Symptoms of Decline: Political

Pie Chart of Political Affiliations from 2014; Independnts 45%; Democrats 29%; Repbulicans 23%;No Response 3%.
Pie Chart of Recent Political Affiliations
  • All public communications are inaccurate: Doesn’t matter from who or why. No communication can be trusted on its face. In many cases, our choices are either to simply believe something from those we perceive to be in our community or spend time we don’t have researching the truth.
  • All political systems are corrupt: Not all individuals, just systems. Corrupt systems use corrupt practice to sustain corruption until collapse. Corruption is never eliminated by criminal proceedings, does not reduce until collapse, and impacts all the transactions of the system even when most of the system isn’t engaged in the corruption.
  • The legal system is too complex to be generally effective: The only way the legal system will simplify is a collapse. It is nearly impossible to eliminate laws without making the legal system even more complex.  In the mainstream of legal practice, lawyers know more and more about less and less as every dimension of law increases in complexity and the corpus of the law “requires” more and more of all of us.

    I don’t know how to demonstrate this, but my impression is that in any instance of legal use, more and more of the extant law is simply ignored.

    A great example is the way plea bargaining has taken over the criminal justice system and its necessity has extended and made the corruption of the justice system more complex and more difficult to reduce.

  • All saviors aren’t: Goes without saying? Desperate people always make the same strategic mistakes. As life becomes more out of control, as our society=complex-system becomes more brittle, there are no longer obvious solutions to chronic problems, and we retreat to those beliefs that let us feel better or express our fear well.

Symptoms of Decline: Economic

daylight photo of the Roman Colosseum ruins
The Roman Colosseum

Our society has some large-scale demographic, financial, environmental, and social forces that can’t be eliminated or even dramatically reduced. These forces will have a profound impact on our ability to pursue our disability community’s rights and freedom agenda.

These include (only as examples. There are many others.):

  • Debt-Fueled Growth: We have been using debt to fuel growth nationally since the Great Depression. But when debt is an order of magnitude bigger than wealth, how do we pay it off? Mostly through economic crashes, whether small or large.
  • The Aging of America’s Taxpayers: We are all getting older, which means our incomes will drop and we will pay fewer tax revenues overall. And we seem hell-bent on stopping any new young people from expanding our economy and making up for that loss.
  • The Missing $20 trillion: The 1% have been squirreling away wealth for decades. The recent Federal Tax law is only the latest example of supporting that loss of wealth. And, there is no politically practical way to get that wealth back.

    Incidentally, American sovereign (government) debt has also reached $20 trillion and is now equal to the USA Gross  Domestic Product ($20 trillion). I guess we could call this the triple $20 trillion threat;

  • Relentlessly Increasing Complexity: Every second of every day our society is getting more complex. Every effort we make to fix the broken parts results in greater complexity. Every local improvement we make in the system makes some other part of the system more complex.

    The increasing complexity makes our society more brittle, and less able to respond to the unpredictable disturbances of our common future. And, the only way we have traditionally simplified the system is through some kind of collapse, big or small.

Framework for Future Strategy

Quote fromCeaser Chavez: Help us love even those who hate us; so we can change the world
How Should We Approach the Building of Our Strategy?
  • Symptoms of Decline: What are some of the more obvious ways in which our society is failing to support our freedom and choice? Some things are going better, and some are getting worse. There are large-scale forces that are degrading our society and economy and they aren’t the current failure of thought that passes for our politics.
  • The Aging of Complex Adaptive Systems: All complex systems (including us as individuals) age in more or less the same way. What are the signs of that aging? Once you give up the idea that our society is a machine that can be fixed by replacing parts, it is much easier to see how similar aging is in all complex systems.
  • What Is a Strategy?: If just fixing current problems in the short run won’t help us in the long run, we will need a community strategy to defend ourselves and build something more sustainable. What might such a strategy look like? Whatever that strategy might be, it has to live with the realities that t\our future is unpredictable and there isn’t enough to go around.
  • What Do We Do Next?: Where do we start in addressing the long-term abandonment of our community by the larger society?

Basic Assumptions of Future Strategy

color images of lader and helix DNA
How Can We Think About Our Common Future?

1. Our society is not a machine: 
If I were to ask most people if they thought their pet dog or cat was a machine, they would likely say “no”. Most people get that the larger world does not consist of a bunch of machines. But….we continue to try to solve problems by using models that are based on machines.

2. Change (i.e., Evolution) is not about creating perfection.
Mostly, we think about evolution as though it is trying to create the perfect organism. But evolution doesn’t care about our social values. Evolution is about continuing to evolve, and the key to that is creating variation. As much variation as possible.  This is important because we tend to use whatever model of evolution we have internalized as our default model of how we change complex systems.

3. We can’t predict the future well.
It is dawning on most of us that the world seems less predictable than it has in the past. Every day brings events that are surprising. In trying to gain a foothold on this ever-changing reality, we bundle the surprises and give them some abstract name, like terrorism or disease or natural disaster. But there are many flaws in trying to bunch very different things under a single term. The most important flaw is that we try to fix them using the same response for all of them.

4. We must actively steward all resources. We never have enough.
We are beginning to become used to the idea that something (a constantly changing something) will always be in short supply. We just don’t know what it will be until it is in short supply. For example, there was a shortage of IV bags because the most important source of them was a factory in Puerto Rico and the factory stopped producing because of Hurricane Maria and our failure to respond to the devastation in a timely way. There are now chronic and ever-changing shortages of medical treatments and supports of all kinds. And shortages aren’t restricted to healthcare.

5. Driven behavior always misreads risk and uncertainty.
Risk and uncertainty are not the same. Risk applies to closed systems like gambling games. Uncertainty means that we not only don’t know, but we can’t estimate risk. Adolescent males reliably do very dangerous and stupid things that violate common sense. All driven behavior, whether toward or away from something, reliably produces errors in assessing risk and uncertainty and severe underestimation or overestimation of risk. The Fukushima nuclear disaster is a great example of confusing risk and uncertainty.

6. Ideologies will not save us, only hard creative work.
An ideology is nothing but a complicated set of assumptions that has the same flaws in the complex, rapidly changing, and unpredictable world we now all inhabit as all the mistakes in thinking I have described earlier. All belief systems are like membership cards for participation in some human community, with the accuracy or consistency of the beliefs being a low priority concern. Belief serves social but not predictive purposes.

7. Skin in the game is more important than expertise.
We have been trained to simply accept the decisions and opinions of experts all of our lives. On the other hand, people with disabilities have commonly learned that expertise does not assure respect for our lives and our choices. The larger the system, the higher the decision level, and the more distant from you, the more that decision or opinion reflects their interests, not yours.

Where Do We Go From Here?

PPT Slide with picture of ADAPT and Justin Dart rolling in protest through NYC, with sign that says, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere-MLK Jr.
What Should the Disability Community Be Doing Now to Survive?

The larger society within which our disability community lives is stagnating and past its peak, no matter how long economic growth continues.

Our community is more like the “canary in the coal mine” than most, and each small increase in complexity, degradation of supports, and corruption of social relationships generally affects us faster and more deeply than most other large social communities.

We can’t afford to wait and see if things will get much better than they are now.

This isn’t because some things won’t get better. They will. But we don’t know what they will be or how they will affect our personal and community independence. We also know that as some things get better, others will get worse.

We need to act on our community’s behalf, and on our own behalf, right now.

But how do we actually do that?

This current set of blog posts is an overview of a much deeper and longer work on the issue of how our disability community can act to preserve itself and expand our independence and freedom of choice. I will be posting this overview as a series of posts on this blog for some months to cover the basic ideas before I move on to those deeper ones.


a series of identical doors made of wood
Which One?

FutureStrategy is my framework for the disability community to use in developing both our resistance to the current degradation of our living conditions and life possibilities and as a way of thinking about how we might build a different future.

FutureStrategy is a detailed perspective on the possibilities of where we are now and where we might go. It isn’t a magic talisman or 7 steps to total success. There is no simple answer to the problems we face now or in the near term. If we want a real solution, we will have to create one.

Simply stopping the attacks we face now will not restore what was. Our society is headed in a direction which will cause great pain for the disability community (and everyone else), and that direction was set a long time ago. We can make things better or worse in the short run, but we can’t reverse the decline of our society completely.

As a first step in describing FutureStrategy, I will be going through an Overview presentation that I developed, using a slide format to talk about the basic ideas, one at a time. The slides will include notes for each idea and I will publish them on this blog.  I will also include occasional posts about other issues that illustrate the ideas of FutureStrategy as they arise.

In a few months, I will begin to publish material from a second presentation, a much longer and deeper one, that expands and details the ideas of the Overview. I will make these available through a subscription service called Patreon so that I will be able to fund my work on these ideas. There will be tiers for the subscriptions, including one that allows access to all the blog posts for $2 a month. The other tiers will include various materials and a podcast.

I hope you will consider subscribing, and I would like to know what you think of the material I publish in the next few months from the overview presentation.

I would also be able to do the presentation in person for a group if you think that would be useful. Email me at if you become interested in a presentation after you see the slide-based posts.