Building a New Reality

Hi. My name is Ted Wachtel. For most of my life, I’ve been thinking about how to build a new reality, because the reality we’re in now has some serious shortcomings. You and I might disagree on the details, but throughout the world there is a widespread mistrust of our institutions and our leaders, despite the fact that democracy supposedly won.

Most countries are now democratic republics. Even the dictator of North Korea masquerades his country as the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” So, if we mostly have governments of, by and for the people, why do most of us feel so alienated from our own governments?

Whether you’re politically on the right, the left or somewhere in the middle, most of us would agree that elite groups run things and that we as ordinary citizens do not have a real say in much of anything.[1] For example, Wall Street and investment banks got U.S. taxpayers to subsidize their losses in the recent financial crisis, but they have not had to take responsibility for their part in causing the crisis.

We should heed the warning that Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis gave Americans in 1941. He said, “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”[2]

The richest 1% of Americans now own 43% of all U.S. wealth.[3] Globally, the richest 1% will shortly own more than the other 99% of all humanity.[4] In a world once dominated by monarchs, money now rules. The wealthy and powerful buy influence in government.

Alvin O’Konski, a U.S. congressman for 30 years, claimed that most lawmakers, quote, “are bought, sold, signed, sealed and delivered.”[5] Campaign donations have become another form of bribery that corrupts representative government. Citizens lack true representation.

It’s the same in large corporations, where the CEO and the board serve their own interests, instead of those of the stockholders. The median annual pay for corporate board members in the U.S. is now a quarter of a million dollars per year, although board members work less than 5 hours per week,[6] with many board members serving on multiple corporate boards.[7] Evidently, stockholders lack true representation as well.

One institution after another has disappointed us with scandal, corruption and incompetence. Churches, schools, courts, corporations, care agencies, sports teams. As a grandfather of four little ones, I want to do something about the disturbing developments at home and abroad. I’m sure that others have similar feelings.

That’s why I created this website: not to complain, but to focus on possibilities. Actions, prototypes, demonstration projects, experiments; proposed, underway or long established. That’s what I’ll be sharing.

I hope you’ll join me at Building a New Reality.com.


 

[1]  Braithwaite, J. (1999b, August). Democracy, community and problem solving. In Proceedings of the Building Strong Partnerships Conference, Burlington, VT. Pipersville, PA: Real Justice. Retrieved from http://restorativepractices.org/library/vt/vt_brai.html

[2]  Dilliard, I. (1941) Mr. Justice Brandeis, Great American. St. Louis, MO: Modern View Press, 42. http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015009170443;view=1up;seq=7

[3]  Saez, E. & Zucman, G. (October, 2014) Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved from http://gabriel-zucman.eu/files/SaezZucman2014.pdf.

[4] https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2016-01-18/62-people-own-same-half-world-reveals-oxfam-davos-report

[5] U.S. News & World Report (January 9, 1984) as reported by Associated Press. Retrieved from https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1346&dat=19840102&id=b9wvAAAAIBAJ&sjid=bfsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2025,770425&hl=en

[6]  Pfeiffer, S. & Wallack, T. (December 2, 2015) The Board Game: Few hours, soaring pay for corporate board members. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2015/12/01/good-work-you-can-get-corporate-directors-among-highest-paid-part-time-employees-america/rYHPP7ozPXU0AG8VSo37MM/story.html

[7] Pfeiffer, S. & Wallack, T. (December 10, 2015) The Board Game: Debate Swirls on how many board directorships are enough. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/12/09/some-corporate-directors-overboard-joining-many-boards-and-raising-performance-questions/pQBVAGZmCBJ4fzaKTGdziP/story.html