“How one perseveres in the face of repeated failures,
as I have witnessed in my own life, seems best
described by Savas Dimopoulos, Theoretical
Physicist at Stanford University, who worked at
CERN on the Large Hadron Collider, when he was
asked about the secret of his success after investing
30 years of his life before seeing positive results".
“[The process of] jumping from failure to
failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the secret
Dimopoulos’ quote is an echo of Winston Churchill,
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to
another with no loss of enthusiasm".
Two Cautions Are In Order For Readers
First caution: Social sustainability presents a cognitive problem for the reader because it “requires changing your brain, thinking in new ways you have never thought before, understanding what you have not previously understood, and talking and listening in new ways. … What makes the cognitive work so hard is that it requires a new, higher rationality”.1
The “cognitive problem” involves understanding the values that have sustained our species for thousands of generations as the original cause of human motivation. These values are consistent, timeless, and universal to our species and provide an ideology and moral standard that can be used in any society, culture, race, or ethnic group, now and a thousand years from now.
Comparatively, weights and measurements BEFORE the adoption of the tablespoon, teaspoon, foot, inch, yard, mile, pound and ounce were arbitrary and subject to regional differences. It was impossible for a person in England to order a shirt from a tailor in Italy before the standardization of measurements. Now we take that for granted. Once we adopt these values as the standard of human motivation, we will look back at our reasoning beforehand as primitive, archaic, and obsolete. Adjusting to that change causes a “cognitive problem.”
Second caution: What lies ahead will describe the surreal terrain of a democratic society that is learning how to adapt to social change by becoming a system of integrated systems of learning organizations. It is surreal because all societies of all civilizations throughout all history have had an ingrained cultural tolerance to accept failure as the assumed outcome for all organizations, all forms of government, their administrations, and policies. The history of all societal existence proves the point. All have failed. Today, there are only remnants of prior robust societies, empires, dynasties, and cultures.
The reasons all societies have consistently failed is that none were founded on a conscious, overt, and declared intention to become self-sustaining into the centuries and millennia. All assumed, and did not question, that by surviving year after year they would exist indefinitely into the future; or they didn’t care if they lasted indefinitely or not. All failed because none learned to adapt to changing circumstances. None learned from their mistakes or their successes; and none kept functional libraries of wisdom to guide decision-makers. Unfortunately, this is the situation of all democratic nations, including the United States, the oldest existing democracy. And, it too will fail, eventually.
It is this history of failure that this small book challenges to change.
The catalyst that accelerated social sustainability into a political topic of personal interest was my recent reading of George Lakoff’s book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, Know Your Values and Frame Your Debate, (2014). I had not thought of social sustainability in political terms until his book awakened my realization that social sustainability and politics are intimately connected to the future of democracies through values. If citizens are going to create social, political, and economic stability and peace, then surely they will need to reframe their political positions in terms of the values of social sustainability.
Such a reframing of American political values will create a shock wave through the culture of “politics as usual” for academics, policy analysts, strategic thinkers, politicians, and most citizens. The exceptions include the “Progressives” that Lakoff mentions profusely as the hope of democracies, and a large, receptive public — the very large segment of the public who have distanced themselves from the dysfunctions of their state and federal governments, and political parties.
What is provided here is not “way off base” when the reader has an awareness that what has been missing from governmental policy development and political discussions are the values that have successfully sustained our species for tens of thousands years. What will be most discomfiting to the far right and the far left is that reframing political debate in terms of these values will provide the very broad middle of the political spectrum with a politically moral understanding of “the common good,” “what is fair,” “social justice,” and “social equity.”
How The Book Is Designed —
Chapter 1, “Reframing the Persona of Democracies,” is positioned before Part I because it provides the reader with a view of “where all of this is going”. The journey of developing “social sustainability” in social institutions, organizations, and societies will be an ongoing process that begins by taking the first step.
Part I, Getting There from Here, chapters 2-5, take that first step to begin educating the reader about sustainability. Sustainability is composed of two parts, as shown in the illustration on page 25. “Sustainability” includes material sustainability which is object-quantity based, and social sustainability which is quality-value based.
The four values of social sustainability are described at length. They bring the “quality-value” element of sustainability into focus. These values have provided the criteria of all human decisions for the history of our species; and the basis for a uniform theory of human motivation. Here, they provide a consistent and timeless set of values for reframing all political dialogue so that democratic societies can become self-sustaining.
Part II, Organic Democracy, chapters 6 and 7, will give readers a grounded understanding of why people want to form democracies. People form democracies because a political democracy is the only form of governance that has the potential to incorporate the values that have sustained our species — allowing that government to become an “organic extension” of our species’ will to survive in a social context. Currently, all democratic societies, governments, and their economies operate as artificial organizational constructs — not as organic organizational extensions of the human values system to support the sustainability of the societies they serve; and symbiotically survive as well.
Part III, The Emergence and Empowerment of Progressives, Chapters 8 and 10: Because democratic societies, governments, and economies were not designed with the four core values of social sustainability embedded into their decision-making processes, numerous problems have arisen that compromise their stability. Those problems have generated the appearance and rise of Progressives and others. They are perhaps the only group of citizens who will quickly understand and accept the potential these core values offer.
Unfortunately, Progressives exist, as Lakoff says, as a disparate group of idealists who have no organizing value system that would “put them under the same tent.” The values system of social sustainability has the potential to do that, and empower Progressives to wage a rational dialogue with conservatives and liberals.
When Progressives become an integral political entity, whatever they propose must build upon the existing social, political, and economic phase, and offer a new phase of social, political, and economic programs that have the capability of creating solutions (not fixing problems) so that democratic nations become self-sustaining.
Part IV, Creating Solutions, Chapters 11-15, provide much more specific guidance to Progressives. If Progressives are to create a functional, sustainable “new democratic process,” then it is essential to see, comparatively, what the old democratic process looks like, (page 109), and how oddly dysfunctional it has become. To counter dysfunctional politics, the consistent and timeless values of our species would provide the moral backbone Progressives need to propose wise options and choices for the tough decision-making that is ahead.
Progressives, as they reframe the politics of democracies, would be amiss if they did not have a strategy that also engages millions of intelligent, knowledgeable, and thoughtful citizens in the process. Part IV prepares readers for the pragmatic processes that will “Open a Progressive National Strategy in Local Communities”, Chapter 13, (page 113). To become successful, Progressives will need to begin their dialogue in thousands of local communities. That may seen daunting, until Progressives realize that there is a large, latent body of the public who already hold the same values as they do, and who would be willing to participate if they were taught how to participate effectively.
Part V, Creating the 3rd Stage of Democracy. Chapter 16, “Upgrading Democracies to Type II, Double-Loop Learning Organizations”, (page 147) describes an organizational structure and how it would operate to empower mature democracies to reinvent themselves by reframing the values of democracy in terms of social sustainability.
Characteristics Of The Book —
♦ The perspective of the book is that problems are solvable. It takes a positive, optimistic, and hopeful approach to the future.
♦ The book takes the perspective that people are innately good, and then explains the values that support that proposition. Yes, the world is a tough place to live in, but people are basically good, except for those who have chosen to behave selfishly.
♦ This book is for those who are interested in progressive social evolution that leads to more mature social existence leading to social stability and peace.
♦ Fear is not a tactic or strategy used in the text. The problems that will eventually arise are not seen through rose colored glasses or given a Pollyanna treatment. The difficult situations that will arrive in the future will surely cause fear in many people, and that is when they will need an empathic, humane, and rational system of values already embedded into local community decision-making systems to create solutions rather than fixing problems.
♦ The Progressive’s Handbook is a self-help book that provides readers with a positive way of approaching life, personally and strategically for society and its social, political, and economic leaders at all levels. It offers itself to help solve local or national problems, depending on who is reading it. It takes the position that there are millions of intelligent and wise citizens in every democracy who want to create sustainable communities, societies, and nations for future generations.
♦ This book offers a very positive view of the possibilities for citizens to actually effect meaningful social, political, and economic change in their communities, states, and nations. It views citizens as potentially powerful when they discover their universal commonalities and begin to reframe their historically impotent political power into potent proposals to change the culture of their nations.
♦ The sustainability processes described do not offer a miracle to heal, solve, or fix the big problems of the world that are occurring now. It does provide a strategic method of engaging the totality of human experience to bring nations, societies, communities, families, and individuals into a better and better world in the future. Just as it took many decades for democratic nations be become materialistic to the point where unethical competitive behavior has become acceptable, it will also take decades to change that direction, except when the public en masse chooses to reframe itself in sustainable democratic societies.
♦ The Progressive’s Handbook is applicable to all democracies, whether they are a mature, developing, or emerging democratic nations. Young democratic nations can prepare themselves for a much changed future by immersing themselves in these values, or learning vicariously from mature democratic nations how to engage a socially sustainable future. It is more likely that young democratic nations will provide the working models for mature democratic nations
— how to peacefully evolve democratically, socially, and sustainably.
♦ The Progressive’s Handbook offers a strategic process that will give progressive citizens control of the future by making sustaining decisions today. The future then becomes less scary because they will have confidence in the decisions they will have made yesterday, last month, and in the last decade.
♦ When we discern that all human cultures have accepted failure as the cultural norm for organizations, governments, societies and whole civilizations, then the acceptance of perennial failure should sting our awareness to ask, “How is it that our species has sustained itself for 8,000 generations (about 200'000 years)?” And, “How would we apply those answers to our organizations so that they, too, become self-sustaining into the centuries and millennia?”
♦ What has been missing to answer those questions are the ultimate, timeless, irreducible, and universal values that underlie all human behavior — the source of sustainable decision-making and social sustainability. Using those four values will provide a constancy and consistency within the political dialogue that has been missing.
♦ Finally, the values that have sustained our species for over 200'000 years can become the bridge for rational and effective dialogue between Progressives, conservatives, and liberals. It is our socially sustainable moral obligation to represent future generations as we dialogue about the design of socially sustainable policies and programs, today. Future generations must be represented in the discussions of the conditions and course of our future communities and nation.
What is provided in The Progressive’s Handbook is an introduction to the socially sustaining empowerment of citizens, with pragmatic instructions how to form large blocs of public consensus.
1 Lakoff, George 2006. Whose Freedom? : The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p 257.