elected officials in the name of their organization asking those officials to endorse the ESRA.
d. Let your group write a letter to their own membership explaining why the ESRA should be actively supported.
The next step is to approach members of your local city council, representatives to your State Legislature and to the House and Senate of the United States and seek their endorsement through passing a resolution backing the ESRA.
The key: remember that the goal here is not to “get it passed,” because that focus then will get you into endless conversations about whether this part or that part of the ESRA should be thrown overboard in order to make it more attractive to this or that politician or political group. The goal rather is to use the ESRA to help people understand what a rational way would be to protect and extend democracy in the political system and in the economy, and to use this process to get others to understand how important it is to use our democracy to protect the environment and reign in corporate power. Here we use the mechanism of the environmental and social responsibility review of corporate behavior as a way to take our New Bottom Line and show how it could be applied in the deliberations of an ESRA-generated jury review of corporate behavior. So the key, always, is to keep our focus on the goal—a societal change of consciousness, not simply a “quick win” in the legislative arena that in the long run ends up being not such a real win at all because in the name of gathering more support we’ve abandoned the larger transformative goal. That may be what legislators eventually do despite our best efforts, but it should not be what WE do as we advocate for the ESRA.
In states where there is a process for citizen-generated ballot initiatives, you may eventually want to build a campaign to get an endorsement of the ESRA on the ballot! That campaign can be a major way to get the issues raised by the ESRA into public debate (though don’t be surprised when corporate financed campaigns totally distort what the ESRA is all about).
In any event, this is a long process, and at each step make sure that the people you are working with really do understand the logic of the NSP position on why the ESRA is so important, why it works best as a broad and inclusive measure, and why it should not be compromised at this stage of advancing the underlying ideas.
How to Begin to Get a Tikkun/NSP Group Together
First step: Decide which of these areas is your priority area for the first year of your involvement. Then, make sure that you are recruiting people based on an explicit focus so that they know when they come to the first meeting that that is going to be the focus of the group.
Second step: Identify a place for a first meeting. Even though you will want to publicize this gathering to many, many people, please don’t be surprised if only five-ten people show up. So don’t be afraid to hold that first meeting at your own home, unless you are certain you are going to have at least three times as many people as your apartment or house can accommodate. If possible, either make this first meeting a vegetarian pot-luck, or provide some kind of food (possibly just desert-y food if it’s an evening meeting). And be sure to have reserved in advance before your first meeting a location and date for your second meeting, so that people don’t have to spend their time discussing that.
Publicize the existence of this group and its intended focus. We at Tikkun may have a few names and addresses of people to whom you can send a post-card and a few more to whom you can send an email invite to the first meeting. So once you’ve got a location and a time and date for that first meeting and you are comfortable with what the focus of the group will be, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and give her the zip codes of the furthest reach you think plausible for people who might want to come to a monthly meeting (our advice: Not more than a ninety-minute car ride away).
But don’t rely solely on us to recruit. Approach local churches, synagogues, mosques, labor unions, professional organizations, non-profits of every variety, local colleges and universities, and ask them to send out an announcement to everyone who reads their emails and/or monthly bulletins, etc. Approach your local newspapers, dailies, weeklies, t.v. and radio stations, and give people a way to contact you in advance of the meeting (tell the time and date of the meeting, but keep the place unannounced till people speak to you and you can decide if they are going to be helpful to have at the meeting. Even if you only have five people interested, and one sounds like a problematic character, keep it to four people and don’t let the problematic character take over or distort what you’d want to do at the first meeting. So have them contact you by phone or email and ask them then to tell you a little about who they are, their interests, and what in particular makes them interested about this project. Ask them to read some background material at www.spiritualprogressives or www.tikkun.org before coming, and be clear that if they are not excited about what they are reading, and only want to come to convince you that our direction is misguided, that they shouldn’t come. Don’t be disappointed if at first this is a much smaller group than you had hoped for. The people who come may be transformed in the process of building the group into a very effective outreach group who are able to recruit more people to subsequent meetings. But that will depend on how clear you are about the focus of the group, what it will seek to accomplish in its first year of monthly meetings, and how much you can share your own excitement about the project you’ve picked for the group.