Getting Results Being Upbeat
Constant, unrelieved criticism debilitates supporters and rallies contraries. Overlooked are ideas that appeal across the political spectrum.
October 25, 2020
Jeffery J. Smith

People want things different than they are. So some become politically active. They align with proposals and political figures they already agree with. Most political people are so satisfied with their own opinions, they forgo strategizing. However, winning takes more than opining. It takes reaching people who do not now agree with them.

Political people repeat the same claims and arguments you hear in the media. That includes accusing opponents and excusing proponents. There’s a problem with that. Strengthening one side tends to strengthen the other, too. Feeling threatened, people rush to defend their belief.

If one speaks only against opponents, if one can not say, “I disagree with what you say but defend your right to say it,” then they lose credibility. In reality, all sides cheat. Politics is a pretty corrupt and manipulative practice, rewarding insiders and lying to outsiders.

If you can stand the incessant bad news, you can learn all that’s wrong with the rich, the poor, the corporations, the government, the police, the protesters, depending on your preselection of spokespeople, every five minutes, all day long. While there is some justification for learning the latest wrongdoing, just being a sponge for the media is not by itself making the world a better place. The commentators and organizations that cry out the latest scandal mean well and do a good job of informing but they’re venting, they’re not winning.

To win, you can not just cite the awful, you also must propose a solution. As the saying goes, “don’t tell me about a problem I can’t fix.” That just depresses people and turns them off.

Elevate One Or Empower All?

Besides choosing a side, political people accept the figurehead who comes with it. More than nonpolitical people, they lionize mere speakers, even consider them heroes. Are leaders better than followers?

Let’s abandon ideology for a minute. Turn to anthropology. When we all were gatherer/hunters, not one person was boss and everyone else subject. Any male could initiate a hunting party, any female a gathering party.

Translate that model to the modern world. Rather than simply follow, all of us need to be able to express ourselves in a venue where we’re taken seriously. And there is a way to do that—a grand grand jury.

While a reform like that is seen as abnormal, nobody bats an eye when referring to a human being as a worker. That’s how self-de-humanized we are, a self-assessment ideologues reinforce. We don’t think of ourselves as competent or independent but as some grunt a machine can replace. Like having a venue for self-expression, we need the wherewithal to launch a business to do what we love. There’s a way to enable ourselves; keep reading.

Why do people who want change overlook deep structure? Too far outside the box? Yet outside the box is where paradigm shifts come from. And a big bad shift is what we need, eh?

Address Symptom Or Transform System?

Our human need for social progress is why I’m encouraged when somebody does bring up a new way of doing things. It does not matter whether I agree with it or not, whether its a bandaid or structural reform. It gets people thinking, discussing, and some acting. That’s the only way things are going to get better.

Political people argue for lots of things they say need doing. Most look like good ideas to me. And offering ideas is sure better than taking sides. Reforms like ranking. Like ProRep. Like an end to bribery (contributions). Like etc. Besides political reforms are economic ones.

Old grey industries could not profit nor compete with young green industries if industry had to pay its way re pollution. Yet whom do politicians subsidize? So abolish subsides. Stop handing out free limited liability.

Breathable air is vital. The key is to plug waste. Not just efficient engines and motors. Not just efficient buildings. But also efficient land use. That leads to contiguous buildings. Plus shorter trips and no driving when people ride or walk. Shifting the property tax off buildings, onto locations, motivates owners to infill cities and to improve buildings without raising their tax burden.

Soil health is vital. Fights viruses, too! So, abolish agri-business subsidies. Recover farmland rents, which breaks up big factory farms. De-tax labor, like farmworkers. And pay all a dividend, so farming can even be a hobby!

That’s the reform that I see shifting the paradigm, tipping the scales, and winning the world we all want—a Citizens’s Dividend, an extra income for everyone, paid from social surplus. That torrent of wealth is largely the annual value of land, mainly urban locations, and of privilege, mainly corporate charters and monopoly patents.

If all of us are getting a share of those “rents” (technically), then a few of us are not hogging them any more. Predistribution means disbursing to everyone this recovered revenue before the elite or state has a chance to make it theirs and misspend it—especially on lobbying. Not only does everyone get to prosper, but a few no longer get to rule. Can any other reform top that?

Sociologists’ Insights To Shift Paradigms

How can you bring any of these good ideas about? Do the same thing anyone else can. Join up with others of like mind. Individuals don’t make change, it’s groups and movements who do.

* The more curious can learn what’s known about social change. People who want to change the world should learn how the world changes. Primarily, offer a gripping vision. Big problems need big solutions, like an extra income for all. Give people a choice, a difference, a chance to enjoy the best of what life has to offer.

* If you want positive change, and find violent revolution enticing, forget it. Violence begets violence. And it’s just not needed. If your movement has enough cohesion to organize an army, it has enough cohesion to organize a nonviolent takeover. Furthermore, setting an example of a superior morality is a powerful tool.

* And finally, and this is important, have more fun. The people you hope to replace are usually no fun at all. Potential supporters easily choose play over work.

By now we’re all adults. We should be able to move beyond the adolescent rage and name-calling and bitter assaults. We should be able to get analytical, get constructive, get broad-based support, and get into the winner’s circle.

If anybody is willing to work with me and my cohorts on what looks like deep transformation to us, I am willing to work with them on their pet solution. Scratch each other’s back. At this age, at this stage of the game, let’s choose, no longer a victim of the system but a committed agent of change.

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Jeffery J. Smith

JEFFERY J. SMITH published The Geonomist, which won a California GreenLight Award, has appeared in both the popular press (e.g.,TruthOut) and academic journals (e.g., USC's “Planning and Markets”), been interviewed on radio and TV, lobbied officials, testified before the Russian Duma, conducted research (e.g., for Portland's mass transit agency), and recruited activists and academics to A member of the International Society for Ecological Economics and of Mensa, he lives in Mexico. Jeffery formerly was Chief Editor at