The Lifetime of John Lewis and the 2020 Tipping Level That Is Altering the World
I still remember the uncomfortable feeling I had as a 23-year-old PhD student on October 29, 1966, when I was sitting with 14,000 others in the UC Berkeley Greek Theater and hearing the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Stokely Carmichael die Crowd admonished. As a student activist at the time, I agreed with SNCC’s goals and loved the idea of ”Black Power”, but felt uncomfortable with Carmichael’s angry rhetoric.
John Lewis, one of the original freedom fighters in the south, had been chairman of the SNCC since 1993, but was replaced by Stokely Carmichael in May 1966. Many members of the SNCC felt that Lewis’ commitment to nonviolent direct action and mass protests were inconsistent with the more radical the measures considered to combat racism in America.
Shortly after the change in leadership at SNCC, Lewis left the organization to pursue a long career in electoral politics – nearly 30 years as a Congressman from Georgia’s 5th Congress District. Few people remember the accomplishments of Stokely Carmichael. Everyone remembers what John Lewis contributed. His nonviolent but vigorous commitment to action has brought people together and helped create the turning point that led us to move from the Dominator politics we see in the White House to a partnership politics that has evolved over the years Time is looming the US and around the world.
What creates these turning points that can make big changes? Malcolm Gladwell described it well in his book The Tipping Point: How Small Things Can Make a Difference. In the second chapter of the book, he talks about three rare but essential types of people whom he called mavens, connectors, and persuasers.
Mavens Making changes through information and ideas. They may not be identified as “experts,” but they are voraciously curious and are always learning. These are the people who ask you whenever you want to know about anything – they are always the people who know.
connections Making changes through people. You know a lot of people and love to bring people together. They are natural turnstiles. These are people who, every time you ask a question, start turning a Rolodex in the back of their mind and saying, “Who do I know, who knows? Who do I know who did this? Who do I know to connect you to? ”
Convince Making changes through creative action. You are a seller in the best sense of the word. They are not trying to convince you to buy their product, but rather to urge you to act in your own interest. Convincers are masters of storytelling and can inspire action because they are able to unlock a vision of a better world that inspires you to action.
Gladwell tells the story of two men who learned from the authorities of the Dominator culture responsible at the time that they were arresting the leaders of local freedom fighters. Two men rode out to warn their countrymen. One was called Paul, the other William. They were both brave patriots, but one succeeded and the other failed. We all know the story of Paul Revere, who warned that the British would come and change world history forever. Few know of the other patriot, William Dawes, who rode this far, risked so much but had little benefit.
As Gladwell concludes his story of the two men, he said, “Word of mouth epidemics are the work of Connectors.” Paul Revere was a key connector. William Dawes was just an ordinary man.
We now know that John Lewis embodied the best qualities of the Maven, Connector and Persuader. As pictured above with his mask on, it is evident that he understands the link between the historical measures required to end racism in this country and the changes required to effectively address the scientific realities of the coronavirus, recognized.
It is clear that there are two systems that compete for our loyalty. One is an ancient system of rule and control. It is currently being manifested by a government led by a man so insecure and wounded that he turns most of his attention to how to make more money for himself and his friends. He is unable to bring the country together. In his fear and paranoia, he must bring unknown stormtroopers to the streets to create the riot he hopes will get enough people to vote for him.
The other system is compassion, partnership, and standing up for the powerless who need our support. It’s about creating a world where everyone wins. It helps make all life important by bringing our attention to Black Lives Matter. It’s about putting good science above politics and supporting public health professionals who risk their lives every day to fight Covid-19.
Just as John Lewis was inspired by Martin Luther King, there are millions of people who take inspiration from John Lewis. We still have a lot to do to end racism in the world and heal our relationship with nature so we can end the threat of the coronavirus. I believe each of us has a calling to do our small part to heal ourselves, heal our relationships, and heal our connection to this beautiful planet we all share.
I have been helping heal the lives of men and their families for fifty years. It is time for me to pass the torch on to the next generation of healers. Starting in September, I will be offering a training program for those who are ready to become mavens, connectors, and persuasers, and ready to face the calling that life demands of you. If you want to know more, come to me and I will tell you more.
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