Our Path to a World of Love and Justice….the Tikkun/NSP Vision
We live in a world filled with loving and caring people.
Most people on this planet crave a world filled with love, caring, generosity, social and economic justice and environmental sanity. Yet many of us doubt that we can experience a loving and caring world beyond our own private lives and homes. It is often so painful to experience the distance between the ache for a more loving and caring world and the world we actually live in today that many of us simply bury that desire, or even vehemently deny that we have it, to protect ourselves from re-experiencing the pain we experienced as children when we lived through our first set of distresses caused by the distance between our needs and the family and societal behaviors that we were taught to accept as “the real world.”
Why this distance between our needs and the realities we encounter? Because the ethos of the capitalist marketplace, which places greatest value on money and power, has infiltrated our personal lives, insidiously shaping our unconscious and conscious beliefs about “human nature.”
In the economic marketplace we are taught to look out for ourselves, maximize our profits, and do what we need to do to get ahead, even at the cost of people we care about. Most people spend most of their waking hours at work. The way we come to experience “reality” is massively shaped by our experiences in the world of work. We learn that the work world is no place for vulnerability, caring, and love. Rather, it is the place governed by the injunction to maximize the “bottom line” of money and power. And so we come to believe this is “the real world.”
We are driven to hide our yearnings for deep connection, care, and love, and instead build walls to protect ourselves from being vulnerable to others, thereby avoiding disappointment or hurt. We learn to see others through a narrow utilitarian framework, assessing whether they can be “of use” to us in achieving our goals in the economic marketplace. Not surprisingly, those of us who have been taught to think this way about others at work tend to bring this way of thinking into our personal lives. The result is feeling surrounded by people who see us in terms of what we can do for them. The powerful drive within all of us to be loving and caring seems so “unrealistic” in this situation that many of us have sadly learned to dismiss it, repress it, or simply not believe that others also share that desire to be in a world that is loving and caring.
At the center of the ethos of capitalist society is the injunction to see everything and everybody from the standpoint of how they or it can be of use to us. While looking at the world in this way has always been a useful frame for dealing with the physical survival needs of daily life, for most of human history this way of seeing was coupled with an equally strong alternative—a way of seeing which responded to other human beings and the universe with love and appreciation, awe and wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of our universe and the joy of being able to share that awe with a community of people whose lives were enriched by spiritual contemplation and practice as well as by a deep sense of having a higher meaning for one’s life that transcended the satisfaction of survival needs. We seek to retrieve that dimension of meaning to life and to reconnect with the non-utilitarian way of seeing that we call ‘spiritual”. In this sense when we talk about being spiritual progressives, we are not talking about being part of a religion or even of believing in some version of God. One can be a spiritual progressive without either a formal religion or a belief in God–many of our members are secular humanists, while others come from a wide variety of religious or spiritual traditions. What is spiritual for us are all the dimensions of human experience that cannot be measured or subject to external empirical observation or verification. It includes connection to the ultimate mystery of being but also to love, ethics aesthetics, and joyful celebration of life and consciousness. What makes it progressive spirituality is our insistence that this connection to higher meaning and to the mystery of life cannot be separated or divorced from the immediate and near universal recognition of our human obligation to care for each other and care for the earth. And we believe that one reason progressives have been far less successful than they need to be is that they have made that separation so that liberal and progressive politics become dominated by the utilitarian branch of consciousness, and spiritual and religious practice avoids facing seriously and politically the obligation to heal and repair the world (what Jews call “tikkun”). The process of building a love-filled world will have to find ways that unite spiritual consciousness with a progressive politics but without imposing any particular religious or spiritual path or practice as the only correct one.
By being so conditioned to believe that the world we want is impossible, we start to repeat a foolish and self-destructive message that, apart from our own small group of friends and loved ones (and perhaps our own religious or spiritual community), everyone else is chiefly concerned with power and money. Popular culture promotes this view and it is this cynicism about others that makes it seem realistic. The more we believe people will try to manipulate us to get their needs met, the more we engage in the same behavior to protect ourselves. This cycle of manipulation ends up creating a reality that is contrary to our deepest yearnings and needs. When we are stuck in this cycle, we increasingly come to believe that the only “rational” way to live is to “look out for number one.”
As a result, many of us feel lonely, alienated, and scared, even in the midst of friendships and marriages. We see ourselves surrounded by people who seem to care about us only to the extent that we can “deliver something.”
In short, people have absorbed the old bottom line of the capitalist marketplace, and have come to believe that this is the true reality.
A New Bottom Line
Spiritual progressives, unlike their liberal counterparts, understand that political rights and economic entitlements while important are not what people actually crave. To successfully transform our society from its current obsession with acquiring material goods, we need to help connect people with their deepest yearnings for a world of meaning and purpose. Simultaneously, we need to provide a framework for concrete political proposals, grounded in spiritual principles, to counter the one-dimensionality of many liberal proposals.
We call this a “New Bottom Line”—one that counters the emphasis on money and power and instead judges the,quality, efficiency and productivity of our institutions, including corporations, , the health care system, schools, the legal system, legislation, and social practices and policies by the degree of love, compassion, kindness, generosity, and ethical and ecological sensitivity they inculcate within us. The New Bottom Line places priority on the extent to which institutions and policies nurture our capacity to respond to other human beings as embodiments of the sacred and to respond to the grandeur of the universe with gratitude, awe, and wonder. If we embrace this New Bottom Line as we interact with others, then instead of seeing others as a means to our own ends, we will create a world in which we see and value one another’s humanity. To the extent that our economic, political and social arrangements are in fact governed by this New Bottom Line, we will begin to rebuild trust in each other’s goodness and start to believe that compassion and kindness can flourish not only in our homes but in our communities and our workplaces as well.
Seeking a world which embodies this New Bottom Line is the central message of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Rejecting the “common sense” of capitalist society that human beings are primarily motivated by their narrow material self-interest (or as a prominent Democratic Party strategist put it, “it’s the economy stupid”) we call for liberals and progressives to affirm the psychological, ethical and spiritual dimensions of humanity which have been stymied and unfulfilled in self-described capitalist and socialist societies, and largely ignored by liberal and conservative public policies in most Western countries. Our Spiritual Covenant is a way of reclaiming this New Bottom Line, thereby crossing traditional left/right dichotomies and enabling us to envision a new kind of political movement that could win majority support for a program of healing and transforming our world.
Spiritual progressives know that progressive economic and political demands will never be fully embraced by the American majority until we address the feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness felt by so many people. To do so, we must become sensitive to the deep, often unconscious, hunger that people have for a loving world in which our lives have some higher meaning beyond the accumulation of money or power. Spiritual progressives seek to build a world that nurtures these fundamental yearnings. We recognize that doing so requires both internal transformation and a fundamental reshaping of our economic system, political system, and societal practices.
We affirm the deep desire and yearning of human beings to live in a world in which we are deeply appreciated, loved, cared for, nurtured, respected and treated as embodiments of the sacred.
Yet we recognize that human beings are complex and at times have competing and contradictory desires. We are sadly aware of the cruelty, hurtfulness, selfishness and pain that is communicated from generation to generation, not only in the psychological inheritance we have from parents who themselves felt under-recognized and without the love that they deserved and needed, but also from the institutions and social practices that often powerfully reproduce that cruelty and hurtfulness. We witness how most t.v. shows, many movies, and much of the “common sense” of people living in a society where cruelty to others is normalized by calling it war or policing, or violent sports, or “just human nature”—so much so that people who feel that this is deeply wrong are made to feel as is they themselves are a problem, maladjusted to a perverse reality. We are not Pollyannaish about how easy it will be to achieve these transformations.
And so many of us are trapped in jobs where people are set up to compete with each other, which often brings out the worst in people who fear that if they can’t show their bosses that they are really better than others, those others will eventually take their jobs away. We witness otherwise decent people making little moves to push themselves ahead of others, and it disheartens us and makes us think that nothing really can be changed. To the extent that many people feel surrounded by others who are caring only for themselves it is understandable why they would develop a sense of powerlessness to confront the larger economic and political issues that urgently need attention. When confronted with the problem that our economic system is based on ever-expanding consumption of the world’s limited resources and the accelerating rate of destruction of the life-support system of the planet, many people on the planet turn away, the best focusing on small environmental concerns in their own locality, the worst denying there is any problem, and the majority simply closing their ears and wanting to not hear bad news. Looking around at the unwillingness of most people to engage in a transformative politics, many decent and caring people feel overwhelmed by the gigantic size of the challenge to protect the earth and feel angry when others are insisting that something really could be done if more people got involved.
As the environmental crisis intensifies, the powerful, rather than transforming the system that is destroying the planet, may instead rally support for their system by intensifying the struggle of “identity groups” against each other, nativists against immigrants, people described as “white” against “people of color,” middle income against the poor, encouraging each identity group to focus on demeaning some other group or insisting that other groups’ suffering is not as severe as their own and hence have “privilege,” rather than emphasizing their common interest in transforming the whole society–and while people focus their attention in that way the elites may further undermine democratic and human rights and impose ever more authoritarian or even fascistic forms of rule. In the face of this reality, the struggle for a New Bottom Line becomes the most rational way to transform societal and global consciousness so we can build an effective movement to transform political, economic and social structures. We know that the changes we wish to see in the world require multiple levels of “tikkun” (the healing and transformation of our world), including the psychological, spiritual, intellectual, economic and political realms.
A Shared Vision of the World We Want
There are thousands of wonderful organizations seeking to resist some aspects of what is environmentally destructive and unjust in today’s world. Too often, however, social change groups know what they are against but struggle to articulate a vision of the world they are for. As a result, hundreds of millions of people get mobilized for one struggle or another but fail to recognize all the others as their allies.
These movements try to avoid anything that sounds “too ideological” for fear of splintering the group. They believe they will be more successful if they focus on the specific struggle without trying to educate people about how the global system works or introducing activists to a larger movement that connects the disparate parts. So even if they ultimately prevail in their particular struggle, they will nonetheless discover that global corporations have made dozens of new assaults on the environment while finding ever more clever ways to present themselves as socially or environmentally responsible. This leads to exhaustion, burnout, and cynicism about the possibility of transformation.
Our New Bottom Line and the vision we put forward in our Spiritual Covenant provides the vision that is badly needed in all of these struggles. The Network of Spiritual Progressives helps people from various struggles realize their common interests, affirm the need to work together towards a shared strategy and vision. Otherwise, we have little chance of preventing the disasters that inevitably face humanity in the coming decades.
The good news is that most people quickly embrace the vision articulated in our Spiritual Covenant once they overcome their initial “certainty” that such transformation is impossible to achieve. Every time another one of us publicly affirms our support for a New Bottom Line and a Spiritual Covenant, we increase the likelihood that others will also overcome their certainty that change is impossible. It may take decades of commitment until we reach a tipping point, but at that point millions of people will suddenly realize that they have not been alone in acting on their yearning for a world based on love. At that point, the nonviolent transformation of our world becomes possible.
It is our contention that every human being has the need to actualize their capacities to be loving, generous, free, intellectually and artistically creative, playful, joyous, empathic, compassionate, forgiving and caring to others, connected in awe and wonder to the grandeur of the universe and the mystery of all being, living in harmony with Earth, and recognized, seen and understood by the many others in their lives. These capacities are systematically thwarted in a society in which people are encouraged by the dominant culture to focus primarily on their own needs without simultaneously putting equal energy into developing a world which supports the actualization of everyone else’s needs. We can’t be who we need to be without everyone else being able to actualize his or her fullest human capacities. It is the frustration of these needs, as much as the denial of material well-being and political rights that underlies the suffering of much of humanity today. And it is the failure to understand this level of human needs that condemns many who seek a world of social justice and environmental sanity to frame their struggles in ways that are experienced by many as too narrow and one-dimensional to draw them into these movements.
The following version of our continually evolving Spiritual Covenant emerged from discussions with tens of thousands of Americans over many years. We welcome your feedback and comments which you can send to email@example.com. While we will read them closely, we unfortunately do not have the capacity to individually respond to each communication.
Please be aware that there are many elements of this Spiritual Covenant that might lead to the following question: “Why don’t they tell us how we are ever going to achieve all this?” Part of the answer is that to delve more deeply into these points requires more than one book or one manifesto, and though we have some of them already written as well as published articles in Tikkun Magazine (tikkun.org), we acknowledge that full step-by-step strategies and tactics have yet to be worked out. That is partly the task of chapters of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. We hope you’ll join us at www.spiritualprogressives.org/join.
Yet there is something very concrete that you can do toward achieving tikkun olam (global transformation). We are primarily a consciousness raising organization, because we believe that the world we seek requires first an foremost a majority of people to embrace their own deepest aspirations to live in a world of love, generosity, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, treating every human being as a manifestation of the sacred, and responding to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement. All our concrete programs presented below are primarily meant as aids to envisioning that kind of a world. We are not stuck on any particular set of details, knowing that in the beautiful creative power of the human race concrete ideas will emerge that will far surpass what we’ve come up with so far. One step in that direction that our Network of Spiritual Progressives seeks to support is to get you and your friends, and/or your colleagues at work, your fellow congregants in whatever spiritual or religious community you are in, or your secular humanist community, or your civic organization or political party or your social change organization to spend time re-envisioning what that institution or organization could look like it it were in fact seeking to actualize these goals, and what first steps could be taken toward achieving those goals. When hundreds of millions of people are engaged in this act of revisioning the various institutions, corporations, governments, and societal institutions in which they lead their lives, they will become the vanguard for the kind of world-transforming movement we will need to save our planet from environmental disaster and our society from the racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, Islamophobia, antiSemitism, xenophobia and subjugation to fear and self-blaming that divide us and make any significant change extremely difficult to achieve. Keeping this goal in mind gives us a concrete path to move forward, though admittedly a path that will take many many years to actualize until we get the funding to hire tens of thousands of organizers and create training institutions to build the infrastructure for such a movement. But what YOU can do right now is to organize a group of people to engage in this conversation about what the specific institutions within which they conduct their lives could look like if the New Bottom Line of love and generosity etc. were actually governing them right how (including their work place, the schools to which they send their children, the retirement homes or arrangements for those who need assistance, their hospitals and health care programs, their city, state and federal government, their religious institutions, their television, radio, movie and online institutions from which they gain much information about their world, their community institutions and social change movements). We are taking first steps, and your yearly membership in the Network of Spiritual Progressives www.spiritualprogressives.org/join will provide us with the barest minimum support we need to move in this direction. And if you know people with more money, or people on the boards of corporations or foundations that might resonate to our goals, please ask them too to make tax-deductible grants to help us move forwar.
At the same time, while we full well know that partial steps have the potential danger of leading to disillusionment as people fight for lesser achievements, and after years of struggle find that they have not actually gotten too much closer to the world that they most deeply want, we also believe that allying with other groups and struggles can provide valuable steps along the way as long as we keep articulating in those struggles the vision of the world we seek and urge others in those struggles to do likewise.
Along with our vision of what we believe Americans long for – a social world that is loving and generous, fair and caring and dedicated to environmental sustainability, nonviolence and global peace and well-being – we also seek to align with other to address the urgent problems that so many people experience today – so we will support programs to combat racism, insure that everyone has food to eat, health care, and a roof over their head. And we are aware that others also support such immediate reforms too, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus in Washington They believe, as do we in Tikkun and NSP, that we can invest “$2 trillion over 10 years, employing 2.5 million Americans in its first year, to rebuild our transportation, water, energy, and information systems, while massively overhauling our country’s unsafe and inefficient schools, homes, and public buildings.” We, along with the Progressive Caucus of the U.S. Congress, hold that government can play an essential role in healing and restoring our nation.
Drawing on the legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt’s bold vision and adapting it to a modern context, our 21st Century New Deal for Jobs makes Wall Street, big corporations, and the wealthiest pay their fair share in order to put America back to work. It invests $2 trillion over 10 years, employing 2.5 million Americans in its first year, to rebuild our transportation, water, energy, and information systems, while massively overhauling our country’s unsafe and inefficient schools, homes, and public buildings. Yet theNew Deal for Jobs’detailed plan to nurture a vibrant, 21st century economy goes much further than rapidly achieving full employment and sustaining it over a decade. It recognizes that plentiful, dignified jobs are not enough. They must be paired with an agenda that empowers women and communities of color while protecting the planet.
We approach this whole enterprise of tikkun (healing and transformation of the world) with a spirit of humility, even as we simultaneously embrace the excitement of living at a moment in which the forces of love in the universe are beginning to assert themselves and demand that the world be changed so that love can flourish. On the one hand, we absolutely know certain things—that all life is to be cherished, that every human being is infinitely precious, that the path to transformation must be as holy as the end goals we seek, and that every human being is somewhat wounded by growing up in this social order which privileges aggression, power over others, material possessions, and selfishness. So we know that it is appropriate to have compassion for everyone including ourselves, and yet that compassion must not disempower us from struggling nonviolently but passionately to change the systems of oppression and to protect those who are suffering. We need our struggles to not lead us into frustrating anger at all those who don’t yet agree with us. We will cultivate righteous indignation at the system of oppression even as we week to empathically connect with the humanity of those who have been socialized into participating in that system.
Yet there is also a wisdom in “not knowing”—that is, in recognizing that we don’t fully know how to find the right balance in every situation, that we are likely to make mistakes, and that even the purest of our intentions can sometimes be subverted by our own inner confusions and conflicts, or by not fully understanding the complexities of another human being and hence responding at times to others in ways that are unintentionally hurtful or have unanticipated negative consequences. So the path we seek is humility about our strategies and a recognition of the limits of our ability to fully know the consequences of our actions, combined with a fierce determination to promote as much caring, generosity, social and economic fairness and justice, care of the earth, and love for each other as possible—plus an absolute commitment to never reconcile ourselves with a world that is causing severe suffering to others and to the earth. Couple that with a passionate and joyous celebration of the planet earth, of the universe, and of the gift of life and consciousness that we have been granted and you get a deep sense of the path of the spiritual progressive.
In every aspect of life, we will give priority to enhancing our capacity to respond to other human beings as embodiments of the sacred, recognizing that our well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet and on the well-being of the planet itself. We are all, everyone on this planet, flawed beings who make many mistakes in the way we treat others, so we approach this task with a commitment to humility about ourselves and empathy and compassion for everyone else. In this way we hope to make our lives congruent with the world we seek to bring into being and the unfolding of the spiritual reality of the universe around us and through us.
And just as we constantly remind each other to not be “realistic” in our goals, but instead to constantly retell each other the stories of the victories of past and present social change movements, creating gatherings to celebrate the victories, so too we remind each other that a balanced life as an agent of social change must include time for being alone and outside the movements, time inside and outside the movement to celebrate and rejoice at the grandeur and mystery of the universe, time inside and outside the movement for play and love-making, and time to introduce playfulness, art, music, dance, ritual, altered states of consciousness, and humor into our social change movements. Let our movement for transformation toward a world of love and justice become known for how much joy and fun it is to be part of it, and the world we seek will be more quickly achieved
Our current strategic goals:
- To work towards unifying the various strands and organizations of a social change movement around the vision we propose of a New Bottom Line based in love, generosity, environmental sanity, social and economic justice, compassion and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe..
- To help people see that each segment of this movement shares a common vision of the world we seek to build by encouraging them to articulate it in all of their activities.
- To then help those movements popularize this vision to the people in our world who have never even heard these kinds of ideas in serious discourse in the public sphere, never imagined the possibility of a world based on love and generosity as articulated in our New Bottom Line even though they actually are suffering by not living in such a world.
If the Spiritual Covenant can become the focus of that kind of public discussion, and NSP—Network of Spiritual Progressives members introduce this discussion into the public sphere (in any loving, empathic, and open-hearted way that you can), the NSP will be making a significant contribution. We hope that you will take upon yourself to join the NSP and become actively involved in spreading this vision. Help form a local chapter of our Network of Spiritual Progressives with friends, colleagues, co-workers, people in your political or spiritual community, and then direct that group to work with you toward popularizing the ideas you read in this article. If you feel that forming and directing a group is beyond your abilities, then we urge you to become a member yourself AND bring these ideas into whatever social justice, peace, environmental, human rights or other social change organization that you support. We urge you to engage others and have them read this perspective. Please also read our analysis of the psychopathology in US politics which presents a foundation for the first steps in a strategy to overcome the appeal of right-wing ideas, available at https://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/psychopathology-in-the-2016-election-3
If this vision speaks to you and you want to help spread this vision, please join the NSP at www.spiritualprogressives.org.
A Spiritual Covenant
As you read this document, you might experience some skepticism and doubt, a voice telling you “this is not possible”. As you visualize these changes, please resist the entry of “the reality police”, namely, all those internal and external voices which discourage the possibility of these changes as “unrealistic” in light of current political circumstances. Rather, allow yourself to imagine these changes being possible and notice how you feel when you envision them happening. Please remember that these same reality police were telling women that it was unrealistic to challenge patriarchy, people of color that it was unrealistic to end segregation or South African apartheid, gays and lesbians that it was unrealistic to seek marriage equality.
The realists are frequently wrong!!! They articulate what they’ve read in establishment newspapers, magazines and television, webinars and tweets and social media simplistic analyses by talking heads, plus what they’ve learned in colleges and universities which rarely give tenure to those who seek fundamental progressive social transformation. The realists reflect what those in power are able to impose on the rest of us in the guise of “common sense,” disempowering people so that they resign themselves to a world that is frustrating their deepest needs.
If you feel inspired or excited by what you read below, even if at points you disagree with some specific suggestion or program (we are still in the process of developing how best to embody the values we share and welcome the participation of members of the NSP in refining our detailed program to make it a fuller manifestation of the New Bottom Line), please join us in helping to build this kind of world. Join thousands of others as a member of the NSP– Network of Spiritual Progressives at www.spiritualprogressives.org. If you want to contact Cat Zavis, our executive director of the NSP, email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org . And please read on…because we actually have the start of a vision of the world we want and that might stimulate you to help us develop this vision even further and with more details and/or to give us ideas on better ways to envision a world of love and justice!
A Path to a Loving and Just World
The following is the platform of the NSP—Tikkun magazine’s interfaith and secular-humanist-and-atheist-inclusive Network of Spiritual Progressives).
1. Support Families and Building A Caring Economy
We will create a society that promotes rather than undermines loving and caring relationships and families.
Every institution, economic or social practice that encourages us to see others as instruments for our own advancement rather than as embodiments of the sacred must be reshaped so that they instead maximize our capacities to be loving, generous, and caring.
We will resist the conservative assault on the economic well-being of middle income working people and its transfer of wealth to the wealthiest 1% of wealth holders, its defunding of the public sphere, its ruthless pursuit of privatization of education, health care, social services, and the dismantling of the social support network. We will oppose defunding government so that it cannot offer the protections it once sought to provide as a limit on the selfishness and indifference to the well-being of the majority of humanity by most of the corporate dominated economy and most of the super-rich. And we will resist politicians in both major political parties in the U.S. and in a variety of parties in other countries and think tanks and media that justify this similar assault on government and the idea that people should only help each other spontaneously but not through government support. Aware of the many ways that government employees who enter government jobs because of a genuine desire to help and serve others but then find themselves in systems that prevent them from using their creativity and goodness to serve and so develop over time a deep cynicism that manifests as insensitivity to the people they serve, we will (simultaneously with supporting government to be our agents to show each other that we care for each other) restructure government in ways that reward those who show genuine caring and concern for all those they are serving in the public while removing from government those who have lost that capacity. While protecting those who have worked for the public for decades and deserve our support and retirement benefits, we will gradually recruit people who understand that government must begin to feel like an opportunity to be caring for others and to be our representatives to the public in generating a new appreciation of how love and caring can shape a society, and not a “safe space” for people who lack creativity and the consciousness to serve others with a spirit of generosity and empathy.
And imagine a government bureaucracy in which hiring and promotion and salary levels are shaped in part by the degree to which the people they serve report satisfaction with the way they have been treated (not necessarily the outcome of their requests, which may be determined by laws that the bureaucrat is implementing, but by the ability of those bureaucrats to communicate that they genuinely care about the wellbeing of the people they are serving, and reflect the notion that the government itself is a vehicle through which all of us are manifesting are caring for each other by hiring these government workers to be our agents to demonstrate that caring.
We fully support all the movements seeking economic justice and protection from the irrationalities of the global capitalist system. But we will not follow the path of many on the Left who believe that economic fairness and economic well-being are the only dimensions of society that we as a people can address together. Instead, we insist that building a world that supports rather than undermines our capacities to be loving and caring and generous towards each other and toward the planet Earth are equally important goals for our lives together as citizens and as participants in the world’s potential community of sentient beings.
We acknowledge that many on the Left are already motivated by these concerns. Yet when in the public sphere, they too often feel reluctant to talk about love, caring and generosity, worried that this will subject them to ridicule as seeming “too soft” or “too flaky. Consider the 2016 campaign of Bernie Sanders, for whom many spiritual progressives votes in the Democratic Party primaries even while having doubts about the Democratic Party’s ability to articulate a New Bottom Line. Valuable as many of Bernie’s programs were, his themes often boiled down primarily to economic entitlements and political rights. While these are extremely important, and central to the concerns of Spiritual Progressives as well, by themselves without also talking about the non-material forms of suffering generated by the ethos of materialism and selfishness that is endemic to the capitalist marketplace and that get internalized and brought home and undermine families and loving relationships, a politics that stays solely on that level of rights and entitlements do not speak deeply enough to the heart, and seemed to many voters to be merely a recycling of socialist and New Deal ideas which had not actually created a fulfilling world where they had been tried. As wonderful as his program was, Sanders did not manage to get the votes of a majority of the Democratic Party primary voters, which might not have been the case had he added this Spiritual Progressive dimension into his public discourse and his proposed programs. What is needed beyond radical economics is a radical commitment to a world of love, kindness, generosity – a caring society in which we care for the Earth and one another. The irony is that Bernie and most of his supporters really want that kind of a world, but trapped in a worldview that thinks that talk about love and caring is somehow soft, apolitical, or something that belongs solely in personal life and not in the way we create our economic and political institutions, they leave themselves vulnerable to the suspicion that they have an economistic reductionist view of the world in which all that people really need is more money and more rights–a view that seems very unsatisfying to those who know that people with plenty of money and rights are often just as bereft of decent human relationships as those without money or rights, and that it is a difficult task to build those nurturing human relationships in a society where most people send most of their working hours in workplaces that encourage them to look at others through the lens of utilitarian or instrumental consciousness: “what can I get from this person to advance my needs and interests, how can I most effectively manipulate them to get more money, to prove to my employer that I am serving the material interests of this shop, enterprise, corporation, or to maximize my power or fame.” People who have spent all day in such a world, and who then turn on the television or movies in which the same assumptions are re-presented to them as “the real world” in which everyone supposedly cares only about themselves, end up being very poor candidates for building loving relationships, and when surrounded by such people, as most of us are, it becomes very difficult (not impossible, but very difficult) to build friendships, relationships, and families that give the depth of caring, support and love that all human beings need.
Our economic system is not only unfair to the majority of people who are impacted by its operations. It also promotes values and ways of seeing the world which are destructive to families and to our human capacities to build and sustain loving friendships, marriages, and families, and which are destructive to the earth.
So Spiritual Progressives will challenge cynical attempts to reduce life to self-interest and power over others. And we will oppose the cheapening of sexuality that regularly occurs in advertising and mass media and reduces love to a mere extension of narcissistic self-gratification. We seek to build a society that supports rather than undermines families, friendships and loving relationships. Though part of doing so requires economic transformations, part of the task is to encourage a different set of values than those which emanate from the competitive marketplace.
Some steps in this direction include the following:
* Because we value adequate time for family, joy, reflection, engagement in community, and contribution to the well being of all on this planet, we will champion a reduced workweek of thirty hours per week. One reason we believe it is immediately possible to dramatically reduce the work week from forty to thirty hours a week is that much of the labor expended today is dedicated to the production and delivery of goods and services that would not be deemed necessary if the advertising industry and the media had not relentlessly fostered in us a desire for them. With less time consumed at work, there will be much more time to share the joys of human relationships, give time to one’s children and aging parents, and time to develop one’s other interests including involvement in the democratic processes that must become more open to the input of us ordinary citizens!
*We will create a public banking system that seeks to benefit those least able to provide adequate financial support for themselves and to provide financing for socially and environmentally valuable projects. Public banking frees the credit potential of public revenues and then harnesses this public wealth to create sustainable, abundant and affordable credit. This credit — our credit — supports our economy and citizens if it is then used to build economic capacity (think renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, etc. — things that private banks do not fund). And we will replace the Federal Reserve with a system governing the production and distribution of money that serves the public interest rather than the richest individuals and corporations.
* We will replace the economic ethos of “growth” with an ethos of sustainability and inner emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth.
*We would like to see income taxes at close to confiscatory rates on the portion of anyone’s annual income above seven times the annual income of the median income in this society , as well as an annual wealth taxes on wealth in excess of 10 times the median wealth of people in this society (though not counting in this the value of one’s owned primary residence since housing prices vary so dramatically in different parts of the country), and higher taxes on individuals with incomes above five times the median income in the society.
*We seek a guaranteed annual income for everyone in the society at a level sufficient to support their families so that their basic necessities are ensured, including food, clothing, shelter, health care, child care, elder care, education, and basic home energy supplies. Monies from these taxes will help offset a massive program to build environmentally sustainable energy supplies and transportation systems, as well as reshape cities to enable people to live and play close to where they work. With a guaranteed annual income, work places will have increasing pressure upon them to provide work that is felt by people to be making a genuine contribution to the society and/or that provides enough emotional nourishment to make it feel desirable to work. In our society as currently constituted, this would be an immediate disaster because few people would want to go to work. But in a society which was genuinely based on caring in all of its institutions and values, many people would actually want to contribute to the wellbeing of their neighbors in a way that seems currently fanciful because people would be ridiculed for acting on such a value when everyone else is just looking out for themselves. So this program will have to be introduced in stages, with the first stage being a living wage sufficient to meet basic needs for all employees (and with public support to nonprofits who cannot afford to hire people with such a wage).
*Both for the sake of the environment and for the sake of challenging the market-driven consumer mentality that leads so many people to feel that the way to compensate for lack of caring relationships is to buy things for themselves and only way to show love to others is to buy things for them that they really don’t need, we need to make reduction of consumption a major part of building a caring society.
To develop the capacity to let go of consumerism and the capitalist addiction to endless growth of the economy, we seek to foster a spiritual life by encouraging our communities to follow any religious or non-religious path that increases our the ability to be satisfied with fewer material goods
Some of this involves encouraging practices such as meditation, prayer, artistic creativity, dance, playing musical instruments, community singing, walks or camping in beautiful settings in nature, and the celebration of a weekly Sabbath day of rest and removal of attention from the world of “getting and spending” or otherwise exercising domination over nature.
Another contribution to developing this consciousness will be the introduction of a yearlong sabbatical every seventh year, which we will discuss more fully in the section on the environment.
*We seek to build a society in which people are able to find meaningful work that contributes to the public good or connects to some higher purpose other than the accumulation of money or power. Work, while not always fun or intellectually stimulating, can be filled with a sense of meaning when we are in service to the common interests of humanity rather than the interests of corporate profiteers.
*Every institution should have a process in place in which the workers are allowed to assess whether their workplace is truly contributing to the greater well-being of society. The workers should further be able to make suggestions for what could be changed to ensure their efforts add to the common good of humanity and the environmental survival of the planet. Those suggestions should be directed both to the top management and to the committee that will be assessing whether in fact this workplace is serving the well being of the society as a whole. The full discussion on the importance of meaning and voice in the workplace is delineated in our Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (www.tikkun.org/esra).
* Workplaces should be mandated to grant time in each week for workers to develop their intellectual, spiritual and political interests, as well as time to exercise and care for their physical well-being. In such a world, where work feels meaningful and working people are given time to pursue non-work meaningful activities during their time of paid labor, and in which workers and retirees of every type are recognized for making a valuable contribution to the common good, all will feel respected in ways absent in the current capitalist society.
In our current society, the top 20% of the wealthy own 85% of the wealth and the 80% less rich own 15% of the wealth. The top 1% of the wealthiest in the US population own 40% of the wealth. When justifying the production of goods that are wasting the resources of the planet, defenders of the extreme form of market society in the U.S. will often say, “hey, we are just producing what people want—the market is just a democratic way to make decisions about what we want to do with our time on earth and with the earth itself.” This argument falls flat once one realizes that the market doesn’t work on the basis of one person one vote (the democratic approach) but based on the principle of $1 one vote. So, when it comes to the decision of what should be produced and consumed, a family living on $70,000 a year may find that they barely have enough to pay for rent or mortgage, food, basic clothing, transportation needed to get to work, and basic energy needs, perhaps leaving only $3,000 a year for non essential purposes. Whereas someone making $250,000 a year might spend more on food, clothing, housing, and some of these other basics, but still have $60,000 left to pay for items of choice like expensive vacations, luxury items, yearly purchases of the newest electronic gadgets—that is, 20 times the amount of dollars (which equate to votes about what should be produced and consumed).
Given the huge disparity in wealth, the smaller but richest part of the population has vastly more votes in the form of dollars than the rest of us, and thus can waste the resources of our planet by consuming luxury items that are often more about status symbols than about fulfilling basic needs.
This also results in a reality in which many jobs are unnecessary from the standpoint of the sustainability of the planet and human well-being. Once we eliminate unnecessary work and the production of unnecessary goods and services, it will become possible to cut our work hours and create a sabbatical year for everyone, that is, a year in every seven in which people do not have to work and yet still have enough food, clothing, transportation, health care, etc. To be a truly caring society which values people not for what they can do for others but because they are each seen as deserving of respect just because they are part of the human family, and to offset the fear of new technologies that may soon displace many workers, and to protect working people from the manipulations that often happen when corporations can arbitrarily lay off large numbers of their workers in order to increase their profits, we will develop a guaranteed income for all in the society sufficient for people to be able to pay for their basic necessities of rent food, clothing and energy (electricity, heating, air conditioning, and transportation).
*But these economic benefits are only one aspect of supporting loving relationships. We must also resist those forces within our society that foster the qualities that make love more difficult to sustain: cynicism, harshness, bullying, individualism, self-centeredness, fear, and disconnection from life’s meaning and the possibility of transformation.
*As a first step, we will provide free education for people at every stage in their lives focused on teaching empathic communication, conflict resolution skills, skills in dealing with relationships with friends or lovers, restorative justice, skills for divorced couples, family dynamics and finding one’s own meaning for and vocation in life. And we will require every private loan company or bank that has profited from student loan repayments in the past to forgive each such loan after ten years in which the student has been engaged in societally valuable work.
*As part of the process to build a society based on love, caring, environmental sanity, nonviolence, generosity, and social and economic justice, we urge people in every corporation, workplace, governmental institution, and school to develop a concrete plan delineating how they would run that institution if given the power to recreate it in accord with these values. While the visioning we suggest will help people get in touch with the kind of world they want to live and work in and hence make them more effective in struggling for those changes, the actual changes we seek on a societal level cannot adequately be achieved one institution at a time because of the interdependence of the global marketplace. Yet this visioning can help towards realizing the ESRA mandated juries which stipulate what changes might be needed for the corporation to be judged worthy of retaining a corporate charter (more on this at www.tikkun.org/esra )
Imagine, for example, a work place that chooses its leadership based not only on their ability to build a financially successful business, but also on their ability to treat their employees with care, kindness, and respect. Imagine a work place which promotes employee cooperation with one another, shows respect and care for actual and potential customers, comes up with ideas that enhance the capacity of that enterprise to serve the common good and repair the environment, and actively promotes participation in democratic decision making about all aspects of how that enterprise operates in the world.
Imagine also such a workplace giving a few hours each week to each employee to dedicate to his or her own inner emotional, spiritual and/or intellectual development without imposing any particular path but by allowing each worker to make these decisions.
Imagine an economy that promotes and helps build cooperatives, social ventures, and local sustainable economies while simultaneously democratizing the national and international economic arrangements including banks and investment companies, and builds legal arrangements that make it easier for people to cooperate rather than compete with each other, and facilitates the sharing of the world’s resources and the consumer goods that are already widely available.
When people will spend the workday in an environment which promotes caring values, they will be far more likely to incorporate those values into family life and personal relationships, thereby replacing the values of individualism, selfishness, dog-eat-dog competition and ruthless advancement of self without regard for others. This, unfortunately, tends to be what many people bring home daily in our society from the work place, values shaped by the ethos of the competitive marketplace which are guaranteed to weaken or destroy families, caring friendships and loving relationships.
We spiritual progressives are a “pro-families” movement, including the whole range of family forms that have evolved in the past decades. These include communities that act as families, remaining respectful of those who have chosen not to be part of any family grouping. Family, to our understanding, is any relationship between two or more people who are committed to always accepting and cherishing each family member regardless of how they are doing in the competitive marketplace or the larger world. This unconditional acceptance exists regardless of family members’ “success,” “power,” “fame,” or any other external accomplishments, and includes the committment to being there for each family member when they are sick, when they are weak or needy or growing unable to fully take care of themselves. In our definition of family, there is no requirement of a biological tie, but only a caring commitment that extends throughout the lives of the family members. Our goal is to help create a world which supports rather than undermines loving relationships and unconditionally loving families, while supporting those who leave families that do not and are unwilling to change to provide such love and support.
Families are stronger when they are not isolated from each other, but are connected to a community or communities that promote a connection to some higher meaning and purpose for life. That community could be religious or secular, political or cultural, as long as it counters the ethos of individualism and selfishness of the capitalist marketplace. Yet, a trap that has limited the value of communities of meaning in the past is their tendency to assert their approach as the only legitimate approach and to either explicitly or implicitly blame the weakness of families and loving relationships on some often socially demeaned “Other”. The “Other” has most recently in North America included African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, feminists, refugees, undocumented workers, Muslims, liberals, Jews, with an ever growing list.. Communities of meaning are healthy and contributing to a world of love to the extent that they affirm the value of every human being on the planet, not just the members of their own particular community.
To promote lasting and loving relationships, people will benefit greatly by living in an economy that promotes caring for others and an educational system that teaches people the techniques of caring and empathy. To achieve that, we need a fundamental transformation of our economic and political lives. We believe that will only happen when a mass movement emerges that is not only clear in its commitment to a world based on love and generosity, environmental sanity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe but which also embodies those values within the activities of that movement itself.
Imagine a political system in which decisions in Congress or in other parts of government are based in part on which policies would foster the greatest amount of nonviolence, replace domination relationships with cooperative relationships, and promote the well-being of everyone on the planet equally beyond the well-being of one’s own country, How different political life could be!
Imagine a political system in which the major decisions would be made through direct democracy. That system would use the internet and future technological developments to make it possible for people to vote at home several times a year on the major issues now decided by legislative bodies. The only requirement for people to vote would be to first listen to an hour-long presentation by each side before voting on a major issue being considered. The task of the legislatures and Congress on such major issues would be to frame the issues by highlighting the major philosophical and ideological differences represented by the alternatives being considered, Minority views not yet found among those who hold elected office would also be presented.
This is not a program for replacing capitalism with what in the past has been labeled socialism or communism, but rather for creating what we call “The Caring Society–Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth”., While the system we are describing incorporates many elements that are commonly called “socialist,” we are not calling for a socialist society. Our call goes far beyond socialism as practiced in social democratic countries in Europe. Like them, we still see some value in a marketplace and in the free operation of small businesses and small level entrepeneurs and inventors as one part of the economy, as long as the huge disparities in wealth have been eliminated through taxation so that most people have the same ability to shape that marketplace through purchasing goods, as long as the operations of large corporations are subject to the ESRA — the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (www.tikkun.org/esra ), and as long as the people as a whole have democratic rights to make environmental, safety and health, and ethical requirements imposed on the operations of that marketplace (e.g. banning the production of goods and services that promote violence, domination, hate or poor use of the resources of the earth).
Yet we are aware of a danger when democratic control of economic and political life that must also be resisted—the danger of new forms of political correctness emerging in which people get emotionally coerced to conform to values or ideas or forms of societal organization that are oppressive. So we shall build checks and balances through an independent judiciary to which ordinary people can appeal to get relief from such perceived coercion. Our economic and political arrangements will give priority to fostering democracy in the economy and political life, but also insist on absolute rights to individual freedom and privacy to make one’s own decisions without fear of societal coercion into private life, banning the kind of government supervision or spying on one’s personal conversations, writings, use of internet or other forms of communication—or any other ingenious ways that government agencies and private sector corporations might come up with to gather information about the personal lives or choices of its citizens, as has happened in the 21st century by the CIA, NSA, FBI and various branches of military intelligence operatives. Whistle blowers who reveal government or corporation secrets about ways that the government or corporations have been violating the ethical values of the society, or seeking control or spying, or seeking to manipulate public opinions by knowingly providing false information to the public, shall be rewarded with promotions and public honors while those government or military or intelligence officials who have been implicated in such activities shall be subject to financial fines or jail, and will be banned from government service or employment in the sectors of the economy in which they had been working.
Socialism has been understood primarily as an economic system based on top-down decisions from a government that often becomes unaccountable to the people it is supposed to serve. We are calling for a transformation of the economy in ways that include serious democratic control of the economy and the workplace, something that has not yet been achieved by most societies that describe themselves as socialist. This includes an ethical, psychological and spiritual framework that can best be described as “The Caring Society–Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth” and governed by the New Bottom Line we articulate in this article. Whatever you may call it, whether shmocialism or shmapitalism, it is a fundamental transformation of, if not complete repudiation of, the ethos and much, though not all, of the workings of the capitalist system. Yet there is a place for market mechanisms—but only as democratically controlled with care by everyone in the society.
The first step in that direction is to promote a New Bottom Line so that every institution, corporation, government policy, the economic system, the legal system, the educational system, and even our own personal lives are seen as efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize our capacities to be loving, caring, kind, generous, and environmentally responsible. The New Bottom Line strives for engagement in activities to promote social, economic and environmental justice, seeing other human beings as fundamentally deserving of our caring and respect, and responding to the Earth and the larger universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement. This New Bottom Line will help us promote The Caring Society—Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.
Instead of seeing other human beings primarily in instrumental or utilitarian terms, such as how they could serve my personal needs or advance my personal interests in the world, we would see them as fundamentally deserving of respect and caring as ends in themselves rather than as a means to our own ends, (“sacred beings” in religious terms). Rather than seeing the Earth and the universe solely as “resources” to satisfy human needs, we will also see them as amazing living realities of which we are a part, deserving of care and eliciting both joy and thanksgiving. These are the values that would be taught to children throughout their schooling, promoted by mass media, and be the criteria used as a major criterion for hiring, promotion and retention in the world of work. Over the course of several generations these values would sink into the consciousness and “common sense” of people just as the “looking our for number one” and “suspect that others are out to take advantage” have seeped into the consciousness and “common sense” of people growing up and working in a capitalist society.
CONTRAST: LIBERAL AGENDA — Family support is always posed in terms that emphasize economic entitlements. Yet family breakdown is not confined to the erosion of economic supports, as is often the liberal platform’s viewpoint, but further includes the fear that many have about the breakdown of loving commitments resulting in loneliness, isolation, and abandonment. While we agree with the economic supports proposed by most liberals, we see them as necessary but not sufficient.
Liberal programs, while publicly bemoaning inequalities, rarely challenge the fundamental inequalities that have increased over the course of the past fifty years. They seek to restore the economic safety network so that no one falls “too low,” but do not embrace radical redistribution efforts such as those ordained by the Biblical injunction to redistribute the wealth every fifty years in the Jubilee. We’d like to see the Jubilee become part of life in the advanced industrial societies around the world. This concept, articulated in the Torah (the five books of Moses which are the first books of the Bible) is one reason why ruling elites have often found the Torah to be scary and radical unless it is reinterpreted in ways more congenial to them in any given society.
Liberal policies focus on measures to enhance the fairness of the competitive marketplace so that racism, sexism, homophobia, disabilities, and injuries do not impair anyone’s ability to compete effectively.
In contrast, spiritual progressives, while supporting an end to racism, sexism, homophobia and discrimination towards those with physical or emotional disabilities, do not believe that competition for scarce resources is the right model for building a loving society. We want a society and economy that produces solidarity and caring rather than competitiveness and domination. We seek to establish an understanding, reflected in both income and wealth, that everyone who does socially necessary work (from physicians, to teachers, to computer technicians, to scientists, to child care workers, to garbage collectors, to agricultural workers) all deserve the same societal support and financial rewards for the same amount of time expended at work. We propose that the years spent in developing various societally-needed professional expertise must be fully publicly financed to counter the massive debts often accrued.
CONTRAST: CONSERVATIVE AGENDA — Within conservative ideology, family support often paradoxically includes restricting the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, teaching women to be subordinate to men in family life, and opposing abortion while providing little support to the child. They also promote the idea that families should be embedded in religious communities. Progressives could recuperate the positive potential of this last idea by creating “communities of meaning”, be they secular, religious, or spiritual, that are free of right-wing ideology.
Conservatives oppose programs that seek to foster the benevolence of human beings, either because they think that the capitalist market is already fostering the qualities needed by all, or because they fear that the government will use excessive power to serve its own interests.
We believe that the goals we articulate can only be achieved through a collective, global, communitarian decision to build a world of love, generosity, and environmental sanity or else face the possibility of an end to human life on this planet. Building support for this goal is a major focus of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.
2. Personal Responsibility
We will take personal responsibility for ethical behavior.
Taking personal responsibility for ethical behavior requires us to shape a purpose-driven life connected to our highest values, devote energy to caring for each other, affirm pleasure and joy, revive the sacred element in sexuality, and live a spiritually grounded life.
Government and caring-oriented social arrangements cannot take the place of our own personal responsibility for making ethical choices.
Each of us can encourage ourselves, our friends, our family members, and people with whom we work or engage in sports, social life, spiritual or religious activities, and civic activities to make a daily commitment to living according to our own highest values.
We will encourage each other and ourselves to be empathic, compassionate, generous, and genuinely caring toward each other, and forgiving while simultaneously recognizing that each of us is unlikely to be the fullest embodiment of our own highest ideals. We will further take responsibility for our own personal and communal missteps along the way, making amends whenever possible and learning how to repair unintended consequences of hurtful behavior. We will adopt practices for reflection, gentle self-criticism, repentance, and atonement. These are skills which will be taught in school, reinforced in mass media and embodied in the ethos of the workplace.
While we will challenge and hold accountable those who are engaged in destructive practices, we will avoid demeaning them, always recognizing that they too are embodiments of the sacred. We approach the building of a compassionate and loving society with humility, recognizing our capacity to make serious mistakes. This is why generosity and empathy are imperative when dealing with one another, with those with whom we have political differences, and even with ourselves. Too often, we are own worst critics, and that self-punishing part of ourselves can become the springboard to harsh behavior towards others. So we will vigorously oppose the equally strong danger of totalitarian political correctness forcing people to profess loyalty to values that they do not hold in order to convince others that they are responsible citizens. For example, we wish to build a society that rejects racism, sexism, homophobia, antiSemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and religio-phobia. But we have witnessed what happens when these views get suppressed either legally or through societal coercion–they simply go underground, and manifest in sympathy for right-wing extremist movements that use code words to protect themselves from being legally banned. So while we support positive measures to challenge all these kinds of destructive views, including required courses at every level of education to expose the fallacies and lies on which they are based, and to help people develop empathy for others who are different in some way than most of the people with whom they normally feel comfortable, and will make sure that behaviors in the work world, and in education and entertainment and other public institutions fosters more caring attitudes, we will treat people with these views as victims of painful childhoods or painful adult experiences that need to be healed rather than simply repressed.
Yet we also recognize that all of us have inner distortions that have been passed on to us by our families of origin, our educational system, our lives absorbing the ethos of the global capitalist marketplace and the media and political institutions it controls. So we all have various pains and limitations that make us less loving and caring than we could be. So we commit to being continually attentive to “working on ourselves” even as we work to change the larger society. For some, a regular spiritual, prayer or meditation practice may facilitate a healing of parts of ourselves that are self-punishing or hurtful to others. For others, learning skills of empathic communication could be helpful. And for yet others, the guidance of a spiritual coach, a counselor, or a psychotherapist could serve well. These healing professions should be supported so that everyone in the society can have access to them, but without societal coercion pushing people into counseling that they do not wish to have.
In the process of building a new society, movements for social transformation should regularly encourage its members to engage in some form of working on oneself, even while challenging people to not fall into the narcissistic fascination with self that undermines the ability to fully commit to the adventure and struggle of healing and transforming our society.
In the highly individualistic society in which we live, it is all too easy to fall into thinking that we are changing the world if we just nurture ourselves and our own intimate and family relationships. The challenges we face in a world of environmental crisis, the wild inequality in economic and political power, the suffering of the poor, the homeless and the refugees, and the anger and loneliness that so many people face when living in a society in which they rarely get the recognition and support they so badly need cannot be solved by inner healing and inner psychological or spiritual growth alone. Yet we know how disruptive and discouraging people who are deeply psychologically wounded or badly in need of recognition and ego gratification can be to those movements. So personal and societal transformation must go hand-in-hand, never discounting the importance of either if we are to succeed in changing and healing our world. For that reason, it is important for us to develop approaches to spirituality, religion, counseling and psychotherapy, which validate both personal, familial, and societal aspects of the healing and transformation (tikkun) that is needed, and to challenge any spiritual or religious or psychotherapeutic movement or technique which does not advance growth in both personal life and societal transformation. This widening of understanding of what causes psychic pain should be a central part of “continuing education” requirements for people in any of the healing or helping professions, including all fields of medicine, psychology, social work, education, and religious counseling.
At every stage in the transformation to a new society, and in its operations after we’ve been able to reach “the caring society,” compassion for ourselves and each other must be a major guiding principle.
When people fully understand how destructive our societal arrangements have been to the planet and to each other there will be a tendency to become harsh towards oneself and others who have participated in the practices of oppressive societies. Similarly when people who have been victims of racism, sexism homophobia, economic deprivation, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or exploitation of the earth become aware of how deeply they have been hurt by these practices there could be a desire to simply reverse the power relationships and oppress those who had previously been the oppressors or beneficiaries of unfair or discriminatory practices. This is understandable on the feeling level, but must be avoided. So we will take responsibility both as individuals and as a society to promote a spirit of generosity toward those (almost everyone in the society) who could be viewed as having had “privileges” based on the demeaning or systematic denial of rights and protections in our current society, recognizing that few of them actually created the distortions, recognizing also that in other ways they too were victims of the perversions built into a society based on selfishness and materialism since their own humanity was stunted, but equally importantly, recognizing that carrying that anger and acting it out toward previous oppressors will distort our new society and make it impossible for us to actually build a society based on love and caring. So compassion for everyone becomes a high priority even as we dismantle systems of oppression and privilege. The oppressive systems must be replaced, those who defend them should be vigorously challenged, but the people involved in these misguided activities must be treated as embodiments of the sacred. So, for example, when we put Henry Kissinger on trial for his war crimes against the Vietnamese people, and hopefully see him spending the rest of his life in prison, we will do so with a respectful attitude, even as we mourn his hundreds of thousands of victims. And in many cases we will try to follow the compassionate spirit of the South African Truth and Reconciliation model, because we are more interested in creating the foundations for a workable new society than in exacting vengeance on those who have committed crimes in the existing society.
,CONTRAST: LIBERAL AGENDA — Liberal politicians rarely articulate any sense of personal responsibility because they claim that these issues are “personal” and have no role in the public sphere. We agree with them in opposing legislation on these issues but do not agree that they have no place in the public arena. A movement can foster an “ethos” as well as legislation, and that is exactly what happened when we fostered the ethos of respect for women, LGBT people, and minority groups. Taking personal responsibility is not just a personal issue. It involves creating a community that encourages, supports, and nurtures people in taking responsibility for their actions and caring about others. Liberal discourse often neglects the importance of this sort of community building and ethos-shaping. Given the extreme individualism and narcissism fostered by corporate owned industries such as television, movies, publishing and other consciousness shaping institutions that people face in daily life, we must foster communities that support people to overcome these subtle but pervasive forms of indoctrination in order to live more fully in a caring society.
CONTRAST: CONSERVATIVE AGENDA — Conservatives propose increased “personal responsibility” as an alternative to badly needed social programs such as health care, welfare, education, and shelter for the homeless. They claim to be concerned about poverty, but then slash the social programs that ameliorate it, saying that individuals should take responsibility for eliminating poverty by getting jobs. They fail to acknowledge and address that unemployment is a structural issue and that many jobs among the working poor do not yield adequate incomes to support a family, particularly given the inadequacy of our childcare systems.
In contrast, when spiritual progressives talk about taking personal responsibility, we do so not to replace government and societal programs, but rather to address areas in our own personal lives where we could have a huge impact.
3. Environmental Responsibility
SAVE the Life Support System of Planet EARTH!
Earth is the natural and sacred home of all its peoples, so we are committed to developing personal behavior, societal practices, and corporate and governmental policies aimed at enhancing environmental sustainability of human communities and the planet Earth and its animals. We are further committed to transforming and repairing behaviors that have had an adverse impact on the planet’s long-term environmental welfare. Among other goals, we seek to alleviate global warming, reduce pollution, restore the ecological balance of the oceans and assure the well-being of all forests, agricultural land, animal life, and the air.
We need to repair the earth from the impact of hundreds of years of environmentally irresponsible forms of industrialization by both capitalist and self-described socialist societies, and from an economic system that requires destructive expansion to stay viable. This economic system is nothing less than a vast ponzi scheme with the earth as its primary victim in which her resources are exhausted for the sake of greater profits, and which promotes our desires for consumption yielding huge amounts of garbage and pollution of water, air and land. This will require developing a new consciousness in all of the Earth’s peoples, so that the frenzy of acquiring more and more becomes subordinated to protecting the earth and taking care of all her inhabitants.
We first need to take emergency steps to reverse climate warming which has been produced by a global dependence on fossil fuels. Carbon and methane now represent the deadliest enemy of all time, the first force fully capable of harrying, scattering, and impoverishing our entire civilization.
Oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuels need to be left in the ground and not used to provide us with energy. The transition to other sources of energy must become a major focus for all Americans, all branches of government, all corporations, and all educational institutions within the next twenty years.
America could generate 80 to 85% of its power from sun, wind, and water by 2030 and 100% by 2050. If we move quickly enough to meet the goal of 80 percent clean power by 2030, then the world’s carbon dioxide levels would fall below the relative safe level of 350 parts per million by the end of the century. The pace of that heating would slow substantially if not cease.
To do this we need an immediate ban on fracking, a carbon tax, a prohibition against drilling or mining fossil fuels on public lands, a climate litmus test for new developments, an end to World Bank financing of fossil fuel plants and a full mobilization of societal resources to build sun and wind energy equipment that can provide adequate alternative sources of energy.
To achieve all this will require significant political victories and changes in the way that the super-wealthy and their corporations shape the decisions we make as a society. For that we will need ESRA–The Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The ESRA is a comprehensive plan to restore democracy in our politics and economy. For state and federal elections, private donations from corporations, individuals and political parties or any other source will be forbidden. Allowable donations will be monies to be granted equally to all major candidates by state legislatures for statewide elections and the U.S. Congress for all elections for the House, the Senate, and the presidency.
The second clause of the ESRA requires any corporation, whether based in the U.S. or abroad, with incomes of $50 million or more per year and operating or selling its products or services within the U.S. or to U.S. citizens, to get a new U.S. federal corporate charter once every five years. Such a charter would only be granted to those corporations that could prove to an Environmental and Social Responsibility Panel that it had a satisfactory history of social responsibility. These ESRA Panels will be composed of ordinary citizens chosen at random and will be given guidance by a panel of environmental experts chosen by the scientific community. They will hear testimony from employees of the corporation, people in the communities where that corporation resides, communities in which that corporation and its corporate subsidiaries have their offices, factories, and communities around the world where its products, services, advertising, waste disposal and other environmental and/or social impacts are being experienced by the local or global populations.
The ESRA Panels will either be able to renew the corporate charter or put the corporation on probation for three years time to rectify problems the Panel identifies as significant. The Panel may also deny the corporation a new charter . If the charter is denied, the Panel will consider plans by other groups, such as unions or groups of workers of that corporation, proposing to run that same corporation in a more environmentally and socially responsible manner. This would lead to a replacement of the current board of directors and top management of that corporation in favor of another group of directors and top managers who would do the best job of keeping the corporation running while dramatically improving its environmental and social responsibility.
The ESRA also mandates corporations seeking to move outside the US to pay reparations for the economic damage caused by that move to communities and employees who had depended on that corporation for their tax base and for their employment security. It also abrogates any treaties or trade arrangements and any laws or parts of the U.S. Constitution that violate or undermine the enforcement of the ESRA.
We see the ESRA as one powerful and concrete step toward our larger goal of transforming the bottom line in our economy, government, and social institutions. A more complete version of the ESRA is published online at tikkun.org/ESRA.
It may be necessary for the sake of getting this second part of ESRA enacted to first separate and seek support for public funding in a separate amendment. Yet doing this poses the danger that corporations and the super-rich will limit the environmental and social responsibility impact of public funding of elections by threatening to move their operations outside of the U.S. if environmental or socially responsible restrictions are passed into law by a more environmentally and socially responsible Congress or by the state legislatures. Fearing the negative impact on employment, even the best Congress or State Legislature might understandably capitulate to that pressure, as they frequently do now…and the citizenry that had fought for years for public funding could easily revert into despair at those democratic procedures seen as subordinate to the power of the top 1% of wealth holders. Or, if those legislatures and Congress did not submit to this threat, they might soon face an angry and despairing electorate for having allowed their employment to be shipped abroad. Therefore, it would seem far better to keep both of these parts of the ESRA together and build consciousness of the need for both parts to be passed. The second part of the ESRA requires all corporations with revenues greater than $50 million a year operating or offering their services or products within the US to prove a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility once every five years to a jury of ordinary citizens. Unless they want to give up on the US market altogether, these corporations would face these restrictions should they be located in the U.S., and relocating outside the U.S. for the sake of avoiding the environmental and social responsibilities that might be imposed by state legislatures or by the US Congress would no longer be a viable option. Moreover, the ESRA mandates massive reparations to the communities those companies may have damaged while operating here or the damage that will be caused to the community that they have abandoned.
The ESRA also requires schools at all grade levels, including graduate and professional, to provide environmental education that includes skills in how to live in cooperation with each other and the Earth. This will include skills in empathic communication, democratic participation, nonviolence, and organizing for social change.
Most local governments contract with corporations to fulfill city projects to avoid directly hiring the skilled workers required for the project. Too often, the corporations then sub-contract to employers who pay little attention to the well-being of their own workers or the well-being of the planet. As detailed in ESRA, we will encourage public officials on the city, state, and national levels of government to include a social responsibility clause in every contract-awarding process for contracts of over 1 million dollars. That process would require corporations that are competing for public funds to present a detailed social responsibility report, whose accuracy private citizens and local community groups and unions could challenge to the governmental body deciding on awards of city, state, and federal contracts. The contract would then go to the corporation that can both competently fulfill the terms of the contract at a reasonable cost and can show the best record of environmental and social responsibility.
While this is all is a good start towards saving the life support system of Earth, it is not enough. There remains a much larger and more complex environmental challenge: how to wean people from the global market system’s capacity to shape people’s desires to consume and accumulate more and more consumer goods and gadgets. These consumerist wants and desires, often generated by advertising and more subtle forms of marketing through the media, create a market demand that can only be filled by exhausting more and more of the Earth’s resources. Getting and spending, we lay waste to the Earth. A central task of any environmental movement that hopes to save the life-support system of the planet must be to weaken the felt need to consume more and more and hence pour more and more pollution into the air and garbage into the land and waterways.
To achieve this, we will champion voluntary simplicity and ethical consumption, family planning and humane ways to reduce population growth, end the consumption of animals which will create a much greater land mass to grow healthy food for human consumption, and an end to global poverty and economic insecurity through our proposed Global Marshall Plan www.tikkun.org/gmp so that people do not find themselves confronted with the dilemma of having to choose between the economic well-being of their families on the one hand and environmentally sustainable behaviors on the other. We are committed to healing the psychological and spiritual dysfunctions which lead people to believe that a good life comes primarily through the accumulation of material goods. We also will develop strategies to provide a guaranteed annual income sufficient to provide for the material necessities of everyone on the planet. This can be achieved in part through practices of sharing resources such as housing, energy, and consumer goods and in part through challenging the belief that we can “own” part of the earth and have a right to more of its resources than others. To answer the fear of disappearing jobs, we will create a massive environmental corps in which milions of people will become involved in redesigning cities and building at least 60-70 million new housing units in the U.S. and hundreds of millions of housing units around the world in coordination with other local populations. Unlike the shabby housing built after World War II in which many poorer Americans still live, we will build housing that embodies beauty, privacy, environmental sensitivity, and also shared facilities for cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, sharing access to entertainment and internet access. The need for massive rebuilding of homes for the world’s population will grow dramatically as the level of environmental desolation that is already unstoppable will create hundreds of millions of environmental refugees around the world who will be a source of instability for much of the world unless we plan now to provide them with homes that feel safe and respectful. Since doing so will put yet additional strains on the remaining resources of the planet, it is imperative that we quickly put restraints on the unnecessary consumption that is similarly straining earth’s resources.
While some of this can be accomplished through taxation and education, the deep internalization of the values of the marketplace on the part of large sections of the world’s population can only be healed through a process that can best be described as ethical/spiritual environmental consciousness.
Spiritual practices and wisdom can give us the inner strength to lessen our addiction to endless consumption and challenge the media reinforced belief that the price and number of things we own are the measure of our worth. By means of the ESRA, we will ensure that corporations are required to transform how and what they produce, their services, and their advertising and communication methods in ways that demonstrably serve environmental sustainability and the goal of healing and repairing the past damage done to the planet by global environmental irresponsibility, selfishness, and a massive failure to care for the wellbeing of future generations.
We emphasize the strong connection between environmental well-being and environmental justice, and challenge practices that effectively dump our environmental problems, garbage, waste, and destructiveness on those with less political power or money to resist these practices.
Part of a spiritual approach to the environment involves learning how to see nature and the universe both as a “resource” and as fundamentally valuable. Learning to respond to the world with awe, wonder, and radical amazement in a sustained manner will help us be successful in our efforts to transform our relationship with the environment. In this respect, we will encourage people to celebrate a sabbatical day each week dedicated to celebrating the universe, while not imposing a particular form or day for the Sabbath celebration. What we will encourage is that for one day a week each person does not work, whether at a workplace or at home, does not use money, does not shop, does not consume, but rather dedicates time and energy to pleasure, fun, building of communities of meaning and higher purpose, engaging in activities to care for the planet, and celebrating with joyous energy the amazing reality of being alive on this wonderful planet Earth.
This one day of slowing down and disconnecting from the ferocious pace of work and accumulation of money and goods is a first step in detaching from the internalized rhythm of the capitalist marketplace.
The second step is to institute a Sabbatical Year once every seven years, geared towards creating a year of rest from work for at least 85% of the population the same year each seventh year. This practice, first outlined in the Bible (without requiring adherence to any belief in God or any attachment to a particular religion or spiritual community), is aimed at detaching most people from the rhythm of the capitalist market for an entire year. There are some essential services that cannot be suspended for a year, such as medical services and hospitals, energy and mass transportation, and likely many others. The 15% continuing to provide these essential services would be unable to fully participate in the Sabbatical Year, but would be compensated by being granted one and a half years of sabbatical every seven years. So as to not cripple the essential societal services, these would not occur in the same year as the standard Sabbatical Year, but rotated among various segments of the intervening six years.
To connect students in elementary and high school to the Earth, part of their Sabbatical Year would be assigned to working on the land, including planting, caring for, and harvesting the food supplies of the population under guidance from skilled farmers. This would allow farm workers a year off. These elementary, high school and pre-college students would spend the other part of the sabbatical year learning the important skills of child care and elder care, again under the supervision of experts in these important fields.
For the rest of the population, the Sabbatical Year would offer opportunities to participate in democratically choosing societal priorities for the next six years, learning new skills in case they wish to change their occupations after the Sabbatical Year, playing, celebrating, relaxing reading, learning to play musical instruments, participating in sports, immersion in all forms of arts and cinema, or developing skills or talents that for which there was never enough free time.
In the Sabbatical Year, all normal money transactions would be banned. Every person would instead be given an equal amount of a Sabbatical Year currency which would be he only means of purchasing necessary goods, food and services. In the six years leading up to the Sabbatical Year, food would be purchased by the government to supplement the food supply available on the seventh year. Thus, people would have the experience of living in a society where whatever was available for purchase was equally available to everyone. But most consumer goods would not be available because all stores, other than food stores, would be closed for the year. People would thus experience a year in which consumption of items was severely curtailed, As a result of this, people would focus on new, non-consumerism, ways of finding meaning and satisfaction.
This cut into production and consumption will give the earth a year of rest one year out of every seven. Our whole attitude about the earth starts to change as we begin to experience the possibility of living a life of voluntary simplicity. At the same time, those who have not had enough food or energy supplies will receive them at the same rate as everyone else, in many cases significantly improving their material well being and giving them new incentive to struggle towards permanence of equality in the other six years.
CONTRAST: LIBERAL AGENDA — Liberals fight for partial reforms that rarely take into account the systemic and global nature of the problem and rarely note that for every reform they win, there are ten new areas in which environmental damage is intensifying. They have no global plan or willingness to imagine how to recast the global economy so as to make our planet environmentally sustainable. And they avoid any serious discussion, much less the fostering, of an ethos of voluntary simplicity.
Liberals continually seek to legislate minor restrictions on corporate avarice and social irresponsibility, and usually fail to get such laws adopted, largely because highly powerful corporations and the super-wealthy can exert financial influence on candidates and elected officials whose advertising and campaign costs are enormous. This is a defacto publicly sanctioned system of bribery. But it works in a more sophisticated way beyond the crass bribery,, in that to raise the needed money, elected officials have to spend an inordinate amount of time courting the top 1% of wealth holders as well as having to reach to the top 20% of wealth holders or income earners via cocktail parties and fundraisers. In time spent with the wealthiest 20% of the population, they are deluded into knowing what their constituents are thinking. In truth, what they are actually learning is what the wealthiest are thinking, and then tend to shape their policies and voting records to appeal to that section of their constituency.
Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court continually eviscerates any meaningful efforts to impose corporate environmental and social responsibility or to limit the power of individuals or corporations to shape the outcome of elections. This is part of the reason we seek one comprehensive reform that would end the need for countless smaller reforms. While the ESRA may take several decades to pass, the struggle for it will concentrate attention on the systemic nature of the problem we face and will generate a new societal consciousness about what needs to be changed in order to restore our democracy and protect the environment.
CONTRAST: CONSERVATIVE AGENDA — Conservatives typically oppose any attempt to constrain corporate social irresponsibility. They argue that the best good for all will be achieved if each corporation pursues its own self-interest unrestrained, suggesting that the profits amassed by the corporation will “trickle down” to the rest of the population. Conservatives spearhead policies that reduce the amount of land protected from corporate abuse. They put the interests of corporate profit above their responsibility to be stewards of the planet, and they often deny the urgency of global warming and other environmental disasters.
4. A Love and Justice Oriented Education System
We will reshape our education system so that it teaches values of love, caring, generosity, intellectual curiosity, tolerance, social and economic justice, nonviolence, gratitude, wonder, democratic participation, and environmental responsibility.
We believe our schools can teach these values without abandoning necessary reading and writing skills.
We will resist the corporate control of childhood as manifested in child-oriented media, branding, advertising, publishing, and school curricula. And we will insist that schools foster and support our children’s capacities to be playful, spontaneous, joyous, loving, excited by ideas, emotionally and spiritually intelligent, creative, and compassionate.
For pre-teens and teens, we will resist the media generated social pressures on young girls to increasingly sexualize their bodies as a way of achieving social recognition in their peer groups and the sexist consciousness that transmits the message that their fundamental worth is based on their attractiveness and sexual availability to boys.
The influence of money and power is increasingly a factor in distorting what is taught in junior high, high schools, and higher education. Faced with a public seeking to reduce their own tax burdens by cutting funding for education, universities seek to prove their usefulness to government and the public by becoming service stations to society, reducing emphasis on their historic function to introduce students to the richness of Western or global culture, philosophy, history, and social theory and focusing instead on developing the narrow set of skills needed by corporations with whom their graduates might receive employment. Corporations and neo-liberals increasingly accept the notion that schools should be service stations to the corporations, teaching those skills that are most likely to be rewarded in a corporate dominated economy. We understand why parents, worried that their children might not be able to succeed in a competitive marketplace, increasingly provide support for such a transformation in education. But we seek a different approach—alongside of providing reading, writing, and computer skills, we want an education system that helps students develop the skills needed to effectively participate in transforming our society to one based on caring and generosity. In short, we advocate an education that helps students become the kind of human beings that can make a caring society actually work. A new bottom line in education challenges the cheapening of our high schools and universities and the intellectual life that had once flourished there, and seeks to strengthen students’ capacities to think for themselves, feel connected to fellow students rather than in competition with them, and empowers them to be responsible and informed citizens of a democratic society.
A new bottom line in education would foster students’ ethical, spiritual, and environmental consciousness while carefully avoiding the imposition of any particular religious tradition. Students would be taught empathy, compassion, psychological self-understanding, deep awareness of the world, the healing and transformation of the world, the importance of social and economic justice, freedom from tyranny, preservation of democracy and human rights, and skills in caring for others. For example, by having students from fourth grade on be mentors (supervised by skilled teachers of empathy and generosity) for first to third graders, guiding them through their first three grades of schooling, the social dynamics of school playgrounds and getting along with fellow classmates, these students would develop a deep understanding of how to provide caring and guidance for others. This mentoring process would continue at each grade level through high school with different mentors and mentees.
A New Bottom Line in schools would also help students develop a sense of awe and wonder at the miraculous earth we live on. Science classes would no longer focus solely on understanding the technicalities of physics, chemistry and biology, but would also foster the ability to appreciate and celebrate this incredible planet and universe. This would require schools to give more attention to student immersion in natural settings, encouraging them to develop appreciation for the beauty and grandeur of the universe. Free play time in the earlier grades can also help foster creativity and support students to feel more positive about education, as can teaching students to play a musical instrument, how to listen and understand classical and contemporary music, art instruction and study of the great artists, drama classes, and instruction on writing and telling stories, video movies, and other new technologies of creativity, while encouraging students to see the pitfalls of becoming overly enamored of new technologies that weaken their capacity to read long books or magazine articles or weaken their capacities to maintain attention through complicated sets of reasoning (always done at a grade and age appropriate level, of course).
In high schools, students would also be encouraged to take on the mentoring of younger students, and to engage in some specific social change or social healing activity beyond the high school. Activism and democratic participation should be taught not only as a school “subject,” but as an ongoing practicum for these students.
College entrance would depend in part on evidence of a student’s caring for others and for the planet, caring about social and economic justice, including the well-being of those who are left behind in the competitive marketplace. At the same time, these schools would try to combat the arrogance that can develop among those aware of the need for societal transformation, often manifesting in contempt for those who do not yet share their level of understanding.That shaming and blaming of others has been one of the major stumbling blooks to winning the support that would be needed to build the world we are describing here. Instead, these schools would teach empathy and respect for those with whom we disagree or are impatient, as well as engaging in conversations that manifest a deep caring and respect without compromising one’s own perspective on solving societal problems.
Teachers and mentors could conveying to college admissions officials the extent and depth of an applicant’s involvement in living, not just talking, the values that a New Bottom Line shaped educational system seeks to impart. The culture of schooling will change dramatically when students realize that these skills are judged with equally importance as the more easily measurable technical skills. One will expect a reasonable and age-appropriate level of rebellion against these values by some teenagers, but over time as the curriculum exposes students over and over again to an ethically rich and awe-and-wonder-inspired way of understanding the world, the impact of the competitive marketplace will decrease and the deep yearnings for a world of justice, kindness and love that so many teens feel but are afraid to articulate in the current society for fear of being thought of as naive, ridiculous, and childlike will decrease. And as students become more aware of the ethical implications of their actions, and more involved in actual activities to heal and repair the world, older people who now think narrowly about reducing taxes on themselves rather than adequately fund their local school system if they no longer have children in that system will begin to appreciate what the school system contributes to the well-being of their own community and be more willing to adequately fund it.
CONTRAST: LIBERAL AGENDA — Liberals, while focusing on ensuring better pay for teachers and providing more money for schools with lower teacher-student ratios, are not challenging the competitive nature of education and its implicit reinforcement of the meritocratic fantasy that those who are smartest and work the hardest will receive the greatest rewards in adulthood. It is this fantasy that leads so many young people to end up feeling terrible about themselves in a class stratified society with growing economic inequality where only a minority of the population have any likelihood of finding work with meaning and adequate pay.
Liberals would be more effective in garnering more financial support for schools if the general public were to be made aware that those schools were successfully producing students who were trained and sensitized in societal consciousness, specifically, respect and appreciation of what people do with their lives and their contributions towards making a functioning society. Further, the students would be attentive to the ways they themselves could contribute to the healing and transformation of our society. If students came out of high schools, colleges and universities with this respectful and appreciative attitude toward others and toward the planet, teachers would be far more effective in getting support for their important demands for better salaries, as well as more educationally conducive school building .
CONTRAST: CONSERVATIVE AGENDA
Conservatives correctly criticize the materialistic and competitive values that are being taught in our schools, but fail to note that these values reflect the values of the marketplace that they champion. They propose false solutions whose underlying intent is to dismantle the public school system. They wildly underfund the school system, falsely “proving” that everything “public” must be a failure and that success lies only in the private school system.
5. Health Care
We will seek a transformation of our entire health care system by providing free universal health care (Medicare for All) in our own country and around the world, as well as creating a system that addresses the spiritual, psychological, and physical dimensions of human beings and the impact of social and environmental influences on well-being. Health care is about caring for the whole person, not simply a mechanistic treatment of the body disconnected from its inner life.
We support “Medicare for All”: a single-payer system that ensures complete healthcare for everyone. Physicians for a National Health Plan delineates the plan at pnhp.org.
We believe in funding the construction of many more training schools in nursing, medicine, psychology, and other health modalities allowing for more trainees in these fields. Health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, dentists, mental health professionals, chiropractors, and other alternative health practitioners, should receive free tuition with fully subsidized post-graduate training and living expenses. In exchange, they would commit to work in underserved areas, charging dramatically reduced fees for their services. Without the crippling burden of loan repayments, the practice of the healing arts can become populated by those who are motivated to serve, rather than by those who have grown cynical about service and are driven by making the top dollar. No medical or health care professionals should be earning greater than three times the society’s median average income.. While such restrictions may discourage those whose primary interest in health care is their potentially high renumeration, many more young people will be attracted who would otherwise have been discouraged by the huge, often decades long, loan burden incurred after their training. Health care providers will no longer be seduced by the lucrative practice of ordering unnecessary procedures, thereby decreasing the cost of comprehensive medical care.
Pharmaceutical companies must provide medications at affordable costs. If they are unable to do so, the government will fund the production of affordable drugs and entirely replace the pharmaceutical industry. Research on pharmaceuticals, preventive care, and treatment strategies should be funded by the government and separated from any profit motive.
Yet our approach goes beyond the issues of access to health care. As spiritual progressives, we recognize that physical health cannot be divorced from environmental, social, spiritual, and psychological realities. The entire medical system has to be reshaped to emphasize and focus on prevention and fund alternative forms of health care alongside traditional Western forms.
We believe healthcare should reflect the reality that human health cannot be reduced to our physical mechanics. Human beings are fully integrated into a mind/body/psychological/spiritual/communal totality. To become truly holistic, health care must address the patient’s full being, their experience at work and in family life, their emotional lives and their spiritual lives, their play and their exercise, their loves and their fears. It will seek to understand, diagnose, and intervene on all levels of our being at the same time. People will be seen by practitioners with multiple levels of knowledge,as well as by teams of health care workers who together bring a broad interdisciplinary approach to prevention, diagnosis and treatment. To successfully integrate health care in this way, we need to transform our medical training to ensure that practitioners see their patients in all their beautiful complexity.
CONTRAST: LIBERAL AGENDA — Liberals seek the gradual addition of benefits for different sectors of the population but leave the entire system in the hands of the profiteers. This abdication guarantees that proposed changes by liberals will be undermined by the insurance and drug companies who raise their costs, allowing them huge profits and leaving these health care reforms too costly to institute. The provision of free universal health care will decrease, not increase, the total amount spent on health care by the United States.
Liberals often advocate for health care using narrow economic arguments. Spiritual progressives seek to return the conversation to what is really at hand, namely, caring for everyone on the planet. This the ethical imperative, and further gives us the opportunity to actualize our deep yearning to care and to be cared for.
CONTRAST: CONSERVATIVE AGENDA — Conservatives continually place private profit over public need when it comes to health care. They think of health care as being earned and as a privilege afforded by those with financial means rather than as a manifestation of the sacred obligation we have to care for each other. The irony is that our current healthcare system ends up costing us billions more than would a universal health care system,
6. Global Peace and Homeland Security Through Generosity
We will address our desire for global peace and “homeland security” through a strategy of nonviolence, generosity, genuine caring, and respect for the well-being of others.
The most effective path to world peace is for the major economic, political and military countries to practice generosity, respect, nonviolence, and caring for the well-being of everyone on the planet.
There may always be some deranged people who engage in acts of terrorism or violence. They can be dealt with by effective international policing. But their ability to recruit will be dramatically undercut as more and more people in the world begin to perceive the U.S. and other Western countries as truly respecting them and caring about their well-being.
The path to homeland security is not through wars, demonstrations of military might, drones and targeted assassinations, but rather by showing so much caring and respect to the peoples of the world that these deranged individuals find themselves isolated and thus unable to garner the support of the very people whose interests they thought they were serving through violence..
We in the advanced industrial capitalist societies have acted disrespectfully and hurtfully to billions of people around the world in numerous ways. We have exported capitalist culture and values, allowed our corporations to engage in environmentally destructive and economically exploitative behaviors, and funding military interventions in developing countries enthusiastically to support local elites willing to give our multinational corporations free reign to benefit at the expense of local populations,. Our media, internet, movies, and television teach the values of individualism, selfishness, and the “me” mentality. This serves to undermine traditional cultures which lead many to embrace various religions that counter these values. One place to start creating a path to homeland security is to publicly acknowledge, repent and seek forgiveness for the damage the West has done to the peoples of the world, keeping in mind the good that we have done by popularizing ideas of democracy and human rights.
A second step is to begin to rectify the damage we’ve already done through the implementation of a Global Marshall Plan as outlined at tikkun.org/GMP.
We will have more success in winning public support for this effort when people in the advanced industrial capitalist societies recognize that the well-being of people in each and every country depends on the well-being of every other person on the planet and of the planet itself. If we want safety, we must manifest generosity.
The Global Marshall Plan would devote 1-2 percent of the GDP of all the advanced industrial countries each year for the next twenty years to end (not just ameliorate) domestic and global poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education and poor health care.
It is not solely financial deprivation, economic exploitation, or military domination that have driven resentment and violence against the advanced industrial societies of the world. In their arrogance, Western powers have conveyed the notion that those who are economically less developed are less deserving of genuine respect. Yet, in some important respects, the countries of the global South and East are culturally, ethically and spiritually far more developed than many of us in the West. Similarly, many of those living in economically challenged communities within advanced industrial countries have developed paths to mutual aid. These paths in fact make them ethically more advanced than many of the wealthiest people who are considered “more successful.” In truth, they often lack a spirit of generosity beyond their family and friends, and are often bereft of the most important and fundamental of human values. These include caring for others, caring for the future of the earth and for the future wellbeing of the human race.
We will challenge the globalization of selfishness promoted by national and transnational corporations and promote the spiritual values of solidarity, caring for others, and love as the most effective way to build a sustainable society and achieve “homeland security.”
The Network of Spiritual Progressives’ version of the Global Marshall Plan (www.spiritualprogressives.org/gmp) goes beyond strategies of providing funding. It delineates thec revising of trade agreements imposed on the impoverished by the powerful Western imperial countries. Trade agreements and treaties that are directed toward creating the material and spiritual well-being of everyone on the planet must replace our current agreements. As an important step in this direction, the NSP calls for immediate cancellation of all debt owed by the underdeveloped countries of the world to Western banks and the IMF.
We advocate for the GMP because it would likely reduce the resentment and anger resulting from our policies, corporate practices, and the values of global capitalism have generated. And perhaps more importantly, it would genuinely recognize every person on this planet as an embodiment of the sacred.
We support the creation of an international nonviolent peacekeeping force to prevent the escalation of conflicts.. We do so in the context of a coherent global policy that immediately implements the Global Marshall Plan in cooperation with nongovernmental organizations committed to human rights, democracy, environmental sustainability, and with respect for the range of their cultures and traditions.
We seek full rights for all immigrants who have reached our shores, including a path to full citizenship for anyone living in the U.S. for more than ten years.
Implementing the GMP will solve the immigration issue in the only possible way, namely, by ensuring the economic success of those countries from which immigrants have fled.. Instead of imagining ways to repress immigrants’ desires for a life free from poverty and political oppression, a Global Marshall Plan will ensure that the world’s wealth flows to all people and not just to economic elites. The GMP will further support governments that seriously value human rights, thereby dramatically reducing the economic and political incentives which lead people to risk their lives by seeking refuge in Western societies.
We seek a world in which open or nonexistent borders are the norm. This can be achieved once people are no longer forced to cross borders for adequate material well-being, safety from arbitrary or authoritarian rule, and genuine respect for their contribution to the well being of others. Stating this as a goal will itself have a valuable impact on the consciousness of people around the world.
While valuing the integrity, creativity, and dynamism of multicultural societies and seeking to provide support and validation for their continued development, we want to separate those rich traditions from forms of nationalism and chauvinism in which they may find expression.
By the latter part of the 21st century, we hope to see nation states re[placed by environmental districts that can address the major problem facing humanity in the twenty-first century, namely, the environmental crisis. We also hope to see mechanisms created for a global democratic process of decision making regarding investments of time, energy, and money which will best serve the well-being of humans, animals, and the earth.
Overcoming the reckless and destructive struggles among the nations of the world is a pressing necessity for humanity. Currently, decisions that impact billions of people are made by wealthy and powerful elites, without a mechanism to hold them accountable for the impact of their unjust and destructive decisions. A first step to transform this imbalance of power is to strengthen democratic procedures in all nations so that decisions which impact billions of people are made in consultation with those very people.
Moreover, we will come to realize that we have shared interests stretching across all previous boundaries and that those boundaries need to be made much more permeable. We strive to move toward global cooperation and decision-making without the legacy of nationalist and cultural chauvinist traditions distorting that decision-making, combined with a genuine respect and love for all the peoples of our planet.
Militaristic approaches, often glorified in our media, legitimate violence as the quick resort to solve frustrating world problems. This domination approach increasingly permeates the consciousness and popular culture of our entire country. As a result, many citizens come to believe that using violence and power over others are plausible strategies to get their way and solve problems. Instead, the NSP seeks to foster an ethos of open-hearted generosity and caring towards others and empathic communication as more effective approaches to solving problems, be they individual, societal or global. We wish to teach empathy and nonviolence in our schools and in our media.
CONTRAST: LIBERAL AGENDA — Still mired in the militarist assumptions of the past, liberal politicians compete with conservatives to project American power and domination around the world.
They are more eager to prove that they are “tough” than to address the issues that drive people into wars and terrorism. They are terrified that acknowledgment of the sins of Western societies, including our own, will leave them vulnerable to charges of being unpatriotic. These politicians are unwilling to challenge the notion that we can be secure in a world that is filled with avoidable suffering.
Most of all, liberals are unable to transcend their own economistic views of human nature to see that it is not only economic deprivation, but a deprivation of respect and caring, that generates intense anger towards us from countries that have been mistreated by the West.
Religious fundamentalist communities can and have provided their members with a sense of solidarity and caring. These values, however, are eroded as people increasingly internalize pervasive capitalist mantras which promote individual and communal fear of the “other” and a meritocratic view of individual and communal worthiness. Examples of these mantras include “Look out for number one,” “Others will seek to dominate you unless you dominate them first,” and “The global capitalist system is a meritocracy, that is, if your entire society has not achieved economic sufficiency, nobody is to blame but you or your society.” Many individuals in developing countries believe these mantras leading to self-blame. Ultra-nationalist or ultra-religious movements too often relieve this self-blaming by directing their anger toward some “other”. Often these “others” are people in another religion, race, or ethnicity within one’s own society,. They may within one’s own faith who don’t “live up” to the way they “ought” to be practicing their religion. Recently,, some religious extremists have directed this anger at the West as a whole, and advocated various forms of terrorist attack on Western cities and citizens.
Without this kind of perspective, liberals are caught in a bind. They know that they don’t support waging war as a solution, but they are unable to see that the encroachment of capitalist values on traditional communities is at the heart of anti-West terrorism and extremism. Because liberals are unprepared to challenge the operations of the global capitalist order as they impact the poverty-stricken, the powerless, and those who feel disrespected by the West. They are ill prepared to counter the terrorists other than join right-wing militarists who use force and violence ,usually unsuccessfully, to bring temporary protection from anti-Western extremists.
Similarly, liberals’ correct desire to avoid repression of immigrants lacks a coherent answer to skeptics’ questions about how to prevent future millions from risking their lives attempting to cross our borders.
CONTRAST: CONSERVATIVE AGENDA — Though quick to demand proof of the effectiveness of liberal programs, conservatives fail to prove the effectiveness of their strategy, namely, that war and domination of countries leads to homeland security.
Distorted by their own “arrogance of power,” they cannot acknowledge that 5,000 years of war-mongering has led to endless conflict and has not worked to bring peace and security to the world. Conservatives fail to see that their wars have actually undermined the internal life of Americans and increased our propensity to tragically rely on violence in our personal lives and workplaces.
The right-wingers call for greater repression of immigrants and countries that do not follow our rules. Yet they remain unable to acknowledge that such programs have not worked.
7. Separation of church, state, and science.
We will protect our society from fundamentalist attempts to impose a particular religion on everyone, but will not fall into a First Amendment fundamentalism that attempts to keep all spiritual values out of the public sphere. For example, the ideal of treating every human being as essentially valuable and equally so to every other human being is a value believed by some to derive from the traditions of the Abrahamic religions. Yet many atheists and secular humanists share this value too. That it derives from a religious tradition doesn’t disqualify it from being encouraged in the public arena. Yet the argument on its behalf cannot be based on its religious roots and its tacit acceptance by adherents of the religion. .That this or other ideals derive from religious or spiritual communities or traditions neither disqualifies them nor is reason to adopt them as public policy.
We will protect science from pressure by the state, religious and corporate priorities. Science is under attack from the religious right and needs strong defenders to insulate it from pressures to reach conclusions contrary to scientific evidence . The inordinate influence and concerns of the funders of scientific research, whether by corporations, universities or government, impose subtle pressures on the focus of scientific research. To ensure that scientific research focuses on the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom and on potential contribution to people’s health, environmental sustainability, cooperation and mutual caring, we will promote independent scientific institutes with adequate public funding and independence from corporate, university or government pressures.
We will also promote the exploration of approaches to the physical, biological and social sciences that may be contrary to the contemporary dominant paradigms in each field whatever they might be.
While enthusiastic supporters of science, we challenge “scientism,” a pop culture religion that claims that everything capable of being known or seen to be credible and intellectually “objective” should be subject to empirical and measurable verification or nullification. Anything that cannot meet this criterion cannot be considered objective knowledge and so,, according to scientism, ought not to play any role in shaping the economic, political, or educational decisions we make as a society. Neither can can they be used as a foundation for making ethical claims or guiding rational decision making. Scientism thus takes what works as a scientific methodology and illegitimately proclaims it as the guide to all aspects of reality.
We call scientism a religion because its claim that everything that can be known or is objective and credible must be empirically verifiable, falsifiable or measurable” cannot be, as with any religious claim, empirically verified, falsified or measured. Therefore, by its own criterion, scientism’s claim cannot be known and is not intellectually objective or credible.
Unaware of the absence of a verifiable foundation for their own claims, people in the scientism religion dismiss ethics, religion, spirituality, aesthetics, love, and many other important aspects of life as “merely” subjective and having no place in public life.
Just as vigorously as we support scientific research do we oppose this misuse of science to legitimate a worldview that has no scientific foundation and which seems to bolster the worldview of capitalism with its glorification of money –ultimately the most empirically verifiable and measurable aspect of the contemporary world. Many working scientists agree with this critique of scientism.
Spiritual progressives believe that public life should seek to support behavior which embodies caring for others, generosity, love, kindness, compassion, empathy, non-violence, and many other values that spring from the religious and spiritual traditions of humanity over the past ten thousand years, but which today are also embraced by many atheists and secular humanists. Our Network of Spiritual Progressives is composed of these kinds of atheists and secular humanists as well as people from every religious tradition who seek to make these values the New Bottom Line for reshaping our communal lives and our economic and political arrangements.
CONTRAST: LIBERAL AGENDA — Liberals confuse the separation of church and state with the separation of spiritual values from any state funded institution including education, the judicial system, the health and welfare system, foreign policy, and economic life. They claim to defend the neutrality of public space but fail to realize that there already is a religion operating in the public space, namely, the religion of scientism and the secular worship of the dollar. Thus, liberal defenses of the First Amendment are based on the false assumption that we actually have a neutral public space and that it must be protected from all values.
We, to the contrary, want to introduce the values articulated in our New Bottom Line to challenge the values already dominant in the economy and public life and present themselves as “value neutral”. Such values include competition, looking out for number one, getting ahead at all costs, seeking power over others, and maximizing one’s own wealth. These values have become so dominant in Western societies that they appear to be “common sense”, belying their true nature, namely, a specific set of values backed-up by the power of ruling elites and the educational and media institutions under their ownership or control.
As an example, we think that education at all levels, programs supporting childcare, elder care, physical and emotional healing and treatment of alcohol and drug abuse will be more effective to the extent that they address human beings in all their rich complexity, including their emotional and spiritual needs as well as physical or material needs. These programs become impoverished when their providers worry that introducing the values we champion in the New Bottom Line would put them on the path of a slippery slope toward religion. They are mistaken.
CONTRAST: CONSERVATIVE AGENDA — Conservatives often seek to privilege Christian values in the public sphere. They are supported by parents who want to resist corrupt values, leading their schoolchildren to become obsessed with “making it” in the larger society. This ‘success’ is defined as either achieving top grades promising a top career or “making it” in their peer group through physical domination of others..They also want to protect their children from the cheapening of sexuality that pervades the media and is increasingly prevalent in elementary school and beyond.
Conservatives mistakenly attribute these evils to “public education” and hence advocate that private schools be freer to teach conservative values. Yet they seem unaware that it is the ethos of the capitalist marketplace, not the public nature of public schools, that is decisive in distorting values. Conservative critiques of government and the public sphere will continue to resonate as long as liberals fight to maintain a value-free environment in the public sphere,the shaping of public education and government-supported programs. Spiritual progressives want the values of the New Bottom Line to shape public education and the operation of public institutions. Otherwise, as is the case today, those institutions will be shaped by the pervasive values of the capitalist marketplace.
8. A Cooperative and Caring Legal System
We seek to protect individuals from the coercive powers of government and the marketplace, while affirming our interdependence.
We seek to reform our legal system to one which promotes peacemaking, understanding and respectful problem-solving with the overarching goal of restoring people’s dignity, respect and connection with community. In the criminal justice system, we will give priority to restorative justice with four goals: 1. Repairing the social damage to trust and a sense of security for people in which the offense took place. 2. Repairing personal damage inflicted by individual and corporate criminals. 3. Fostering reconciliation and forgiveness, 4. Seeking rehabilitation and transformation of those in prison rather than to prioritize punishment. Whenever possible, we should seek to avoid sending people to prison. If prison time is unavoidable, then the prison should reflect the values that we seek to establish in a caring society by its physical arrangements, food, provisions for learning and opportunities for genuine repentance,. At the same time, we should protect society from those convicted of violent crimes who might revert to violence if not sent to prison. But our goal at every step should be to treat the accused or convicted with respect for their humanity and a deep desire to assist them in achieivng their highest possibilities as a human being.
We shall seek a transformation of the penal system, including the training of guards to be compassionate. Management of prisons should be supervised by panels of compassionate psychologists and clergy who are empowered to hire and fire all prison personnel according to their capacity to demonstrate compassion daily in the prisons. Prisons must train inmates with employment skills, and connect them with halfway houses which provide financial and emotional support for prisoners during the first year after their sentence has been served. These halfway houses will connect them with employment and financial resources sufficient for food and housing as well as therapeutic and spiritual supports to provide a gentle reentry onto a path away from racidivism.
We shall seek a similar transformation in both family courts and child protective services. They will offer compassionate resolution of family disputes and challenges so that families experience an environment which promotes their needs for connection with family members, care for the well-being of all members and healthy parent-child relationships. It will work to offer support and guidance for parent(s) to improve their parenting skills with empathy and compassion rather than with coercion.
In the area of tort law, we shall seek repair for the damage done and appropriately structured re-working of any corporate, medical, government or other institutional systems so that future harm is minimized. We shall create a public fund so that anyone injured in any tragic accident has their needs met for adequate support and long-term care.
We seek to ban all forms of spying by governments and corporations on anyone not reasonably believed to be a spy of an enemy country or a terrorist operative. Prior to any such spying, a panel of civil libertarian activists shall determine if the suspected spy fits one of those two categories.
We oppose any invasion of our privacy. Recognizing how this information can be used to manipulate or control us, we oppose the accumulation of detailed information about our political, economic, social, and consumer behaviors by governments or corporations. We will reward rather than punish the whistleblowers. Anyone in government or private sector who becomes a truth revealer sharing the secrets of government or corporations in regard to behavior that is illegal or in direct contradiction to what government and corporate leaders tell the public about their activities, policies, products, and/or behaviors shall not be punished. Excluded is truth revealing about personal behavior that has no direct impact on the public.
We seek to decriminalize personal behavior that does not hurt other human beings. For example, second-hand smoke is harmful to others, and so it is legitimate that smoking be illegal in public places as well as inside homes where the smoke is harmful to those living in the home. We also seek to permit those suffering from incurable disease to choose to end their life or receive assistance in doing so without fear of punitive legal consequences. As caring spiritual progressives, we might, under certain circumstances, attempt to compassionately dissuade that person.. It would be reasonable for the community to establish a legal barrier for assisting in compassionate ending of life by having the ill person and family meet with a committee of spiritual and ethical guides who would try to ensure that the reason for ending life was not because of the fear of burdening the family with the economic burdens of continued medical support. This committee would likely be unnecessary once the financial supports called for by our Covenant are implemented which would relieve families of the potential financial drain in caring for loved ones suffering from any conditions which challenge their financial resources. These are the kinds of issues that require careful ethical consideration, and one can be a spiritual progressive and disagree with the process being suggested here. What is key to us is that these decisions not be influenced by the financial needs of people living in a class dominated society where tremendous inequalities shape how people view their options.
We are aware that many people currently in prison would not have been there had they grown up in a society that was shaped by economic and social justice, an absence of class oppression and the demeaning of those with less economic success, the end of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. We will therefore encourage everyone in our society to see these offenders as casualties of a [screwed up] society, though we will take necessary measures to protect ourselves from the distorted behaviors of these casualties until they have been healed and transformed in the variety of ways that should be made available in the course of their judicial proceedings and/or subsequent incarceration.
Justice, then, must always be delivered in ways that embody our own highest values of love and caring for each other for the offenders and their victims.
In the courtrooms, we want to replace an adversarial system with a system in which lawyers have an obligation both to their clients and to the larger society. This duty-binds lawyers to find the truth of what has been done by their client, what healing that client needs, and what protections the rest of the society deserves. These are often complex psychological and ethical questions, and so lawyers should be trained in ethical thinking, compassionate and empathic ways of understanding human behavior, and psychological sophistication as prerequisites to being legally admitted to the practice of law. Similarly, district attorneys and their assistants should be required to demonstrate that their handling of each case embodies a true commitment to healing the society rather than simply improving their “conviction rates”. When judges, lawyers and prosecutors consider themselves as agents of a caring society, with a commitment to promote more love and caring in the process and outcome of a trial, the chances are heightened that the wisdom of restorative justice can prevail.
9. Challenging Racism
As an organization that welcomes and includes people of all races, religions and ethnic groups, we will challenge and undo ongoing institutional racism which permeates our society at all levels.
Our anti-racist program includes creating an educational system as well as transforming media and the legal system so that the undermining of racist ideas and practices becomes one of their central goals. We will provide material support and champion those institutions and social practices that are most successful at fostering respect and caring for previous targets of racism. And we will foster education and public policies that help people understand that countering and fighting racism actually serves their interests and values.. This involves expressing solidarity with [Black and Brown peoples and all groups] who have been systematically excluded, marginalized, and targets of violence.
IN THE ABOVE AND FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS, THE BRACKETED PHRASE “Black and Brown peoples and all groups”, SEEMS UNBALANCED, AND LEAVES OTHER GROUPS UNNAMED, SUCH AS NATIVE AMERICAN, LGBTQ, ASIAN ETC ETC. THESE GROUPS BECOME REFERRED TO AS ‘…..all groups’. PERHAPS SIMPLY SAY “Peoples of color and various orientations”. WE CAN TALK ABOUT THIS……
If we want a loving and caring society that truly values the lives of [Black and Brown peoples], we need to recognize and come to terms with how our country was founded and the impact of the past policies on the present. We also need to acknowledge and transform present day policies and practices that are discriminatory. The issues addressed in the previous 10 points of our Platform for a Loving and Just World are all relevant to the issues of institutional and individual racism in our society. Without a fundamental challenge to the economic and political practices of capitalist society, there will always be some groups excluded or left far behind and encouraged to find a scapegoat in some “other” It is unlikely that racism can be eliminated without this larger transformation. But, on their own, the policies we have suggested in the first ten parts of our program and even the emergence of a powerful transformative movement aimed at the goals of the New Bottom Line are inadequate to address the harm and trauma with which [Black and Brown peoples] live.
at this time in history, we are witnessing a continuation of the pervasive fear of black bodies and a denial that black lives matter. The rise and existence of increasingly vocal and visible white terrorist and hate groups goes unchallenged by any political party, the impotent news media and the. Blatant racism and violence, particularly towards African Americans, Native Americans and Latino Americans, is manifest today in such forms as extrajudicial police violence and killings, school-to-prison pipelines leading to incarceration of more African Americans than were enslaved in our country, the dumping of toxic waste and chemicals in communities where Black, Brown. and low-income poverty stricken people live, unequal educational opportunities starting before kindergarten, and so much more.
Manifest destiny and American exceptionalism justified the genocide of Native Americans and deadens protest against present racist policies which keep Native Americans on reservations. These principles still inform and drive domestic and foreign U.S. policy resulting in oppression and violence at home and abroad. America’s ruling elite continues to use war to expand territory, to gain access to resources, and to increase its power. The military industrial complex leads to profits for private industry at the expense of the safety and welfare of [Black and Brown] communities at home and abroad.
Moreover, racism, is a psychological issue as well as a structural problem built into the economic, political, and cultural heritage of our societal institutions. It becomes particularly prominent when large numbers of people are alienated and in pain because they feel “dissed”(dismissed instead of dissed?) by their society. This pain stems from their buying into the ideology of the competitive marketplace that insists we live in a meritocracy in which we “create our own reality” and hence we have no one to blame for the pain in our lives but ourselves. The resulting painful self-blaming is often leads to alcoholism, drug abuse or other forms of addiction, yet the pain remains.
In response to that pain, reactionary movements or leaders come forward, stating that the reason for the pain is because of some “Other”. The Others typically include African Americans, or Latino Americans, refugees of every sort, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ, and even liberals or progressives). As Tikkun editor-at-large Peter Gabel puts it, racism and other forms of “othering” allow people to develop a “false self” in which they imagine themselves as worthy and powerful by viewing themselves as members of an idealized “white race” which provides them with a substitute sense of worth and value covering their inner emptiness and sense of valuelessness. Yet because this sense of collective value is “false” or imaginary, many people feel constantly under attack from imaginary demonized “others”. Historically in the U.S., these “others” have included African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, or other refugees who are imagined to be “taking over”. [necessary? - and trying to recreate their experience of humiliation]. To undo this dynamic will require fundamental transformations in how we organize our society so that people no longer feel humiliated. To move in this direction, we will need millions of people to be trained in empathic communication, thereby helping others dismantle to their inner self-blaming, recognize that their alienation is caused by the values and daily operations of the competitive marketplace, and mobilize people to change the economic system.
Institutional racism is also maintained by the largely unconscious assumption of white supremacy internalized by white people in a dominantly white society. Overcoming the racism embedded in the educational, legal and other systems requires white people to actively commit to becoming aware of the white supremacy permeating their lives, exposing it, understanding how it diminishes their humanity, and seeking to undo it. At the same time, we do not wish to demean white people in this society or to ignore how their lives have been negatively impacted by living in a society that uses racism to pit groups against one another. We refuse to perpetuate divisions based on race, class, gender, or ethnicity and recognize that unity among all peoples can only be achieved by dismantling racism. The vision we put forth in our full Platform for a Loving and Just World is concerned with lifting up all peoples. That requires a change in consciousness, as well as a fundamental transformation of our economic and political systems.
Yet the transformation needed cannot be achieved by attempting to recreate socialist forms which speak to economic equality but miss the deeper transformations concerned with how we relate to one another, to the Earth, and to our own inner development as loving and caring human beings. To address these systemic problems, we believe we need a New Bottom Line as discussed above so that all our institutions are determined “successful” based on whether they prioritize the well-being and needs of all people in our country, the world and the planet itself, rather than whether those institutions maximize money and power. In addition, we need to engage in specific activities and adopt particular policies that address the problems that constitute or unconsciously perpetuate racism.
Among the steps a loving and caring society will take:
- Reparations for slavery and the past destruction of Native American populations.
- A guaranteed income for every adult in this society sufficient to pay for healthy food, housing in healthy living conditions, clothing, energy and transportation costs, and a meaningful living wage (http://livingwage.mit.edu/) for all working people.
- A Global and Domestic Marshall Plan that re-directs monies from our Gross Domestic Product to communities that have suffered from unfair distribution of resources and wages. iThese in include white, black and brown working class people in the U.S. and worldwide as well as “undocumented” workers and migrant laborers working in our fields, homes, hotels, restaurants and other service industries who have been deported to their native lands, separating and devastating families.
- Equal funding for all public and private childcare centers, preschools and schools without regard to their location in the U.S. or the income level of the families served by those schools. If wealthier parents are allowed to provide better schooling, better paid teachers, more options for study and for individualized attention in their childrens’ schools, their children will have greater resources than those who have gone to less funded schools. If parents know that the schools serving the poorest communities set the standards for what their own children will be offered in public and private schools, they will have a stronger incentive to make sure that all schools have these same benefits that are now primarily available to school districts with higher incomes and private schools partially financed by wealthy parents.
- Higher level salaries for teachers in communities with lower average incomes than wealthier communities to ensure that all schools have highly qualified teachers.
- Required courses at every level from 4th grade through college that explain to students the legacy of slavery, discrimination, classism, sexism and homophobia and their ongoing impact on everyone’s lives today. Such courses will teach techniques to address racism, empathic communication, and insights helping to overcome racism.
- Media must dedicate at least one quarter of their prime time viewing to shows that aim to creatively challenge racist practices, prejudice and biases.
- Create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to generate a highly visible public tribunal to put our country on a path toward fully facing and healing the legacy of slavery, the treatment and slaughter of Native Americans, and the ongoing discrimination seen today.
- The adoption of restorative justice as a primary form of response to wrongdoing in schools and in the criminal justice system as a whole. This would serve to ensure that schools become learning environments for all children rather than school-to-prison pipelines for some.
- Funding for jobs, education, and housing for people being released from prison.
- The establishment of publicly elected police review commissions with the power to terminate, fine and/or indict police officers and leadership when they are found violating the civil rights of people within their jurisdiction. This is our response to every community that has a police force which has faced significant numbers of complaints about systematic abuse or profiling of African Americans or other minority groups resulting in the loss of their lives and liberty.
- Mandatory training for police officers in identifying and preventing racist, biased and prejudiced police actions. There must be comprehensive screening and vetting of applicants to exclude those who are racist, as well as mandatory training in de-escalation and nonviolent responses during stops and arrests.
- Any surveillance equipment that police departments request must be reviewed by a civilian board including members of the communities that are and will be impacted. If body cameras are used, any tapes from those cameras must be made available to family and community members when an officer’s actions are in question.
- A wholesale rethinking of policing including the demilitarization of police forces, reduction and eventually elimination of higher levels of surveillance, and the creation of more transparency, accountability and transformative and restorative policing and justice models.
- Full access, guarantees and protections of the right to vote for all peoples through universal voter registration, automatic voter registration, pre-registration for 16-year-olds, same-day voter registration, voting day holidays, enfranchisement of formerly and currently incarcerated people, local and state resident voting for all undocumented people, and a ban on any disenfranchisement laws.
- Recognizing that poor and disempowered communities often bear the brunt of environmental devastation and destruction, we promote the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will provide ways for people to challenge these policies when large corporations are seeking renewal of their corporate charters.
CONTRAST: LIBERAL AGENDA: Liberal politicians rarely speak about institutionalized and systemic racism. Instead, they tend to blame racism on individual bad apples, failing to acknowledge the legacy of slavery and discrimination pervasive in our schools, housing opportunities, political system, police force, criminal justice system many other societal institutions. Liberals also promise to provide equal opportunity in the capitalist marketplace without acknowledging how the past psychic wounds, as well as past and present fundamental wealth and income inequalities shape what financial base there is to start new businesses, make investments, qualify for loans at low interest rates, provide quality education for their children, or feel safe from arbitrary police arrest, violence or murder. To add insult to injury, when liberals reluctantly pay lip service to anti-discriminatory policies and actions, they simultaneously speak about the need for African Americans and other people of color to address their shortcomings and faults. They blame them for the struggles they face which in truth are largely a product of the foundation on which our country was founded as well as the ongoing policies and behavior of our police, educators, politicians, media, etc.
CONTRAST: CONSERVATIVE AGENDA: Conservatives blame the struggles that Black and Brown peoples face on their own shortcomings and fail to acknowledge any institutionalized racism in our society. In addition, they actively promote policies that undermine and directly overturn advances made and laws passed addressing systemic racism during the Civil Rights era. They also insist that all legacies of the past will magically be healed if the society expands its production and consumption of goods . They believe this will come about by reducing taxes on the wealthy who will then feel impelled to expand their investments in companies leading to hiring the previously unemployed, ignoring the history of repeated failures of this approach to significantly change the situation of Black and Brown peoples. In fact, it has only further enriched the wealthy and deepened the gap between the 1% with the most wealth and highest incomes and the remainder of the population in the US, UK, Israel, and wherever these policies have unsuccessfully been tried.
10. Balancing Particularity with Universalism
In our struggle to bring about the sweeping social transformations we seek, we must be careful not to empower a new totalitarian force of the Right or the Left, or to create social movements that impose “political correctness” and stifle free expression, individual creativity or idiosyncrasies. We don’t advocate any form of Stalinism or coercive group think perpetrated through social media, government-administered loyalty tests, corporate manipulations, or warped social change movements.
Intersectionality. Kimberle’ Crenshaw is an African American woman law professor at Columbia University. She developed the term “Intersectionality” to highlight the way in which African American women have been oppressed both as women and as Black. The term has expanded to point to the wide variety of identities that any person can have and the complex ways those identities intersect and interact both within each person and in the way that we are treated by others.
Spiritual progressives want to highlight these complexities, and recognize that oppression, domination and discrimination are not the sole ethical property of one particular race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual or gender identity. The vulgarization of “identity politics” happens when one group insists that its suffering is worse than that of another, often missing the complexities of intersectionality and multiple forms of oppression. This vulgarization can lead to a perfect outcome for ruling elites—the setting of one oppressed group against another, each discounting the other and claiming that their suffering is worse than that of anyone else. The predictable outcome is that the various “competing” groups are rarely able to unite to change the larger systems of oppression. In the research done by the Institute for Labor and Mental Health with thousands of middle income working people, we discovered that one reason many people were moving to the Right politically was that they felt demeaned, shamed, blamed and misunderstood by people that they had encountered when they had visited social change movements with whose cause they agreed! They reported being told that all whites and all men had lives of privilege and that they should be ashamed and spend their political energy renouncing their privilege. These people often told us “those people on the Left live far more comfortable lives than us, and they have no idea about the struggles I have to go through to just put food on the table for my kids, much less what it was like growing up in a family whose income left them insecure about whether they’d even be able to afford a place to live or end up homeless.” Others said they resented the religio-phobia they encountered–the message that, as they put it to us, ”if you were religious or spiritual you were on a lower level of intellectual or psychological development, perhaps seeking a father figure in religion and not able to be as psychologically advanced as those who rejected any God or any religious or spiritual practice.” As Spiritual Progressives we do not urge people to believe in a God or accept a religious practice, but we do encourage progressives to not put down people who are into religion. And although we acknowledge that in some respects whites are privileged compared to people of color in not being as frequently subject to police abuse and violence, and not as frequently looked upon as suspicious or dangerous just becausew of the color of their skin, and hence we feel outrage at the racism that they experience and are committed to dismantling all the systems in our society that nurture or tolerate this racism, we also believe that it is a mistake to assume that this privilege is the fault of people who are born white or male, or that confronting every white person or every male about this privilege is likely to lead to the growth of a transformative movement that would actually succeed in eliminating systems of racist oppression. The classist oppression which operates both on a structural level and on the level of internalizing feelings of failure (because of the widespread acceptance of the notion that we live in a meritocracy and that anyone who is not successful either in terms of material well being or success in achieving the friendships and relationships and family that feel adequately nourishing has not one to blame but themselves) that many whites and many men experience is real and unless that is deeply acknowledged by liberals and progressives, then no matter how appealing the political programs of the liberals and progressives they are likely to fail to get the level of political support needed to implement the programs for which we are advocating.
In our view, all forms of oppression should be taken seriously and can provide a basis for a deeper identification, comradery, empathy and compassion. The transformation of society from domination to love and generosity will be facilitated when people have developed a heightened awareness of the way their own particular forms of oppression and suffering provide a link for them to understand the oppression and suffering of others, and an invitation to develop that intersectional awareness. The development of a transformative consciousness, therefore, involves learning to be in touch with one’s own forms of oppression and suffering, and then learning to see similarities and respond with empathy and compassion for the suffering of others, without the need to believe that we fully understand or can experience the uniqueness of the suffering of others. As this experience deepens, we become more fully aware that our own liberation is dependent upon and intrinsically linked to the liberation of all others on the planet earth.
We seek a balance between particularistic identity politics and globally oriented renewal. We are aware of the way in which some movements in the past have used the claim that all particular identities and their associated issues must be subordinated to the larger need for societal transformation as a whole. Dealing with racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of oppression are then deferred indefinitely until the larger transformation happens. This is a mistake for two reasons. First, people whose community are facing forms of oppression find it difficult to avert their attention to the larger struggle when their own oppression is being ignored. Second, very often the particular oppression is so intense and so debilitating that those who suffer under its yoke have little energy to join the larger struggle, leading the larger struggle to fail because of the inability to draw on the energy of these particularistic communities. On the other hand, it is almost always the case that a full end to each of the named oppressions will not be completely eliminated until the larger transformation also takes place. True, there can be token advances. A Black man can become president of the U.S., but the actual condition of most African Americans doesn’t change and, in some respects, worsens. Or some women may reach the highest realms of government, as senators and members of the Supreme Court, but the plight of women in poverty, in communities of color, struggling with the pay gap between them and men, or facing objectification and sexual harassment, remains the same.
The way to overcome this seemingly difficult tension is to insist that particularist movements continually remind its participants of the vision of the larger world they seek to create. Further, movements that seek larger social transformation must continually remind their members that the changes they want to see will never be realized if they are not simultaneously involved in supporting the array of oppressed particularist communities. Spiritual progressives have the task of making sure that both of these things happen in any movement in which we participate.
Empathy for Those Who Reject our Approach Spiritual progressives strive to respond compassionately and empathically to those who disagree with our articulated worldview. That same empathy and compassion should be shown to all activists in the movement, including those who insult, criticize or diminish others, lord power over others or use high ideals in manipulative ways, because we recognize that our social change movements will attract many wounded people who need healing. Yet at the same time we will remain firm in refusing to allow those who are hurtful or manipulative to shape the inner culture of our social change movements or divert our movement from its focus on the New Bottom Line. We must be particularly wary of anyone who talks about, advocates for or actually engages in violence against others, including violence against police or suspected agents of the state. Violence is antithetical to everything for which we stand, and talk of violence can be sufficient to disrupt or destroy a spiritual progressive movement. People engaging in that type of talk need help which we should be prepared to offer. and formal psychological treatment, if need be, for anyone in our movement who engages in or advocates for violence as a path to achieve our ends.
In every aspect of life, we will give priority to enhancing our capacity to respond to other human beings as embodiments of the sacred, recognizing that our well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet and on the well-being of the planet itself. We are all, everyone on this planet, flawed beings who make many mistakes in the way we treat others, so we approach this task with a commitment to humility about ourselves and empathy and compassion for everyone else. In this way we hope to make our lives congruent with the world we seek to bring into being and the unfolding of the spiritual reality of the universe around us and through us.
And just as we constantly remind each other to not be “realistic” in our goals, but instead to constantly retell each other the stories of the victories of past and present social change movements, creating gatherings to celebrate the victories, so too we remind each other that a balanced life as an agent of social change must include time for being alone and outside the movements, time inside and outside the movement to celebrate and rejoice at the grandeur and mystery of the universe, time inside and outside the movement for play and love-making, and time to introduce playfulness, art, music, dance, ritual, altered states of consciousness, and humor into our social change movements. Let our movement for transformation toward a world of love and justice become known for how much joy and fun it is to be part of it, and the world we seek will be more quickly achieved.
By Rabbi Michael Lerner
Revised July 23, 2017