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Part Two, Manifest Positivity: Talking with Dave Berman

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Welcome back for the second half of my interview with Dave Berman. You've been at this for a long time, Dave. How have you been able to maintain your commitment to working for change without getting angry or burning out?

Dave Berman

I started out angry and stayed that way for a long time, including intermittent periods of burnout. I think this was somewhat common for many people during this period, unfortunately. Things began to change for me during summer 2008 when I first read Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth." Rather quickly, my perspective changed, along with my demeanor and some behavior. I learned to observe my ego and it made me mellower and less prone to stress. I discovered how to calibrate the intensity I project and keep my thoughts from fixating on past and future. I became more present.

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"A New Earth" started coming up in conversation with lots of people who had read it. One of them turned me on to Rob Breszny's "Pronoia," which is the belief the universe is conspiring on your behalf. As with karma, we pay it forward and thus the notion of Manifest Positivity was born. During the end of 2008 I negotiated exiting my business partnership and by the end of January I was free of work obligations. I then visited some family and friends and by the end of April returned home to build ManifestPositivity.org and prepare the new book*.

I've been doing full time public service work since then and having much more fun working for a better world coming from a place of love. My mantra is now "Live to love as much as possible." I use that when meditating and jogging and it helps me stay present.

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There are other changes I've made during this transition. In April, I bought a video camera. So before, my advocacy journalism was mainly writing about what I was doing and now I'm making videos to help other people and groups accomplish their goals. Also, a lot of this is now apolitical, such as The Ink People (TIP) and Humboldt Mediation Services (HMS).

TIP is a 30 year old art and culture incubator that has accepted Manifest Positivity as a DreamMaker program, affording it non-profit status and assistance with organizing and administrative tasks. HMS has been a volunteer community mediation service for 26 years. I just completed my certification to be a mediator. And I didn't just join these groups, I've also been working with them on their marketing and media outreach. Of course you can follow the progress of these projects and others at ManifestPositivity.org.

T ell us more about mediation.

Mediation is a common alternative to the legal system and sometimes the courts refer people for mediation. Many cases come to Humboldt Mediation Services simply because they are known as a low-cost or free volunteer community conflict resolution organization. Some examples of cases are landlord/tenant, parental custody, land ownership, and business partnership dissolution, for which I personally used HMS last year.

I think what I saw most clearly from my recent certification training is that regardless of the source of the dispute, the mediation process is about getting past a communication impasse by helping people hear the other party and be heard by them. As a mediator, I have no vested interest in the outcome and no responsibility for even suggesting solutions. The process itself needs to be trusted to create the space in which people create their own agreements. I can see myself getting additional training and also doing lots more to use media as a tool for doing this kind of dispute resolution.

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It sounds like you've found a potent way to avoid burnout. Many of us could learn from that. Let's back up and talk about the We Do Not Consent principle for a moment. It's based on the fact that the public can no longer be confident about the outcomes of our elections, either locally or nationally. Can you talk about why that is so?

We've covered some of this already - the election process itself creates no basis for confidence in the results reported and instead demands our blind trust, assuming our Consent and taking it for granted. This is because vote counting has been outsourced to private corporations using computer code kept secret from the public. Even using paper ballots, but especially without them, these machines provide no way for meaningful recounts and sometimes provide results that are completely non-sensical, such as when there are supposedly more votes than voters or a candidate receives a negative total number of votes.

Essentially, current election conditions make the results unprovable and inherently uncertain. Compounding the problem, the corporate media report these unprovable election results as fact, even though they have not and can not independently verify what they are reporting and have received the information from only one source, which is the government itself.

If we actually had a Democracy, media would be independent of the government and serve as the biggest proponents of all for hand counting paper ballots in the polling places on election night because this would allow media to document the way the reported results have been derived and create a basis for confidence in the outcome where none currently exists.

I don't see election integrity work as activism anymore. It is a public service. The same is true of working for media reform, peace, caring for veterans and everything else explored in We Do Not Consent, Volume 2 and at ManifestPositivity.org. In fact, at this point, I think the audience for my work, really the community with whom I'm collaborating, is much more about the presence and pronoia spiritual (non-religious) approach to social change than the traditional angry activist community. The righteous indignation of We Do Not Consent is entirely justified. However, peaceful revolution requires we proactively build the world we want to live in rather than just opposing the fascists controlling things now.

I went to check out your Manifest Positivity website this afternoon and found all kinds of videos that were uplifting and positive. I watched one on laughter yoga and another on free hugs at a peace festival. I definitely felt those positive vibes floating around. Is that part of what you're trying to accomplish?

Spreading good vibes is definitely part of what I'm trying to accomplish, both for its own sake or as its own goal, and to set an example and show it can be an important part of effective work for change.

I'm having a hard time grasping the concept behind your new project. While I can certainly see that coming at activism from a place of love and positivity is better for the activist than being bitter or burned out, how does that positive activity or mindset translate into actually changing the very messed up world we live in? Is it more in the abstract?

No, this is literal and concrete. The easiest place to start is getting rid of your television. On a bigger level, I've discussed disarming weapons of mass deception through advocacy journalism and creating our own narrative. In this way we can withdraw our complicity of acceptance and perpetuation of the myths that make up the Big Lie, no longer pretending that America is a capitalist democracy with free markets, free speech and free press when in fact America is textbook fascism.

If there is to be Democracy, it is going to have to be local grassroots and ultimately come through municipal civil disobedience, where entire towns or counties or states defy a higher order of government that is attempting to direct actions against the people, most commonly through unfunded mandates. Examples include protecting medical marijuana patients, same-sex marriages, and refusal to legitimize the results of secret corporate vote counting machines (as Andi Novick recently announced that Columbia County, NY Election Commissioner Virginia Martin has pledged).

We seem so far from that now. Yet every journey begins with a first step.

Indeed, every journey does begin with a first step, so hopefully it is a wisely chosen "least you can do" move, like getting rid of the TV, or helping the environment by simply eating less meat.

Well, I don't watch TV. And a while back I did away with waking up to the jolt of bad news delivered by my clock radio. So you could say that I'm on my way down that path.

Congratulations for that. You have withdrawn consent and complicity through a "least you can do" peaceful revolutionary step, directly altering the relationship of power, in this case, that media has over you.

I guess that's true. This has been a treat, Dave. Thanks so much. I look forward to following your progress with ManifestPositivity.org.


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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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