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Sun Apr 05, 2015 at 02:10 PM PDT

Why Does Racism Persist?

by Robert Fuller

If anyone took the demise of Jim Crow and the election of a black president to mean that racism was dead, reports of the Justice Department on Ferguson and Philadelphia are sobering reminders that racism lives.

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Tue Feb 03, 2015 at 08:03 AM PST

A New Default Self

by Robert Fuller

Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 percent
Of everything you think,
And of everything you do,
Is for yourself –
And there isn’t one.

– Wei Wu Wei

Wei Wu Wei is the pen name of Terence Gray, a 20th-century, Anglo-Irish author of pithy provocations aimed, like the one in the epigraph, at the prevailing notion of selfhood. By flatly denying the existence of self, he means to shock us into realizing that the self we take for granted does not stand up to scrutiny. Like Eastern sages and Western post-modernists, Wei Wu Wei outs the current default self as a vacuous fabrication.

The purpose of this essay is to describe the current default self and suggest a new one that can withstand the post-modern critique and incorporate the findings of brain science. And there’s a bonus! Such a model of selfhood will turn out to be just what we need to keep our footing as the thinking machines we’re designing come to rival the brains Nature gave us.

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6 Reasons You Can’t Win

Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 percent
Of everything you think,
And of everything you do,
Is for yourself –
And there isn’t one.

    - Wei Wu Wei

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Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 04:52 PM PDT

All Rise for Dignity

by Robert Fuller

This is the nineteenth and final part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

AFTERWORD: ALL RISE FOR DIGNITY

If there is no struggle, there is no progress....This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. --Frederick Douglass
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Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 04:43 PM PDT

The Stealth Revolution

by Robert Fuller

This is the eighteenth part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

CHAPTER 12: THE STEALTH REVOLUTION

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.... Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. --Rainer Maria Rilke, German poet

It's impossible to foresee exactly when one social consensus will give way to another. Even after the fact, it's impossible to put your finger on precisely when this happens. Some would argue that the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 marked such a tipping point with regard to race in the United States; others would say the revolution pivoted on the passing of the civil and voting rights acts. But although not everyone agrees on exactly when it occurred, few dispute that sometime around 1970, America and the rest of the world underwent a profound social transformation. The sixties grip the imagination because they mark the onset of the collapse of the prevailing social contract on race, gender, age, disability, and sexual orientation.

Stories in this book suggest that the dignity movement is already under way and quietly gathering momentum. As a dignitarian culture forms in the crevices and shadows of the current social consensus and institutions restructure themselves, another tipping point approaches. When will it be reached? Ten years from now? Fifty? No one can say. With prior movements, there were decades when nothing seemed to be happening and then, without any perceivable warning, weeks of momentous change. Most movements begin stealthily, and the one for dignity is no exception. But in due course, all of them end up in our face. One day, not too long from now, the dignity movement will be equally plain to see.

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Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 04:48 PM PDT

Religion in a Dignitarian World

by Robert Fuller

This is the seventeenth part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

CHAPTER 11: RELIGION IN A DIGNITARIAN WORLD

If there is no God, Not everything is permitted to Man. He is still his brother's keeper And he is not permitted to sadden his brother, By saying that there is no God. --Czeslaw Milosz, Polish Nobel laureate in literature

This century will be defined by a debate that will run through the remainder of its decades: religion versus science. Religion will lose. --John McLaughlin, American talk show host

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. --Meister Eckhart, thirteenth-century German mystic

Religion is at once humanity's consolation and its divider. As individuals, we turn to religion for solace. The concept of the soul invests our existence with a kind of transcendence and helps us cope with the harsh reality that, as Thomas Hobbes famously wrote, life is often "nasty, brutish, and short." The idea of God not only serves as a repository for all we do not yet understand--and there will always be plenty of that--but also provides us with a certain dignity. For that reason alone, religion cannot be omitted in discussing a dignitarian world.

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 04:35 PM PDT

Globalizing Dignity

by Robert Fuller

This is the sixteenth part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

CHAPTER 10: GLOBALIZING DIGNITY

It is excellent to have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant. –William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

War’s a game, which, Were their subjects wise, Kings would not play at. –William Cowper

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. –Albert Einstein

The “Evolutionary Blues”

Everyone has known the blues: you lose your job or your health, your partner leaves you or your dog dies. Sorrow is an inescapable part of the human condition. You don’t need the wisdom of the Buddha to know that life is suffering.

The evolutionary blues consist of sterner stuff, affecting not just an individual but our species as a whole. These are the growing pains that accompany the political, cultural, environmental, and existential crises that have beset humankind throughout its bloody history. They stem from man’s inhumanity to man and are carved deeply into the human soul. This book argues that building a dignitarian world can mitigate the evolutionary blues. By confronting rankism in its fiercest guises we have a chance to unsaddle at least some of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and put their fearsome steeds to pasture.

We learn history as the history of wars. They stand out as terrible course corrections in our social evolution. As many are now warning, the advent and spread of weapons of mass destruction herald catastrophe for our species in this century if we don’t find a peaceful way to complete the epochal transition from predation to cooperation.

Before suggesting a dignitarian alternative to war, I want to take a farewell look at it as it lives in our imagination. Only as we see through war’s deceptive promise can we end our dependence on it and bid it adieu.

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Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 04:17 PM PDT

A Culture of Dignity (Part 2)

by Robert Fuller

This is the fifteenth part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

CHAPTER 9: A CULTURE OF DIGNITY(Part 2)

The Self: A Home for Identities

Perhaps Shakespeare put it best:

But man, proud man! Drest in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd, His glassy essence, like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As make the angels weep.

What the author points out here is that it is the opacity of our prideful egos that blinds us to our "essence," our see-through identity. Four hundred years ago, Shakespeare recognized that the human persona is really a cut-and-paste job that is porous, transparent, "glassy." What better description of a model--those ephemeral, provisional, but vital constructs that so enhance our vision?

If at some point in our life we can't conjure up a serviceable identity, an uncomfortable feeling comes over us. We feel we're ceasing to exist in the eyes of others and even our own. We're becoming invisible--a nobody.

This is ultimately why human beings need dignity, deserve dignity, and in the end, will see fit to grant it to one another. As Pascal noted, "Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature; but he is a thinking reed." Selfhood is tenuous, fluid, and unstable. Identity has to be handled carefully, as a gardener tends his prize roses. "Attention must be paid," insists Willie Loman's wife in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. As playwright David Mamet wrote in a tribute to Miller, "To find beauty in the sad, hope in the midst of loss, and dignity in failure is great poetic art." To deny dignity to someone is to deprive the solitary, vulnerable self the sustenance it has need of to make its humble offering in the world and fulfill its existential duty.

Over the course of our lifetime, various identities form and collapse. Even though our current one may feel like "the real thing," every identity eventually shows its age and begins casting about for a stage exit. In observing that "one man in his time plays many parts," Shakespeare, like many an Eastern sage, saw that to be human is to inhabit a series of roles while at the same time being a member of the audience--a part of, yet simultaneously a witness to, "the human comedy."

As we look back at our life, the stream of our former identities resembles a succession of guests in a hotel. We are no one of these transients but rather the hotel's proprietor, affording each visitor a temporary haven. From our lofty eyrie,we recognize ourselves as a home for identities. Each of these evanescent selves deserves to be received, well treated, and when the time comes, bid farewell with dignity.

Growing up, my friends and I expected to be the same person for life, just as our fathers and mothers had been. But by the time I was fifty I could look back and identify several distinct personas that had taken up residence within and used me as a mouthpiece to make one or another case in the world. So could most of my friends. Initially we were embarrassed by this state of affairs, feeling it to be a sign of inconstancy and failure. Now I see metamorphosing from one identity to the next as a natural extension of the development from childhood to adolescence to early adulthood and beyond. The more flexible, forgiving attitude that results from a malleable self model turns out to be the perspective we need to maintain our dignity in adversity and accord it to others in theirs. If we can't treat our current self with respect, what chance have we of doing so with anyone else?

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Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 04:36 PM PDT

A Culture of Dignity (Part 1)

by Robert Fuller

This is the fourteenth part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

CHAPTER 9: A CULTURE OF DIGNITY(Part 1)

The public...demands certainties....But there are no certainties. --H. L. Mencken, American writer

Know you what it is to be a child?...It is to believe in belief. --Francis Thompson, British poet

The investigator should have a robust faith--and yet not believe. --Claude Bernard, French physiologist

When we hear the word fundamentalist today,we tend to think of Christians, Jews, Muslims, or others who are rigid in their faith. Images of zealous evangelists, self-righteous proselytizers, and fanatics leap to mind.

But I use the word more broadly to refer to any true believers and even to that part of ourselves that might be closed-minded about one thing or another. By generalizing in this way, we include those who dismiss anything contrary to their particular absolutist views, whether religious, scientific, artistic, or ideological. Such a stance is the antithesis of the model-building perspective.

Can a fundamentalist thus construed be dignitarian? Or is it in the very nature of fundamentalism not only to presume the superiority of its doctrine but also to try to impose it on others?

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Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 04:00 PM PDT

The Politics of Dignity

by Robert Fuller

This is the thirteenth part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

CHAPTER 8: THE POLITICS OF DIGNITY

Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried. --Winston Churchill All the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy. --Alfred E. Smith, former governor of New York The price of liberty is something more than eternal vigilance....We can save the rights we have inherited from our fathers only by winning new ones to bequeath our children. --Henry Demarest Lloyd, American journalist and reformer
The previous chapters have discussed rankism in our social institutions and what can be done to curtail it. Here we address rankism in our civic institutions. What would politics look like if it were conducted in a dignitarian manner? What is the relationship between citizens and their leaders in a dignitarian government? Must partisan politics lead to ideological extremes or is there common ground that both conservatives and progressives can inhabit and thereupon work out their differences?
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This is the twelfth part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

CHAPTER 7: THE SOCIAL CONTRACT IN A DIGNITARIAN SOCIETY

Poverty is the new slavery. --Reverend Jim Wallis, God's Politics

The exclusion of one group of people or another has been the rule through most of history. Men without property could be denied the vote in revolutionary America. Quotas were placed on Jews in many universities and professions until the mid-twentieth century. Women were denied the vote in many countries well into the last century, and still are in some. Likewise, the segregation of African Americans was widely sanctioned in the United States until the 1960s. At one time or another, most societies have rationalized relegating certain subgroups to second-class citizenship.

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This is the eleventh part of the serialization of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). The ideas in this book are further developed in my recent novel The Rowan Tree.

CHAPTER 6: RANKISM CAN BE HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH

Doctors are seen as somebodies. What separates them from healers is that healers bridge the gap between somebody and nobody by forming a partnership with patients based on equal dignity. I believe that affirmation of everyone's personhood is a healing interaction for patient and healer alike.--Dr. Jeffrey Ritterman, Kaiser Permanente

The Evolving Doctor-Patient Relationship

Rankism permeates all the professions, and health care is no exception.

Historically, medicine relied on the extreme difference in rank between physicians and patients to elicit trust, compliance, and hope during times of illness. But now, emboldened by knowledge gleaned from books, support groups, and the Internet, people are transforming themselves from docile patients into informed, engaged clients. Increasingly, patients come to the doctor's office with sophisticated questions and a desire to participate in decisions regarding their treatment. The era of the "MDeity" is passing into oblivion, and the traditional model of doctor-patient relationships is gradually being replaced with one of partnership. In light of this historic shift, it's no surprise that recent studies suggest that apologies from doctors significantly reduce the incidence of malpractice lawsuits.

Another example of patients' increasing desire to have a say in health matters is the hospice movement. By championing the idea of death with dignity, hospices have enabled people to retain as much responsibility for their end-of-life care as possible rather than surrender it wholesale to health care providers.

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