Empathy Surplus Project

A Caring Citizens' Congress Federation.

Working to Cure the Neoliberal Disease

By Robert Kadar and Joe Brewer, Co-Founders, Evonomics.com

“Zombiepocalypse” Unleashed by the Deadly Neoliberal Mind Virus


What it Takes to Destroy an Awful Bug.

A lethal parasite has infected the brains of politicians and economists all over the world. It is so invasive that it has defeated all attempts to control or eradicate it since its emergence decades ago, and we are still far from having an effective vaccine or way to prevent its transmission. The virus, known by its species name Neoliberalism Economicus (in lay terms, it is just called Neoliberalism), indiscriminately latches onto the brains of both liberals and conservatives. It turns social consciousness into ego-centrism, cooperation into unconscious greed, and it only gets worse as it mutates and spreads.

Once infected, the virus takes control of the host’s neocortex and converts rational thought into fantasy. The host begins to believe in ideas such as harmonious free-markets where people can act and do whatever they want, a deregulated financial industry that correctly responds to market signals and can dump compounding debt onto society without costs, and corporations that can maximize shareholder value without hurting employees, communities, or the environment.

This insidious virus doesn’t stop there. It leads its host to believe that government’s sole purpose for existing is to ensure that corporations and ultra-rich individuals aren’t restrained by rules because, if they were, economic growth would cease and wealth wouldn’t trickle down to the rest of society. Furthermore, there’s no need for government regulation when a natural order known as the invisible hand creates prosperity for all!

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Passover 2015: How shall we care for the Palestinians?

Reprinted with permission by Rabbi Michael Lerner and edited for the Empathy Surplus Project blog. Passover 2015 begins Friday evening, April 3, and ends Saturday evening, April 11.

The Caring Society Solution

What makes this year’s Passover Seders unlike any others is that a majority of American Jews are being challenged by their children to take responsibility and care for Palestinians. Palestinians today are asking Jews what Moses asked Pharaoh: “Let my people go.” The Israeli elections, and subsequent support for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s unempathetic and irresponsible refusal to help create a Palestinian state, is not playing well with many younger Jews. Redefining strength, younger Jews challenge their elders to care for Palestinians, too, and are becoming the caring society solution.

Increasingly, young Jews are embracing the strength of Moses, and calling Netanyahu, the contemporary Pharaoh, to care. So at the Seder more and more Jews will be asking Israel to become the caring society God created in the beginning and “let the Palestinian people go.” 

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We've Got People Dying

I am a member of the committee focused on living free through opioid use prevention. I was out-of-town and unable to attend the last meeting reported on in the Wilmington News Journal, Thursday, March 19, 2015. I wrote about opioid use prevention as a healthcare human right in January and again a couple of weeks ago. In addition to the public meetings, I have had private conversations with members of the committee, as well as, Judge Rudduck, about my hope that the committee can frame our conversation around healthcare human rights. 

If the words “healthcare human rights” were spoken at the meeting that the WNJ reported on, it apparently didn’t seem important enough to be printed. Judge Rudduck was reported to have said,

“We’ve got people dying and I don’t want to wait for a needs assessment. We know what we need. It’s ‘how do we get these needs met?’”

Judge Rudduck’s frustration is shared. 

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Living Free Working Group - Opioid Use Prevention in Clinton County

Chuck_Watts.jpgInteract for Health has funded the development of a future comprehensive plan on how to prevent heroin addiction in our communities. The Mental Health Recovery Center of Warren and Clinton County is the recipient of this funding and have invited interested parties to participate. The response has been encouraging. I’m calling this group the Living Free Working Group and am a member. #HealthcareHumanRights Collaboration partners and I approach prevention with the governing values of care and responsibility for self and others. For example, #CleanWater and #HealthyFoods are foundational to preventive #HeatlhcareHumanRights.

We, who are part of this Living Free working group, all have our personal and organizational agendas that we bring to building our Living Free comprehensive, community plan. I like to call these agendas our areas of expertise. For us to be successful, in my opinion, our challenge will be how to accommodate this wealth of expertise represented by every stakeholder’s agenda into the Living Free comprehensive plan. Here is the context of my participation. 

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Mr. Netanyahu — We Want A Stronger America and Not What You're Offering

imgres.jpgNow, more than ever, we want a moral foreign policy steeped in a strategy of generosity that realizes America can only be a #CaringSociety if the world is a caring world. This is the definition of a stronger world, a stronger America, and a stronger Israel. What you offer is ungenerous and uncaring. We stand on our strong caring character. We, Jewish and non-Jewish Americans, want a stronger America in a stronger and caring society, based on caring and responsibility to answer the world’s problems. Like our parents before us, who gave us the Marshall Plan in Europe, and joined Rotarians from all over the world in San Francisco to build the United Nations, we want a new Global Marshall Plan to build our caring world.

At a time when terrorist threats come from gangs of criminals versus states, when “free markets” exist without freedom, when overpopulation threatens stability and disastrous global warming, when intolerant cultures limit freedom and promote violence, when unethical transnational corporations privateer freedom for profit like oppressive governments, when an oil economy threatens our very existence, the central problems in today’s world are solved by #CaringCitizens who combine state-level approaches with caring society approaches.

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Civil Society Consultation on the United States of America’s Second Universal Periodic Review at the U.S. State Department

HRLogoTextCMYK_0.jpgOn February 20, 2015, at 10 a.m. at the U.S. State Department Building on 21st Street, Washington, DC, in the George C. Marshall Conference Room, I joined one other member of the Working Group on Healthcare Human Rights of the UPR, Universal Periodic Review. The UPR was created in 2006 by the General Assembly of the United Nations to evaluate member states human rights record.

This is the 70th year of the UN's existence, the only institution of its kind that promotes basic human rights. The UPR, which is only 9 years old, is the first process of its kind in the world which focuses on evaluating the human rights. It took five years, from 2006 - 2011, to complete the first UPR, and I was participating in the 2nd round of a process I am only beginning to understand.

IMG_0071.jpgMary Gerisch, Chairwomen of the Working Group on Healthcare Human Rights, and I, joined about 50 other members of "civil society" admitted by the State Department to give and listen to testimony. Mary and I sat at a large conference table with microphones at each seat. It was standing room only. My 2 minute statement, like that of others, was focused on how well our fellow caring citizens and our elected representatives in our particular communities are respecting, protecting and promoting human rights.

My statement focused on the conversations concerning healthcare human rights I have had since 2008, when DHL announced their decision to close their shipping operation. DHL had only two years early acquired Wilmington's Airborne Express, which at the time enjoyed about a 15 percent market share. In particular I invited State Department to visit our website to see the more than 100 photo petitioners who had promised to use our healthcare human rights talking points. And even more specifically, I zeroed in on sharing two of 40 questions and the answers, I had used in interviewing 69 caring citizens over the twelve months of 2014.

On a personal note, I was able to make contact by text with Wilmington native, Drew McCracken, Chief of Staff, US State Department, Public Policy Department. Our schedules didn't allow us to have lunch together, but we did make contact. I am reminded of my AM Rotary Club's sponsorship of Drew's Ambassadorial Scholarship to the London School of Economics, if my memory serves me well.

My Remarks

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Selma - A National Call for Empathy

No matter the time. No matter the place. Every citizen eventually gets a call to care for their fellow human being, just because they're human.

Caring for a fellow citizen, someone you don't know, just because they are a human being -- that's the soul of democracy -- the soul of America, leading to freedom and fairness for all. See Selma and renew your faith in humanity's capacity for empathy and responsibility for self and others. See it with someone you love. #CaringCitizens are the solution.

Where's today's Selma? 

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Opioid Use Prevention: Healthcare Human Rights

HRLogoTextCMYK_0.jpgI am looking forward to gathering with other caring citizens of the Opioid Use Prevention group next Tuesday, January 27, at the OSU extension office on Nelson Avenue, Wilmington. As a member of the Healthcare Is A Human Right Collaboration, I especially encourage (1) the use of human rights language in our efforts to address opioid addiction in Clinton County, and (2) inviting ethical businesses and their stakeholders in Clinton County to consider joining the UN Global Compact and align more local organizations around human rights.

2010-01-21_20.02.15.jpgThe importance of framing our civic task of opioid use prevention around human rights cannot be over stated. This 2010 photo to the left shows caring citizens gathered at the United Methodist Church to hear Judge Tim Rudduck discuss what would become today's "drug court." Research shows human rights language is about life, liberty and happiness and fosters cooperation and collaboration. According to the latest insights of the brain, how we frame our conversation to assist Judge Rudduck’s Drug Court is important in expanding civic engagement. Words matter and focusing on human rights and human dignity activates the part of everyone’s brain where empathy and responsibility for self and others lies. Since we, as a nation, currently have an empathy deficit, building an empathy surplus is important. 

For example, providing healthcare human rights universally in Clinton County hopefully means we are acknowledging failure to protect our fellow neighbors currently addicted to opioids and publicly recommitting ourselves to expand the basic freedom opioid addicted residents have to receive dignified, hassle-free treatment that’s equitable and available when they need it.

On the other hand, “business as usual” means using the default frame of business and products language. When we use business language without human rights language we activate the part of everyone’s brain where fight or flight, competition, and fear reside. The first two principles of the UN Global Compact Ten Principles state: 

  1. “Business should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
  2. “Make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses.”

Resisting the application of human rights language to our work violates the first two principles of the UN Global Compact and makes us complicit in human rights violations. Since we are friends of a court, we need to make conscious the irrefutable fact that we are dealing with human rights, dignity and freedom.

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 2nd Bill of Human Rights

A tradition of the Caring Citizens' Congress, modeled after Rotary International, is the Annual Celebration of Human Rights. Caring Citizen Delegates everywhere are encouraged to celebrate various events of history or American organizations each month that commemorate empathy and human rights as core American principles of government to protect and expand basic human freedom. 

January commemorates Franklin Delano Roosevelt's re-emphasis of basic human rights as the basis of American freedom  in his 1944 State of the Union Address. Roosevelt's empathy as the soul of individual freedom and democracy was strong. He wrote, "Necessitous men are not free men." Roosevelt used this quote in 1936 and again in 1944 to emphasize our responsibility not only for ourselves, but also for our fellow citizen. He warned against "economic tyranny," which today we call "privateering" and called for an end to it. In 1936, he wrote:

"Liberty requires opportunity to make a living - a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor - other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.

Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended."

It was also strong diplomats in FDR's State Department who in the early months of 1945, reached out to Rotary International to recruit eleven individual American Rotarians. They joined 39 other Rotarians from abroad to meet in San Francisco in June 1945 to create the United Nations. Rotary's emphasis on the equality of wealth creation and human dignity led to its significant focus to create the UN's Economic and Social Council. FDR's strong witness to human rights was a trust. Others created that trust -- Americans who lifted up Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln for leadership -- caring citizens continue it.

As the president of a UN Global Compact participant, as well as a Rotarian since 1981, I am very happy to share the text of FDR's Second Bill of Rights address in its entirety, as well as a four minute video that focuses on the specific human rights FDR thought critical. Enjoy and Happy New Year.

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The Empathy Deficit of the Financial Stability Board

ellen_brown.JPGRepublished from Truthout with permission from the author, Ellen Brown, pictured here with co-founder, Chuck Watts

On December 11, 2014, the US House passed a bill repealing the Dodd-Frank requirement that risky derivatives be pushed into big-bank subsidiaries, leaving our deposits and pensions exposed to massive derivatives losses. The bill was vigorously challenged by Senator Elizabeth Warren; but the tide turned when Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorganChase, stepped into the ring. Perhaps what prompted his intervention was the unanticipated $40 drop in the price of oil. As financial blogger Michael Snyder points out, that drop could trigger a derivatives payout that could bankrupt the biggest banks. And if the G20's new "bail-in" rules are formalized, depositors and pensioners could be on the hook.

The new bail-in rules were discussed in my last post here. They are edicts of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), an unelected body of central bankers and finance ministers headquartered in the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. Where did the FSB get these sweeping powers, and is its mandate legally enforceable?

Those questions were addressed in an article I wrote in June 2009, two months after the FSB was formed, titled "Big Brother in Basel: BIS Financial Stability Board Undermines National Sovereignty." It linked the strange boot shape of the BIS to a line from Orwell's 1984: "a boot stamping on a human face—forever." The concerns raised there seem to be materializing, so I'm republishing the bulk of that article here. We need to be paying attention, lest the bail-in juggernaut steamroll over us unchallenged.

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