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Kindness and Activism

By       Message David Weiner       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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Eventually, Homo sapiens must embrace one single necessary and sufficient, all-encompassing goal: a global human community defined by the quality that makes us happiest and most productive: kindness. More about this in a moment. The first crucial and immediate task is to create a U.S. Democratic Party rock-bound determined to heavily tax the wealthy, institute single- payer health insurance, and enforce color-blind social justice. This platform is concrete, easily grasped and contains everything necessary. Any acceptable additional plank will automatically attach to these three. They maximize broad appeal across idealistic boundaries both reasonable and borderline. Anyone who rejects fascism, even if they also embrace notions that fall in line with it, can find common ground here. Most of our population.

Such a resolve will generate such powerful, effective resistance that only a movement stronger than any in our history can cope with it. These are basic process tasks it must include. First, members must learn history (Noam Chomsky's preachment for a decade or more) -- thus to enable them to differentiate between actual and mythical patterns, history and propaganda, activism and fakery, core causes and symptoms. Second, members must construct grassroots mechanisms for recruiting and publicizing worthy political candidates. The influence of big money must be nullified. Third, members must support and hold accountable those placed in office -- day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year and decade by decade. Life-style changes necessary to embrace such a challenge will be challenging. Will members accept them? As they fully grasp the plummeting trajectory of social stability at the hands of our ruling class, surely they will -- and so must the vast majority of global citizens in the long run. Fourth, members must systematically enhance communal bonding among movement members. Social disconnectedness so infects our society that the fading away of alienation (one's replacement of self-worth and empathy by superficial status and acquisition as the means to fulfillment) cannot be left to chance.

Here is where kindness as context becomes crucial. Political strategizing must not overshadow how members connect and interact. No persons may be demonized or labeled -- neither fellow activists who make us angry, nor those we view as opponents. Sharing feelings builds emotional strength; venting weakens it. "What you said really makes me angry!" is productive. "YOU'RE WRONG!!!" is not. Systems may be viewed as evil when they undermine decency, but not the individuals who serve them--this includes all of us, to some degree. Some people construct crazy-sounding beliefs to dull the anguish of conforming to the anti-empathic requirements of socially pathological systems. Beliefs should be viewed as positions people take, rather than their genuine perceptions of reality. Beliefs rarely motivate behavior, but mask the fears that do. For example the fear a street cop has of seeing himself as a coward for going along with policies he deeply believes to be inhumane, is soothed by constructing the belief that those he persecutes deserve it. In reality, should he act courageously, the loss of the job he needs to support his family may be the least risk he would face.

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Complicity in anti-social, in-human processes, does not define a person. Whoever acknowledges and resists it deserves our validation. Whoever cannot, deserves our compassion. At birth, we all share genes driving us to attach, connect, empathize and care for family and a few other in-group members. These are our strongest, evolved survival traits. What makes us most adaptive of all creatures is our collaborative skill, maximized by kindness. Democratic, empathic collaboration produces better strategies than obedience to alpha-male authoritarians. Alone among mammals, humans can extend the boundaries of their in-group to include members of other families, other communities, other cultures. We can include virtually anyone. Even people organized in opposition to us, even mortal enemies, even, in fact, our entire species. It is no wonder that oligarchies encourage individualism over communalism and define kindness as weakness.

A movement committed to universal inclusion must surely prevail over forces committed to social conflict. Other-hating creates an indecent society but also an unstable one. Who can doubt that a world-order based on kindness must be stable and functional beyond any in our history; for humans and all life on the Planet? Or that because of advanced technologies of destruction available to all, failing to reverse current trends no society will survive the next inevitable war.

(Article changed on September 3, 2017 at 23:44)


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David Weiner received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1964 and subsequently taught at SUNY/Buffalo and The University of Houston, where he received a Teaching Award. He currently teaches community college (more...)

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