The Gathering
James Adrian

      Striking a compromise between two motives is not the same as sharing the same motive. Throughout history, many spiritual speakers have asked each of us to find the place within our character (a place we all once knew) that wants for others the happiness that we want for ourselves - a place devoid of destructive self characterizations, and devoid of theshort-sighted rivalries and resentments that hurt, divide, and impoverish us. I have reasons to believe that my car was not built in that spirit.

      Something is wrong. Once companies have billions of dollars, they often use some of their resources to influence legislation in ways that tend to limit new competition. In such cases, very large companies may see no need to improve products or services in response to new ideas. Once this happens, the way is clear to start competing with their own customers for money. The incentive to rustproof inner panels or make a car easy to repair is diminished. Very large companies are not always forced to compete exclusively on their value to their customers. If they do so, it may be only because they choose to do so. There is also the problem of criminality in a small fraction of companies of all sizes.

      Individuals and organizations seeking every advantage for themselves without caring about other people generally don't appreciate how short sighted and self defeating this can be. The best solution for society as a whole is to replace them through competition; but people who want a better world often feel relatively powerless against the more ruthless elements of society. This feeling is widespread. It needs to change. It can change.

Democracy Groups

      Cultural change that more effectively reflects the goodness of the vast majority of people can be achieved by changing the way charitable and commercial organizations conduct their activities. The suggestions made in this article are based upon these observations:

Current-day communication technology makes democracy more practicable than it was in ancient times.

Responsible members of commercial and charitable organizations can now avail themselves of accurate information despite the existence of misinformation.

The judgments of the population as a whole are less self serving than that of our leaders.

      The commercial and charitable groups of civil society are protected by the courts, the police, and the military. This does not mean that these businesses and charities need to adopt organizational structures similar to those used by the government.

      Meaningful cultural change can be brought about through groups controlled democratically by their active members and whose members are compensated for their work in accordance with written agreements approved by a vote of the membership (exactly one vote for each member). Members pledge to uphold a written constitution of the organization. This constitution states its principles and aims. The purposes for which such groups are formed need not be few in number. These may be exclusively charitable, or exclusively commercial, or may include both charitable and commercial purposes. Unless restricted by the constitution, members may include groups of any type and individual people of any background.

      It is unrealistic to believe that many people of widely differing experience will agree very often on what is most important to do. Instead, the members of a group can be aware of each other's aims and occasionally find ways to help further one or more of those aims - not just their own. This is likely because these are people who are inclined to help each other. In addition, their somewhat differing priorities are all served because they share the infrastructure that is a direct result of group action, and they avoid the duplication of effort that would otherwise naturally occur. The name recognition of the group, shared resources such as Internet and business services, and the approval of other groups are examples.

      Today, the Internet facilitates the intensive communication required among members. The ease of fact finding is also very important. The trends toward egalitarianism and away from narrow specialization are also helpful.

      Also, the meaning and significance of leadership is not what it once was. The alpha male of centuries past could lead thousands of soldiers into battle on the basis of his bravery and eloquence. Today, billions are led in a hierarchical way through the establishment of credentials rather than charisma and might. This is a big change, but it is not truly leaderless like a village square of bartering vendors or like small business as a whole organized only by the rules of free enterprise and law.


      Rather than leadership, the driving force of action in this new kind of group is advocacy. The concept of advocacy is not closely tied to the concepts of power, privilege, and control; whereas, these are often the incentives of leadership. Sadly, there is a small minority of the population that longs for the privilege to compel others to do their bidding. They are disproportionately represented among those who see themselves as leaders. At the same time, the kind of person who would be an ideal leader would also be an ideal advocate, bringing about extraordinary results as surely as might occur in any other structure.

      Aside from the personal incentives that may corrupt those wishing to be leaders, leadership has a deleterious effect on society. It tends to define a person rather than an action. In doing so, it places leaders in a separate social class and encourages the belief that there are differing classes of people. It also implies that recognizing class distinctions is legitimate. Advocacy is far less psychoactive and much more egalitarian in its effects. An advocate who has but one vote and no executive powers may be appreciated for a personal history of informative investigations and thought-provoking proposals, but not necessarily thought of as a person apart and beyond ordinary mortals. A democratically managed group facilitates the development and conditioning of each member as an advocate and producer in the best sense - a sense not rooted in the royal-blood notions of the past.

Military Emulations

      The military model of group action is an integral part of our culture. The social evolution and the inventive enhancements of military group action requires honor, unquestioning obedience, courage, discipline, and loyalty within a hierarchy of authority. It has been staggeringly effective in the most desperate of circumstances. In war, law enforcement, disaster relief, and in providing enclaves of peace and liberty for civil society, its credentials are absolute. Nonetheless, the adoption of the military model for use in business and charity is lame and accidental.

      In today's world, most commercial and charitable organizations have a structure that is imitative of the military model. Almost all organizations are thought of as being comprised of a few leaders and many subordinate followers. This structural feature is less egregious than slavery, but more egregious than it needs to be. It is not founded upon democracy and it is not designed to facilitate a happy life in a protected civil society. The evolution and development of the military model was not driven by the needs of business or charity.

      Most children are brought up to become employees. Few end up participating in decision making or owning businesses. Their work is not specified by an individual contract describing what they should be working on. Instead, they are presumed to be less than an adult and unable to plan. By and large, workers come into work each day expecting to do whatever the boss, or anybody of higher rank than themselves, tells them to do. Although subordinates almost always do the same thing every day, none are surprised by new orders unrelated to their usual work. The result is abuse, unionization, many laws, resentments, and class envy. These workers are not at war or sacrificing their liberty for a disparately important reason. They are trying to live their lives.

Service Without Dominance

      In a democracy group, whether an employee or an outside contractor, and whether a part-time fork-lift maintenance worker or a full-time book distributor, elements of a superior or subordinate relationship are never included among the worker's responsibilities or obligations.

      Despite the inappropriateness of the military model for business and charitable organizations, the presumption of hierarchical command and control is widespread. As a consequence, the company is required, for matters involving the government, to name the people who are at the top of the presumed hierarchy of authority. These are the directors or owners. Their responsibilities include documenting compliance with the law and regulating the activities of the organization.

      In a business or charity, regulation can be limited to the maintenance of contracts and the measurement of each worker's compliance with their agreed tasks (to see whether each worker is fulfilling their written promises). This can be the contracted task of a person or group within the organization. State law could very well affect the writing of the organization's constitution and the description of some services within the organization that assure the recording of information that the government requires, but each task prompts a worker agreement or worker agreements.

      Wrong doing, or non-compliance with an agreement, may result in consequences spelled out in the agreement itself or may be adjudicated by the courts. This is no different than in the case of unresolved disputes in any organizational structure. It should be very rare if agreements are written clearly.

      It seems to me that people do not live long enough to thoroughly cleanse themselves of misleading influences. The incentives of leadership are wrong. The authoritarian and administrative features of leadership tend to unwittingly corrupt innocent people. Leadership is injurious to personal relationships and the culture of civil society. We can now prosper without it.

Gathering to Serve

      Before being psychologically harmed, a child is an empath whose blood is chilled by the sight of an injury to a person. Some cultural forces conspire to desensitize us. Even so, there are a great many people whose desires do not include the wish for power over others as a means of assuring the satisfaction of desires.

      The principles of civil society need not be confused with the necessities of war or the customs of contest. Democracy and the equal standing to decide matters of group action need not imply that all people must work equally hard or keep equal hours or be equally resourceful or be equally compensated regardless of the amount of their work or the results of their efforts. The good hearted need not presume that ruthlessness will win the day. If good people inform themselves of the facts of business and law, they will exceed the effectiveness of their less caring competitors.

      Once these realizations are made, a great many organizations will be formed to better serve people. There will be a gathering of those who understand the inevitability of goodness. In the process, they will transform society.