Review of AWIP by Alternative Culture Magazine

I wanted to share with you the first review of “Another World IS Possible” by Alternative Culture Magazine.

Here it is in full:

Another World is Possible: Freedom, Economic Truth, and Creating a Society of Humanness-Colby Hopkins

Colby Hopkins brings a wealth of scholarship and practical experience from the front lines of the Occupy movement to bear on the central political, social and economic issues of our time. In lucid, commonsense language he demystifies fundamental concepts such as freedom and democracy – digging beneath the polarized rhetoric of conventional politics to the roots of the Western tradition. Then he brings the discussion home to what is needed today to reimagine and remake politics, to be responsive to human needs and rights.

The fundamental premise is that underlying our supposed disagreements is an unrecognized common ground, basic needs and rights that with an opportunity for civil discussion, we can all agree on. Well, at least, say, the 99% of us who are not currently benefiting from dominance over the political, economic and natural landscape. The Occupy movement has demonstrated a twenty-first century evolution and maturing of models of nonviolent resistance and communication that give practical hope for such a revisioning of society.

Hopkins is both humble and thorough in exploring and explaining the principles and techniques of group facilitation and consensus decision-making. Such tools are essential for making meaningful dialogue possible on a group level, as we move up the scale from local agreement to larger-scale political entities. The hope, and indeed the imperative, is that in our time the organization of social problem-solving depends not upon empty and co-opted representation, but upon true, living democracy, thriving In grassroots communities.

The Declaration of Independence (with some minor edits)

Originally presented before Congress on July 4th, 1776:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which … Nature … entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among [people], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

The history of the present [American Government—Congress, Courts, and Executives, as well as their cohorts in various media, corporate, and banking industries] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over the [American people and those abroad]. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

[Government, corporate, and banking institutions and leadership have] refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

[They have] forbidden [the people] to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, (i.e. the US Congress) unless suspended in their operation till [their] Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, [they have] utterly neglected to attend to them.

[They have] has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, (i.e. voting rights, gerrymandering, etc.) a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

[They have] called together legislative bodies [that are incapable and unwilling to submit to the will of the people, except those American who hold enormous fortunes], for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with [their] measures.

[The Executives have ignored the] Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness [their] invasions on the rights of the people.

[They have] refused for a long time, after such [disregard for the rights of the people], to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within (i.e. money and corruption).

[They have] endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners [so corporations can continue to exploit the people]; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands (except to Exxon Mobile, TransCanada, Monsanto, etc).

[They have] obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing [their] Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

[They have] made Judges dependent on [their] Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

[They have] erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

[They have] kept […], in times of peace, Standing Armies [of our young men and women, in positions all over the world] without the Consent of our legislatures [or the people].

[They have] affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power [and use it to usurp civil powers of other free peoples abroad].

[They have] combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving [their] Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops [and police] among us [and keeping us under surveillance]: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For [control and manipulating] our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses

For [disregarding] the free System of […] Laws in [the United States], establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and … [wielding unnecessary military power beyond its] Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these [states].

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For [corrupting and mismanaging] our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

[They have] abdicated Government here, by declaring us [under their] Protection and waging War against us [and in our name].

[They have] has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, [fracked] our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

[They are] at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries (see Academi, formerly Blackwater Worldwide and the exploitation, by government, of our own military abroad) to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

[They have] constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against [other peoples], to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

[They have] excited domestic insurrections amongst us. (deletion of racist characterization of Native Americans)

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. [Political and economic leadership] whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our [wealthiest] brethren [and their congressional counterparts]. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We [the people], therefore, solemnly publish and declare, That [we] are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent [people]; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to [illegitimate power], and that all political connection between [the people and the rule of the wealthiest Americans], is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent [people], [we] have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent [people] may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

On Humanness

The concept of humanness juxtaposes the concept of human nature. Human nature is used as foundational justification for the social contract, which (in theory) legitimatizes government through consent, and for economic policy and theory related to capitalism. Humanness goes beyond the human nature debate and, to some degree, makes the debate irrelevant. This is because humanness includes human nature no matter what human nature is. It considers what it means to be a human being living in Earth regardless of whether certain behaviors of ours are ingrained in our DNA or social constructs—it simply acknowledges how we are.So how are we?

Well, the easiest way to boil this down is to say we are diverse. People have the capacity to act and be every different kind of person one could imagine. Unfortunately, most theories and policies in social science focus on an extremely narrow view of human beings that considers them rational, selfish, and competitive. But people are much more than that.

Consider for a moment what we hold most dear.  Most of us desire and value our freedom because we want to express ourselves without reservation. We want to be ourselves, do what makes us happy, and feel the invigoration of life experiences. More importantly, we want what is best for our families. We want to raise them, teach them, learn from them, care for them, and be cared for by them. We want to have the capability of ensuring that those we love will experience the best possible life. This is what makes such freedom essential.

Being a human today may be very different than two hundred years ago, yet similar in some ways too. Humans in America will have a very different experience from humans in Kazakhstan but there will be many similarities as well.

We are physical beings. We are part of a physical world of air, water, and earth that we interact with to nourish and maintain our own bodies. Our bodies are limited in the short term so we are active and work but need rest. Our bodies are also limited in the long term where we are vulnerable to disease and death. We often hear the phrase “I’m only human” when someone makes a mistake or meets a limitation.

We are dependent beings. No matter how independent we want to be, we all rely on other people for our well-being. We are surrounded by family and friends throughout our lives, we require doctors to care for us, teachers to educate us, farmers to grow food to nourish us, and on and on. Beyond being dependent on other people, we are dependent on the earth for health, nourishment, and resources for our survival.

We always hear that humans are rational beings. We are curious. We think. We solve problems. Humans are also irrational. We are full of a variety of emotions that impact the way we think and act. Emotional experiences such as love, admiration, or joy, make us feel good; and others such as hate, envy, or sorrow, make us feel terrible; but all are part of humanness. Emotions drive motivation and motivation causes human action. Some people act more on emotions than others, but emotions affect all of us. We often make mistakes based on not thinking things through before we act. Even when we are not acting on our emotions, emotions are a significant part of what we are. Sometimes we make mistakes by thinking through things too much—sometimes we should “follow our hearts.” To deny either the rational or the irrational elements of humanness is to deny something vital to what it means to be human.

We are moral. We all have different morals but most of us have a general idea about right and wrong and have compassion toward others. Beyond morality, we are spiritual. Certainly, we are not all religious but humanness includes a connectedness beyond the self, which is ones’ spirituality. For many, spirituality manifests in religious beliefs. For others, it is simply a consciousness of something greater than themselves, perhaps a being, perhaps something like energy. Some interpret spirituality as a connection to nature, humanity, or the depths of the inner-self, among many other interpretations of spirituality.

We also work. Sigmund Freud said, “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” We are servants. We all serve others, whether it is caring for our family, showing an act of kindness by helping a stranger, volunteering, or something else. Service is the giving of self. In a world dominated by profit motives and mass consumption, serving others is an exchange that has human value outside of monetary measurements. Serving others helps shift our mindset away from selfishness toward selflessness and helps foster communities.

We are social creatures. As humans, we are continuously interacting with others. Of course there are those that prefer isolation, and all of us need it at times, but over the course of a lifetime, we immerse ourselves in the lives of others. Interactions occur at many different levels and with advancements in technology, the amount of interactions and the levels of interaction are continually expanding. Telephones, cell phones, Internet, emails, social media, and video calls allow us to create and maintain interactions over great distances. Part of being human is having intimate interactions. While technology allows us to interact and connect at great distances, it does not replace the need for face-to-face interactions and intimate relationships.

Humans are communal beings. Beyond simple interactions with others, we use various methods of communication to express ourselves, exchange ideas, and build and navigate complex social structures. As communities form, people become free to interact with others to exchange, share, and co-exist, creating a sense of commonality and connectedness. Human societies develop cultures made up of stories, histories, myths, legends, rituals, ceremonies, celebrations, rules, norms, ethical codes, values, beliefs, and habits. We identify with these communities and cultures. We say things like “I am Mexican,” “I am Jewish,” “I am Black,” “I am American.” Those identities have value to us.

We are also creative, both in our work and for self-expression. We make things and we express ourselves in abstracts. We write poems, books, and business plans. We paint replicas and abstracts. We draw pictures and blueprints. We build sculptures and skyscrapers. We sing, dance, and play instruments, which we created. In our work, service, art, community, and family, we want to feel valued. We want to know, on some level, that we matter.

Every human is different. Aspects of humanness vary to different degrees from person to person. Any system of social organization that fosters freedom must account for the vast differences in and among people. Humanness necessitates flexible and inclusive political and economic practices if humans are to be truly free in a society with other people. By participating in a truly democratic process that actually allows us to contribute freely to our fullest potential to the societal decisions that affect us, we are participating in the continual creation of the society in which we exist. As a result, the society reflects and reciprocates our humanness to the extent we participate and have an impact.

So the next time someone tells you “This is the only way because it is human nature” you can confidently reply “It doesn’t have to be this way. We can do better. Our humanness allows us to be whatever we want to be.”

NYC “Another World IS Possible” Book Release Party

The Humanness Project Press Presents: Colby Hopkins’ “Another World IS Possible” Release Party

Join us on Wednesday, June 26th from 6-9pm at Woodrow’s NYC at 43 Murray St (between Church & West Broadway)                           

About the Book:

Colby’s “Another World IS Possible: Freedom, Economic Truth, and Creating a Society of Humanness” challenges the current political and economic structures, arguing they do not correlate with all that it means to be humans in society. He provides an intriguing methodology to transition to another kind of world, one that does correlate with humanness.

Sale Information:

We will be selling paperback copies of “Another World IS Possible” for $17.10 (tax included cash or check) and Colby will be signing books upon request.

Reflections on Living in Palestine

Most of my life, I’ve held a strong conviction against ignorance and intolerance of people in other regions around the world. I was against these notions not only because I think they are fundamentally wrong, but because I believe they are illogical. These ideas stemmed from the belief that if one were to examine any demographic on the planet, they would find people along a full spectrum of social, political, and religious beliefs. This diversity would include all possible different beliefs and varying degrees of those beliefs. It’s incredibly difficult to judge a people or situation, even when you study it extensively. Life is complicated everywhere.

Sweeping generalizations are not only inherently inaccurate, but they are fundamentally damaging. For example, the mentality that all Muslims hate us or support terrorism could not be further from the truth. But this mentality perpetuates anger, fear, hate, and intolerance. Even worse, these stereotypes foster apathy, and can go as far as extending support for policies that devalue and destroy lives of people in other regions. A notable example is Americans’ complacency about drone attacks that are murdering scores of innocent people in Yemen, a country we are not at war with.

The collective mentality is that, as an American, I would be in danger in Palestine. This is not to naively proclaim that there is no unique danger when traveling, especially in a conflict-affected area. But the concerns seem to extend beyond that of conflict and into the realm of “people ‘over there’ don’t like Americans” so I would be at risk. This implies that most people in Palestine would feel this way, which is simply not true. We all know that extremists exist—they exist in every culture. However, the type of danger people fear—because of the stories broadcasted across the news—is extremely rare.

The daily experience living in Palestine was not one of fear—I never felt threatened or intimidated. Even when I attended political rallies or protests, I felt welcomed and appreciated. I felt safe walking down the streets alone at night and walking into a stranger’s house when invited in with a warm, “Welcome, welcome.”

I found that most Palestinians asked me similar questions. They wanted to know, now that I was living there and saw Palestine for myself, what did I think of the Palestinian people? They know how Palestine is portrayed in the western media and they wanted to be sure we know they are a good people. They also asked if I would share their stories with others when I returned to the US. Every Palestinian has a story about how the Israeli occupation has affected their lives and they just want others to know about their experiences.

I’m not going to pretend that Palestinians are perfect—no society is. I have many criticisms of Palestinian society and government, as I would anywhere. It is best to withhold judgments of other people and other places. Instead, one could recognize that people everywhere desire similar things in life and everyone has their own struggles, which are difficult to understand if you’re not experiencing them. When judging another people, the best bet might be to imagine what you think any randomly selected group of people anywhere would be like, and that’s probably as accurate as you’re going to get.

For now, I feel vindicated in my belief in human beings. Although I was only in Palestine a short time, everyone I met exceeded my hopes and expectations, furthering my belief in the goodness of people everywhere.