1. It’s time for a New Reality, and here’s why:
We need a new reality, because the reality we’re living in now has some serious shortcomings.
You and I might disagree on details, but throughout the world there is widespread mistrust of our institutions and our leaders. Most of us feel that powerful elites control decision-making in government, and that we have little real say in much of anything.
I worry about my children’s and grandchildren’s future. I don’t like the direction the world is heading. I trust there are many who share my concerns.
The human race has acquired awesome powers. Through our technology, we can create and destroy as never before. It seems that our technological skills have outpaced our social skills. We’ve become a threat to ourselves and to other living things.
We struggle to make good decisions or get along with one another without conflict and violence. Wherever we look, we see corruption and what seems to be a spiral of increasingly crazy behavior. Sometimes we just wonder, “Who is in charge here? Where are all the grownups?”
But my purpose is not to complain. Rather, I would like to inform readers about promising alternatives to the current reality, and promote their thoughtful use and evaluation. To accomplish that, we will pursue experiments, prototypes, working models and demonstration programs.
The late Buckminster Fuller, one of the 20th century’s great innovators, said:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
In April, 2016, I began posting a series of 5-6 minute video blog posts. “Building a New Reality,” my first video blog post, introduces my purposes and concerns. If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to watch or read it.
All of my ideas and blog posts about a new reality rest on the unifying foundation of restorative practices (RP), a new social science that studies “participatory learning and decision-making.”
It is the focus of the IIRP (International Institute for Restorative Practices), the accredited master’s degree-granting graduate school that I founded in 2000 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
RP hypothesizes that “people are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”
This premise constitutes the main thread of a “theory of everyone.” If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to watch or read The Theory of Everyone.
A growing body of evidence supports the theory, and shows that “participatory learning and decision-making” work better than “top-down hierarchical decision-making,” in most situations.
The benefit of RP in every setting of society—from family to school to workplace to government—is to offer individuals more voice and more choice, in exchange for taking more responsibility.
Operationalizing the Golden Rule
RP operationalizes the so-called “Golden Rule” — that we should “treat others the way we would like to be treated.”
It’s one thing to express this classic wisdom, advocated by many religions and cultures, but it’s another thing to actually do it, when faced with the challenges of everyday life.
RP provides explicit strategies to engage us in avoiding or repairing harm, building relationships, learning truth and promoting good decision-making—even in the midst of complexity and conflict.
Because meaningful engagement—doing things with—achieves the best outcomes, it is at the heart of everything we do.
It’s not essential that we all agree with each other on everything. But it is essential that each of us feel included in the conversation. More voice, more choice and more responsibility—all three are integral to an effective democracy and healthy free enterprise system.
What Does a New Reality Look Like?
As a framework for conversation, I have sketched six facets of a new reality, each representing a broad category of society’s needs:
Each of these six facets are presented as a webpage “chapter” on this website — web pages 3 through 8 — which explain the facets and provide examples of organizations representing the new reality in each facet.
The six facets provide a roadmap to where we’ve been and where we may want to go. For example, my own efforts to date have had the greatest impact in learning (in schools), care and justice.
However, I am now shifting my focus to three new projects: my colleagues and I hope to build several prototype organizations that encourage improvements in governance, enterprise and a non-school approach to learning.
The six facets also represent a framework for action that:
- defines the dimensions of a non-partisan, evidenced-based social movement
- that improves learning and decision-making processes.
Our strategy is to take action, assess the outcomes, make modifications as needed, tell the world about it and take more action wherever we can.
“True Representation” is the first of three new prototypes I have proposed.
True Representation improves learning and decision-making processes used in governance. Built on RP principles, it fosters conversations where people have more voice and more choice and take more responsibility.
However, in the conversations we see on television, we rarely hear politicians and pundits discuss issues based on their merits. More often, they focus on how those issues affect the next election. Winning the next election is what matters to political parties and professional politicians. Truth is routinely sacrificed in their pursuit of power.
George Washington, the first American president, was so upset about political parties that, in his farewell address, he warned Americans that political parties would eventually destroy democracy.
Author James Surowiecki, in “The Wisdom of Crowds”—which both Forbes and Business Week magazines picked as the “best business book of 2004”—explains the three critical conditions for good large group decision-making:
- Diversity of opinion
- Independence of judgement
- Decentralized decision-making
Sadly, legislatures around the world fulfill none of these three criteria for good decision-making.
Political parties don’t want diversity, independence or decentralization because they would lose control of the decisions that are made. In every American legislature the political parties have an official named “the whip” whose job it is to pressure politicians to support their political party’s agenda rather than vote their own conscience.
Today, George Washington’s concerns about political parties are more relevant than ever before. So, in our conversations we will discuss how to improve the selection process for public officials and any other changes that would make governments truly representative of their constituents.
Conversations about a New Reality
We are scheduling a series of participatory conversations designed to help people learn about the potential of a new reality.
In doing so, we hope to avoid the kinds of conversations that characterize today’s politics — because they are usually angry, rude and accusatory — and almost always interpret issues in terms of how they will influence future election outcomes.
We will demonstrate that large groups of ordinary people with diverse opinions can have meaningful and productive conversations because we will:
- Refuse to demonize those who disagree with us, but instead try to understand each other’s perspective.
- Respect each other’s feelings and speak to each other with civility.
- Recognize that most of us agree on most of life’s big issues, aside from the few where we differ.
- Refrain from talking in slogans, labeling people, and incorrectly assuming that those who disagree with us all think the same way.
- Make decisions based on evidence, rather than ideology.
- Value discovering the truth more than winning.
You are invited to participate in online and in-person conversations.
If you accept our invitation, please understand that we are not bringing people together to explore the past, to blame, or to find fault with one another. Rather, we intend to create and support experiments, prototypes, working models and demonstration programs that seek to improve the existing reality.
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