The Waltham Review is thrilled to have three contributions from the noted Brandeis sociologist Gordie Fellman: a “Letter to the 1 percent,” a “Letter to the 99 percent,” and an introduction to the two letters in which he introduces himself and describes his intentions for his two letters. These letters are a continuation of a conversation that Fellman began in 2012 with his “Letter to the Occupy Movement” that ran in the Huffington Post. The letters to the 1 and 99 percent are running in two forms: at the top of each post is the shorter version – what could perhaps be thought of as an executive summary. Below each of these executive summaries come the full letters.
Some background on Gordie. Gordie Fellman has spent his life – including more than fifty years at Brandeis – changing peoples’ perspectives on peace and conflict. Since the 1960s he has been both a witness to and a participant in nationally significant campus protests, starting with the occupation by African-American students of Ford Hall at Brandeis in 1969. In 1970 he was involved in the National Student Strike against the War in Vietnam, which was headquartered at Brandeis. During the 1970s and 1980s, Gordie was involved in the anti-Apartheid movement, and since the 1990s he has been helping to bring attention to the plight of Chinese-dominated Tibet. During the 1980s and 1990s, Gordie chaired the New Jewish Agenda, which promoted a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Conflict, in Gordie’s view, follows from being locked into what he describes as the “adversary” paradigm of interpersonal relations. His book Rambo and the Dalai Lama: The Compulsion to Win and its Threat to Human Survival outlines the possibility of a transition to a paradigm of “mutuality,” which will bring peace and robust and shared happiness.
Gordie is also famous for being a guest on the Bill O’Reilly show on September 12, 2001 – as difficult of a date to be a voice for peace as has existed in our history – and calling for mindfulness as the United States contemplated its responses to the terrorist attacks that had occurred the day before.
I will offer a handful of conjectures about the future history of our society, which will hopefully give some perspective for why the Waltham Review is so excited to host Gordie’s contributions. The conjectures:
1) Human survival in the longer term requires that we become an interplanetary civilization.
2) Significant technological progress is required to successfully extend human civilization into space.
3) An unavoidable side effect of this technological progress will be the extension of the power of disaffected individuals to wreak havoc.
4) A market-based economy, unless it is administered with a high level of thoughtfulness about people outside of its top echelons, will leave some (or many) people extremely disaffected.
5) But a market-based system does do a good job of delivering the technological progress that will be required for us to transition to an interplanetary civilization.
6) So some type of transition toward a greater level of national and global mutuality is required for us to become an interplanetary civilization, and for us to survive.
Adding it up, the survival of our civilization appears to involve threading a needle between two extremes – satisfying what appears to be a technological progress constraint, but with sufficient mutuality to also satisfy the non-self-destruction constraint. The non-self-destruction constraint seems likely to become increasingly difficult to satisfy as technology enhances individuals’ destructive power. It is the view of the Waltham Review that Gordie’s voice – a voice that has been speaking out for over fifty years for mutuality – is one that needs to be heard. It is an honor to run his posts here.
(Artwork: Pieter Cornelis “Piet” Mondrian (Dutch, 1872-1944) Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red 1937-1942.)