Yesterday, I pointed out how changing the future relies on creating a picture of the future we can all share and see. We need something to dream about and walk with. It has to be personal. It has to have meaning. It must make connections. It can only be if it is a part of us all. Can the differing dreams of thousands of people be captured in a picture? Of course they can. If you know the power of movies, you know that future pictures happen all the time. Right now, if you open a newspape or a magazine, turn on your computer device or phone – you’ll see pictures of our future as it’s being fed to us today. Turn on your television and look at what we see. It’s fair to say if you’re looking at traditional Mainstream sources it likely isn’t about changing our future – it’s about describing what we already know, and about altering but still getting more of the same. It’s about reality. Reality, we agreed yesterday, is about what isn’t changing. It’s about what we largely ignore because it isn’t different. It isn’t that we necessarily see ourselves in that picture, but rather that we simply know it all too well. Somehow, if we want to see our future, we must paint that picture and see ourselves in its state of change.
While these posts are about research, and not politics, the best examples of people seeing, and then not seeing themselves in a future picture can be found in our 2016 political campaign ads. Remember the famous Bernie Sanders’ ad as his 2016 Presidential Campaign launched? The ad showed people presumably in the Senator’s home state of Vermont. The power of the present and the possible future was there – the home scenes, the tranquil and hopeful people, and the music of Simon & Garfunkel, “I’ve come to look for America.” The ad invoked emotional, personal feelings about patriotism and what it meant, traditionally, to be from the USA. People all over the country started seeing themselves in the picture. The powerful ad made people see themselves there – among the things that mattered. In one ad, many saw themselves clearly in the Bernie Sanders campaign. The next ads showed that wave of people meeting to unify and unite their voices. New ads showed Senator Sanders as a candidate who would represent the People and offered him as the man capable of guiding us into making the developing pictures happen. People started showing up for rallies across the country. After decades, the US Electorate was finally once again engaged. And then in July at the National Convention, America learned that their voices didn’t matter to the DNC. Alleged and subsequently proven corruption and election tampering did more than steal the DNC Primary election; stymieing the Bernie Sanders campaign movement destroyed the picture that people were beginning to see.
Not too quietly on the other end of the political spectrum, people were also showing up for Donald Trump’s campaign. While most of the nation laughed, I and others identified Trump almost immediately as the man who all the other candidates would eventually have to beat. We took a lot of heat for our views. To us, not surprisingly, the contest was clear from the beginning. Why? Because one candidate was about change, the other was not. Once Sanders was out of the way, people laughed at the possibility of a win by Donald Trump, and the race was on. We know the results of that election. Change won. Since then, the entire country has been stuck and spinning on the divisiveness, locked into discussions about nothing but the past. No matter your politics, it’s undeniable that this new year can and must be about change. We must paint a new picture.
In 2017, millions of American voters “woke” to the distressing realization that their government no longer reflected the will of The People. That awakening needed to happen, and is observably still going on, but do we have time to wait for all the arguing and the name calling, the fears and the doubts and the difference seeking to die down? It won’t – it won’t die down. Not unless we start creating that forward picture of change. Until we can see it and see ourselves in that scheme, there’s little but conflict spiral that lies ahead. Conflict spirals are usually loaded with death and destruction – they’re a built in result. Now are you ready to get down with some change?
In September 2017 I traveled with many others to the People’s Convergence Conference in Washington, DC. The objective, ostensibly, was to deliver a Petition to Senator Bernie Sanders, enjoining him to lead the beginning of a new Political Party. As I sped in my Lyft cab from Union Station to the hotel, past the National Mall , we passed the group assembled with signs ready to march to his office. Encumbered with luggage, I couldn’t join them, but they went on to find that despite advance notice and much pre-event public hype announcing the group’s plan, Mr. Sanders was not there. Once Bernie Sanders rejected the offer to accept the group’s Draft Bernie petition, the wheels fell off the momentum cart. In the important aftermath since that time, some said the conference was a waste of everyone’s time. I completely disagree. It was a very important conference because Bernie’s absence made three things abundantly clear:
- Windows to the past were closed – Bernie Sanders was not “with” the People’s Party and was not likely to become so;
- a’la the forever matrixed Green Party model, multiple “progressive” groups are all acting separately on distinct issues, but with little national cohesion, and finally;
- the organizations working to create this People’s Party see the group in terms of voters and election components, and struggle to organize them into an Action Driven Party directed at national level change.
Committed more than ever now to the conference, I attended conference sessions with one goal in mind – take a collective social reading and find out where the group was now; in the past, or moving to the future. I started keeping word lists to observe what kind of dynamics were operating. What was the group metaphor? Despite the positive nature of the conference group and the greater intent, the words in action were all about fear. “Fight, Beat, Win.” They were also very divisive, not in a political sense, but in a distinction making way. “We” wasn’t about the larger group – it was about a particular group trying to make themselves known. In my world, we were almost back at square one in a change cycle – assessing inventory and acquiring vocabulary. It meant there was no way this group was ready to gain traction on anything that smacked of change. Let me explain:
Social change mirrors human development. It’s all we know – it’s all we can arguably experience, so repeatedly, individually and collectively, even organizationally, it’s what we humans do. One of the best development cycles we can use as a model to check in on what’s going on with people is the process of development in acquiring language. Once the proverbial rug was pulled out from under the Conference organizers and attendees, it was like witnessing a 3 year old child’s development cycle when they experience a linguistic “noun explosion.” Notably, children acquiring new words and labels during this stage become very rigid about accepting two nouns to describe the same thing. Multi-linguistic children abandon one language over the other in their attempts to learn the right rules and definitions and attached emotions for each word learned, one at a time. Eventually they’ll go back to accommodating both languages.
Back at the conference, the plenaries became platforms for progressive leaders to announce who and how and why they were ready to lead us now. The group, which can definitely be compared to this noted development stage, was engaged in their own “noun explosion.” The remaining days were spent re-defining what and who everyone was – now without the symbol or the resources that Bernie would have brought along. Hopes of Bernie’s involvement were pretty much gone. By Saturday, the conference metaphor had defined itself. It was very little about moving forward to building a movement let alone a consensus about what to do now. It was all about established groups jockeying themselves into positions of perceived power and declaring their own new rules. It completely stopped being about change, and it definitely stopped being about discovering or fostering consensus. It was, once again, about describing limitations defined by getting and being allowed only more of the same.
Many people in the Movement for a People’s Party recently abandoned the new Party national effort to organize, returning their attention to getting local level change initiatives and candidates on the ballots. It’s caught many unaware, but the situation today isn’t really surprising at all. In their own words, “There’s no momentum toward change.” There’s only work happening to prop up what we were told we cannot change. There’s dialog about “fighting” and “beating” and “winning.” The website claims it’s about coalition. But is it? Until a democratically derived consensus is reached about what the new picture of our future must be, it’s still all about the past. It doesn’t have to be. In fact, it cannot be – not if we’re actually committed to seeing the current state of politics and government in this country change.
So, why can’t it change? How can it? The answer to both questions is simple – those who want things to change must have the authority to command and mobilize the resources they need to accomplish it. It’s different than just possessing them. Progressive and People’s Party Organizers quote that 41% of Americans are independent voters who now demand national political and government change. Still, the one thing these groups lack is the ability to actually command the mandatory resources for change. Among the hundreds of people at the conference and now scattered all across this country, that 41% possesses them. The mandatory resources exist everywhere. What they’re not doing is moving. They’re not being used as a collective resource to bring about actionable changes.
Instead, this amazing collection of resources – time, money, committment, effort, drive, passion… is latent and motionless among millions of divided people. People who recently donated time, money and commitments toward Bernie and Democratic campaigns got seriously burned. The “Movement for a People’s Party” has no resources to accomplish anything, and its adherents are too gun-shy to commit theirs. Even if they wanted to put things together, they seldom even know with whom or where to begin. Everyone is highly protective and in fear (again – still) of losing even more. Command and mobilization of resources is what we must have to accomplish change, but the only way we can come together and bring about the change we so clearly desire is to overcome the past and to put ourselves and our resources into the future. We must inventory, assess, assign and focus those resources into not a collective, but into an organized body that can move and accomplish monumental, democratically derived change.
So, tomorrow – let’s share a few words about how to gain power over and with our collective (and collectively untapped) resources. See you then.
Are you ready to change the world? Are we ready to create our new future?
After more than 30 years as a neuro-cognitive researcher, a professional information technology and change management expert, and now as a Ph.D. student in San Francisco, I invite you to come be a part of our future. Let’s paint a new picture
Changing the future relies on creating a picture of the future we can all share and see. We need something to dream about and walk with. It has to be personal. It has to have meaning. It must make connections. It can only be if it is a part of us all. Can the differing dreams of thousands of people be captured in a picture? Of course they can. If you know the power of movies, you know that future pictures happen all the time. In fact, we try to model our world to attain them. Somehow, if we want to see our future, we must paint that picture. Join me again tomorrow and together we can learn how. I’ll talk about an exciting new Participatory Action Research Project that has the potential to help today’s future directed progressives truly change our world.