I believe the journey to a more enlightened political process in America will need to pass through a phase of governance by a more enlightened left to counterbalance the distortions in the way in which the right is now obtaining and wielding power. Once that threshold is crossed, the task will then become creating a more enlightened right so that the pendulum swings not only horizontally from left to right but also vertically to another level of consciousness, thereby withdrawing power from the forces that currently dominate.
Once both political polarities - progressive and conservative - find their higher octave of expression, we'll finally have a political process that has more wisdom, integrity, and depth, which in turn can lay the groundwork for America actualizing its full potential in service to the world.
The first steps on that journey for those who lean to the left is soul-searching about what we need to do to become more integrated and inspiring expressions of the progressive impulse. The reason this is important is because the Democratic party has lost much of its attractive power - it is defined more by its desire to take back power than the vision of what it wants to create. The climate is often one of fierce critique (which is alienating) rather than a spirit of love (which is unifying).
Once fully articulated, that vision needs to be combined with a real-time embodiment that is authentic and fearless. Then citizens can't help but be wowed, wooed, and drawn to join the movement. Martin Luther King had that kind of vision and attractive soul power, as did Kennedy. Today's Democratic leaders often play things too cautiously and without adequate sincerity or fearlessness. They thus cannot become magnetic because they are not allowing themselves to make authentic connection with voters.
For the Democratic party to find its next level of expression, it means embodying a wholeness that is incomplete on the right. That wholeness will draw people into enthusiastic and passionate engagement. Some elements that I see as required for moving towards that wholeness:
1. Spirituality - policy wonks and heady intellectuals have sucked too much of the soul out of the Democratic Party. Spirituality can be a great unifier, especially when it fully embraces all religions as well as creating space for non-religious spiritual expression. The Democratic Party needs to get over its ambivalence about the spiritual needs of humans and tangibly address them with a more inclusive stance than is now prevalent on the right.
2. Love - The impulse behind progressivism, as people like George Lakoff have shown, is more connected to the "nurturing mother" role, which is in turn a reflection of love. However, the actual feeling and even the words of love are absent from much of the left's discourse, which leads to a lack of alignment between the impulse (caring for the greatest number of people) and the presentation (which tends to rationally emphasize the self-interest of lower classes). Acting from love is magnetic. When people can feel someone's heart, they connect.
3. Healthy respect for hierarchy - Democrats tend to be stuck in rebellion against hierarchy in any form, emphasizing equality and egalitarianism. While these are important virtues, the truth is that in all domains there are functional hierarchies . If we don't really honor those functional hierarchies (while staying connected on a heart level with our ultimate equality), we end up doing a botched job. Organizational excellence requires a balance between hierarchy and equality. Democrats need more honoring of mastery so that our organizations can begin to embody more excellence. A truly enlightened Left needs to be even better than Republicans at creating and running profitable businesses, effective organizations, and winning campaigns. That means we have to get much more comfortable with recognizing, rewarding, and empowering mastery and leadership.
4. Financial mastery - Democrats tend to think of money as a necessary evil rather than a great engine for the good. The simple truth is that when more money flows to truly enlightened and selfless individuals, our society greatly benefits since these individuals can steward these resources in wise ways. Money can be seen with an enlightened lens as a vehicle for our cherished values. The progressive left's glorification of a kind of poverty consciousness as more noble doesn't really serve. Neither does the more cynical corporate realism. Both stance lack the wholeness that comes with an appreciation for the power of money but consecrated to our greatest collective good. To grow a more evolved left, we will need to become more masterful at making money and guiding it wisely.
5. Integrating the warrior - Democrats have often dissociated from their warrior side, assuming that aggression is intrinsically bad. However, that leads voters, many of whom are quite fearful, to have greater trust in macho Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger or George Bush. A more enlightened left will not dissociate from the warrior energy but consecrate it in the service of something higher- even Gandhi had qualities of a warrior in taking on the British. Right now, most Democrats shy away from the really hard battles such as the massive voting fraud in the last two elections. Both times, our candidates and leaders did not fight the fraudulence for fear of seeming like sore losers and the media followed suit. A sacred warrior does not avoid fighting for truth and justice for fear of the public's perception. Personally, I think that exposing the theft of the last election (as chronicled in articles such as Robert Kennedy's in Rolling Stone or books such Mark Crispin Miller's Fooled Again) is a perfect place for us on the left to start embodying the warrior energy in the service of our democracy.
6. Fun - A more enlightened left needs to be a lot more fun. The right tends to prey on fear. The mood it creates can be stiff, serious, and oppressive. The antidote is allowing ourselves to be more colorful, light, and fun, which is more magnetic. Comedians such as Jon Stewart use humor masterfully to illuminate the truth of current political realities while also holding it all lightly. A more enlightened left will throw the juiciest parties and use entertainment effectively.
The people who embody the kind of integration I describe above often are reluctant to run for office. Progressive values tend to be more selfless and running for office is perceived as ambitious and self-interested. Our best leaders thus tend to run non-profits. Yet running a government is similar to running a non-profit - the challenge is mobilizing people behind a vision for our collective good and then successfully executing on the game plan. The left would be wise to focus heavily on recruiting the most respected and successful non-profit leaders who have the leadership skills necessary to both govern and mobilize people behind a shared vision. We need to be recruiting the Rabbi Lerners, Marianne Williamsons and Van Jones of the world as actual candidates rather than protesters, organizers, and commentators. They will likely not want to run, which is all the more reason to convince them that is what we truly need. Leaders with non-profit credibility will not govern out of self-interest to the same degree and will likely embody the integration about which I'm writing.
Clearly a greater wholeness is needed for a more enlightened left to emerge and gain power. The internal psychological and spiritual work that is foundational also needs to have external expressions, such as through conscious media. Right now, the existing major media have been deeply corrupted. Instead of whining about this, though, a better solution is to bring together conscious leaders to create a powerful and profitable media network that is illuminating a better path forward. That has far more power and magic then just complaining about the existing media are not doing their job.
More on these subjects in the coming weeks"
Sacred America Series #21
If you'd like to read these weekly articles exploring a sacred vision for America, you can visit www.stephendinan.com or sign up on the distribution list by sending an email to email@example.com.