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Overcoming U.S. Political Tribalism in 2018: ARE THERE ANY MODELS?

Overcoming U.S. Political Tribalism in 2018:  ARE THERE ANY MODELS?
Open Letter to Chris Hayes (MSNBC) and Amy Chua (Yale University)
Posted June 18, 2018

Thanks to Chris Hayes (MSNBC All-in) and Amy Chua (Law professor, Yale University) for the nourishing and inspiring podcast on political tribalism. For those who missed it, I recommend giving it your full attention. It will make you feel part of history in a positive, active way.
PODCAST (June 12, 2018):   Debating the Concept of Tribalism

Here’s some further thoughts for participatory history…

To Chris and Amy:
As a 67-year old grassroots organizer and public policy strategist (food-and-farm), I would love to hear some follow-up to your conversation, continuing where you left off:
— Are there any models for getting out of this political tribalism?
— Getting back to the “formula” and “apparatus” of our current model.

My experience has been that most Americans don’t really know how to have good group discussions about public policy. Even many of my food justice colleagues seem to think that executive orders are the best way to make public policy (just call up the mayor, governor, or president). So I hope you don’t mind some suggestions for continuing this conversation about models for self-governance—a very necessary conversation, in my opinion, and long overdue.

Debating Political Tribalism
Podcast #2 – The Iroquois League

When I first learned the details of the Iroquois League (in 2015), I kept asking everyone I knew, “Did you know…..?”
Did you know that
— Women’s councils set the agenda for men’s councils?
Usually the women included a short list of preferred outcomes.
— The Iroquois League had a 5-year sunset clause?
This means it was a living document, making it easy to amend every five years, but also testing the commitment of all members. The fact that the League persisted for 500+ years before European interference is a testament to its stability.
The League funded the three pillars of its formula–well-being, righteousness, and popular sovereignty?
In other words there was a basic income for being a citizen with responsibilities for governance and community health.

No one knew. Many had learned in high school or in college that the Iroquois consulted with the founding fathers. But the details were either not taught or were not remembered as valuable.

As a strategist, I sometimes argue with myself about which one of those mechanisms, by itself, would make the biggest difference in manifesting our American ideals for everyone. They all seem so impactful and solve numerous problems embedded in our current apparatus. But then I think, why put myself through that mental torture and artificial exercise? Why not advocate for all three, and more — as codified in the Great Law of Peace, the original model for a grassroots democracy and the longest-lived such democracy? Why can’t we have all of it—the full vision of peace, well-being, liberty, justice, and sovereignty for all?

Attached is my complete list of the apparatus that implements the Iroquois League’s formula. It would be great to hear a real nuts & bolts conversation about these mechanisms, as compared to the U.S. apparatus and formula to which we are accustomed.

Inviting a Haudenosaunee expert to join you on the podcast would be especially dynamic, not to mention healing. As various Haudenosaunee people have written (in Basic Call to Consciousness) and spoken (in recent speeches), the descendants of the Iroquois League have offered to train the United Nations and anyone else who is interested in how they created and maintained a grassroots democracy that has lasted for hundreds of years.

Attached are some resources available to us today, in 2018, for connecting with living Haudenosaunee people and organizations—including a brand-new exhibit on Haudenosaunee women at the Seneca Art & Culture Center in Victor, New York.

Debating Political Tribalism
Podcast #3 — Recent add-on mechanisms

A third podcast could discuss some of the recent innovations for a more participatory democracy, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. These are considered add-ons or amendments to existing structures and constitutions. Here are just a few:
— Participatory budgeting is a particularly effective mechanism, especially at the local level (school board, municipality, ward, library district)
— Constitutions that have recently added “rights of the Earth” or “rights of nature” (Iceland, Colombia)
— Truth and reconciliation processes, restorative justice
— Public banks (state, county, municipal)
— Sovereign money (national)
— Food policy councils, sustainability plans, equity departments (state, county, local)

Debating Political Tribalism
Podcast #4 — A National Book Club

I would really love to do a year-long national book club where we take the time to discuss all of these in detail, followed by a Constitutional Convention. Anybody in?


IROQUOIS CONSTITUTION:  Formula, Apparatus, Resources

The model that would have the most impact on an American audience would be the Iroquois League’s Great Law of Peace. If I understand statements by living Iroquois organizations and Haudenosaunee people, the Great Law of Peace is still operational. But most Americans don’t know the details of how the Iroquois League informed the U.S. document—and what was omitted (both in the formula and the apparatus).  Some of these omissions created numerous contradictions in the American psyche, culture, and public infrastructure, which burden us today, sometimes invisibly.

a. The Apparatus
Most of these basic structures are codified in the Great Law of Peace and discussed in great detail in Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas. “Gantowisas” is defined variously as clan mothers, government women, indispensable women. If I have understood Prof. Mann’s book correctly, the clans embody the positive aspects of tribalism as described by Prof. Chua in the original podcast.

Bicameral self-governance for 500+ years
Women’s councils + men’s councils
— 100% inclusion: all adults
— Living document (ease of amendment): 5-year sunset clause
Responsibilities of women’s councils:
— Set the agenda for men’s councils (including preferred options)
— Appoint and remove chiefs
— Initiate and end war

Economic structures
— Funded sovereignty: basic income
— Reciprocal economics: gift economy (absence of “bullyboy” economics)
— Distribution hubs: clan mothers
— Women: farming
— Men: forestry, hunting, fishing

Social structures
— Full personal liberty for all
— Legal identity, record-keeping: clan mothers


b. The Formula
These two paragraphs from Prof. Mann’s eye-opening book (Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas) present a succinct comparison of the formula for the United States with the formula for the Iroquois League.

pp. 212 -13
“It is interesting to me that, in all of the debate furiously raging ever since Bruce Johansen’s Forgotten Founders (1982) rubbed academia’s nose in the fact that the authors of the U.S. Constitution had been strongly influenced by the Iroquoian Great Law, few have noticed the main disparity between Iroquoia and the United States. It was not the political presence or absence of women, or trial by jury, or a standing army, or any of a dozen other, readily spotted political differences that marked the distinction. It was, instead, the failure of the Founding Fathers also to adopt and adapt the Iroquoian system of grass–roots economics that complemented its political base of Ne” Gashasde”’sa’ (popular sovereignty).

“The true failure of the resultant hybrid lay in the unthinking assumption by the Founding Fathers that European war-lord economics and Haudenosaunee Ne” gashasde”’sa’ could operate in harness without the plunder economics of Europe throwing the political system of Ne” Gashasde”’sa’ into disarray. By furthermore ignoring the sibling principles of Ne” Sken’no” (Health) and Ne” Gai’ihwiio (Righteousness) as practical tools of economic prosperity (as opposed to mere moralistic pieties), the Founding Fathers sabotaged hopes for real participatory democracy by writing the proprietary economics of Europe into their Constitution. It is this mismatch of popular but unfunded sovereignty bound to the naked exploitation of capitalism that is short-circuiting American Ne” gashasde”’sa’ today, subverting the political will of the people through the undue economic pressures exerted by a financially privileged elite. No such unbalancing access was possible in the prototype, however, for the clan level where Ne” Gashasde”’sa’ was fomented was also the level at which the confederated economy was managed. Power, will, and weal did not trickle down in Iroquoia; they percolated up.”


c. Resources  
— BOOK: Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas (2000), by Barbara Alice Mann (Bear clan, Seneca), Prof. – Humanities, Univ. of Toledo. So far as I can tell, no other resource provides the level of detail that is included in Prof. Mann’s book about life in the Iroquois League.
— BOOK: Basic Call to Consciousness (2005), ed. by Akwesasne Notes
Includes 1977 speech at United Nations (Geneva): Haudenosaunee Address to the Western World
— WEBSITE: Iroquois Constitution, an English translation, by Arthur C. Parker (Seneca)
Prepared by Gerald Murphy, The Cleveland Free-Net, the National Public Telecomputing Network.
— MUSEUM: Ganondagan—Seneca Art & Culture Center (Victor, NY)
— HERITAGE CENTER: Ska-nonh—Great Law of Peace Center (Liverpool, NY)
— BOOKLET: Neighbor to Neighbor, Nation to Nation: Readings about the Relationship of the Onondaga Nation with Central New York, USA (revised 2014).  Published by Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON), a project of the Syracuse Peace Council.  79 pages.