1525 Chapters
Medium 9781626565760

3 Stupidity, Inequality, and Corruption

Cressman, Derek Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Three Good Reasons to Limit Paid Speech

The collective IQ of Congress goes down every two years.

—Chuck Todd

Imagine if you tried to make a difficult decision using only 4 percent of your brain capacity. You’d probably do some stupid things. Maybe you’d take up smoking cigarettes in an effort to improve your health. There was a myth for decades that we human beings actually use only 10 percent of our brains, but scientists have debunked that. A healthy person uses 100 percent of her brain—and even then we still make mistakes.56

Now imagine a society that only makes use of the collective wisdom of 4 percent of its citizens. Would that society make smart public policy decisions? That’s what the Supreme Court has done by letting big money talk louder than the rest of us.

Roughly 4 percent of Americans contribute to a political campaign in any presidential year, but even that statistic grossly overstates participation. Most of the money comes from only the 0.2 to 0.4 percent of Americans who make a contribution of $200 or more to a federal candidate in each two-year election cycle, and this percentage has been shrinking over time.57 If these are the only voices voters hear, we are missing out on the collective wisdom of 99.6 percent of Americans. That’s a lot of speech that we aren’t hearing.

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Medium 9781626568976

7 Embrace the Tension: How our differences can make a difference

Jay, Jason Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Up until now, we have been working with you to get unstuck. If you are practicing the exercises, you have brought a conversation back to life that had previously been stuck. You named and acknowledged your old way of being and bait, perhaps in an explicit and public way. You shared what is meaningful and important to you, as well as the future you want to create for your relationship and the wider world. We expect this has helped you and the other person in the conversation to break through old patterns and begin moving forward together.

You may also notice other contexts in your life and work where you have no personal history of getting stuck, pre-existing pitfalls, or baggage. You’re not stuck yet, and you’d prefer it stayed that way. Yet there is still some bridge to cross, some tension between how you see the world and how (you think) “they” see the world. Perhaps you are part of a group, organization, or political party that has a polarized history with them, even if you haven’t personally been involved. Perhaps they have an expectation or stereotype about how you are going to be, and you have an expectation about how they are going to be. In those contexts you want to avoid pitfalls and instead have conversations that are authentic, powerful, engaging, and creative from the start.

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Medium 9781576753361

The Getting-Out-of-Debt Industry

Karger, Howard Jacob Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Born of people’s misfortunes, credit counseling was a sleepy cottage industry for a long time. Now, larger and troubled, it may be more in need than its clients of being set back on the straight and narrow.
–Christopher H. Schmitt with Heather Timmons and John Cady, “A Debt Trap for the Unwary,” BusinessWeek, October 29, 2001

We are besieged by advertising on two fronts: how to get more and cheaper credit, and how to get out of debt. On the one hand, we are lured into taking on more debt through cheap credit; on the other hand, we’re warned of being in too much debt.174

Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan pointed out in 2004 that because of low interest rates, we could more easily handle high levels of personal debt.1 In 2003 economics journalist Robert Samuelson argued that Americans were already too heavily in debt and the last thing we needed was more “cheap credit.”2 Despite Greenspan’s insouciance, “cheap credit” still mounts up and must be paid off. For instance, since 2001 U.S. households have spent more than 13% of their disposable income on debt, a level not seen since the Fed began collecting this data in 1980.3 The contradictory messages of “borrow more” and “borrow less” reflect the simultaneous growth of the credit and getting-out-of-debt industries. This chapter examines the consumer credit counseling industry, debt settlement, and ways to rein in runaway credit counseling agencies.

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Medium 9781609945879

4. The Chills of Popular Power: The First Month of Occupy Wall Street

van Gelder, Sarah Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

MARINA SITRIN

The reflections below are a small snapshot of what I have been feeling and thinking over these past six weeks. They were all written in the heat of the moment, without sleep and full of passion. I have only now begun to slow down a little and reflect more deeply with others on what has been launched, what we are creating, and what it could mean for social and political transformation.

Not that we did not intend it—we did of course—but a movement has begun that is vaster and deeper than most of us anticipated in such a short time. I do not pretend to understand yet why all of this exploded now, and even more, why people around the United States and the world have chosen to come together in directly democratic and horizontal forms. I am thrilled—inspired—but still sometimes taken by surprise.

September 21, 2011

Another amazing day in Liberty Plaza.

Today is day five of the occupation. Many people did not think it would last this long (myself included). Well, I should restate that—many people, often with lots of political experience in New York, thought it would not last. New people, people whose imaginations are totally free, people who are angry and simultaneously dreaming of a new world and who cannot imagine restrictions to that new world, believed that absolutely we would occupy the plaza, and they continue to not only believe it, but feel it will get bigger and broader. What is this based on? I am not sure. But so far, they are right.

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Medium 9781523094189

4 Story

Whitman, Gordon Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Getting started on change isn’t hard. If you’re frustrated about what you see happening in the world or your community or workplace, go out and talk to another person. Share your story. Hear that person’s. Talk about what both of you care about. Explain the source of your anger. Build a relationship. Storytelling may seem like a distraction from the real work of politics, but it grounds all social change because stories are how humans make sense of the world. We use them to communicate our values, what we care enough about to act on and even risk our lives to achieve. Four important results happen in organizing when we start with story.

First, we experience a small taste of the world that we’re struggling to bring into existence. When I listen to your story with focus, I communicate that I see you. You matter. You belong. When I tell my own story to another person, or to a thousand people, I assert my humanity. Indeed, this may be the action that is most in my control that gives me dignity.

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