Updated: Aug 26, 2019
And then there was Yang
I knew very little about Andrew Yang before the democratic debates. He stood out to me as a genuine, intelligent and compassionate human being with bold ideas to substantially address the problems, challenges, and opportunities of our day. His thinking felt visionary but not utopian, and was based not upon pie-in-the-sky theories but on facts, evidence and his own personal and professional experience. In his closing remarks at one of democratic debates he characterized his campaign as, “Not left, not right, but forward.” This was a compelling theme to me, not just because it offered something more constructive amidst the current political polarization of our country, but because I realized that if a person truly investigated Yang's policy positions, the majority of them could be embraced by any person, wherever they are on the political spectrum.
So, I started investigating who Andrew Yang is, including:
Listening to his Joe Rogan interview
Reading his book, The War on Normal People
Exploring his website
Reading more articles
Investigating Universal Basic Income
To be honest, I tend to stay out of politics publicly because of how polarizing and vitriolic it has become, and because my professional life involves working with people across the political spectrum. However, I see Andrew Yang as a solid human being with useful ideas that I feel would make a difference. It can be frustrating to hear the "yeah, but" responses - "Yang's ideas are great BUT he could never... win the nomination... become president... etc."
Victor Hugo wrote, "Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come." I see Andrew Yang with lots of these kinds of profoundly timely ideas.
Pondering Andrew Yang: Freedom Dividend/Universal Basic Income
I find that the populace is uneducated about most issues raised in political campaigns and rely upon the views and mindsets espoused by biased media outlets. The more people know, the more Andrew Yang becomes an attractive candidate. For example, admittedly I once thought UBI was just some wacky, far-fetched, feel-good political ploy. Until I actually took the time to investigate it for myself. What’s especially concerning is that too many people are largely unaware of many of the issues Yang raises in The War on Normal People.
Recently, I took the initiative to inform people in my social media network about UBI and Yang's Freedom Dividend, because most people are clueless. Here are some of the resources I shared that I will pass along.
The Case for Universal Basic Income by Louise Haagh
Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy by Van Parijs, Philippe and Yannick Vanderborght
What is Universal Basic Income?
Pondering Andrew Yang: The New Timebanking Economy
One of the reasons why I impresses with Andrew Yang is because he has fresh ideas. There are not necessarily ideas unique to him alone, such as UBI, but he is elevating them into public consciousness, and adapting them to our current situation for practical implementation. But UBI is not the only big Yang idea. Perhaps a lesser know idea Yang discusses in his book and advocates is "timebanking."
In economics, a time banking or time-based currency is an alternative currency or exchange system where the unit of account is the person-hour or some other time unit. Edgar S. Cahn coined the term "Time Dollars" in his book: Time Dollars: The New Currency That Enables Americans to Turn Their Hidden Resource-Time-Into Personal Security and Community Renewal, a book co-authored with Jonathan Rowe.
Yang's idea of timebanking is a reciprocity-based work trading system in which hours are the currency. It is a form of community currency, which enables a person with one skill set to trade hours of work with someone with another skill set, without any money changing hands.
In a second book, No Throw-Away People, Edgar Cahn listed four values that stand at the heart of successful timebanking and have stood the test of time. Later, he added a fifth.
The 5 Key Principles of Time Banking are:
We Are All Assets: Every one of us has something of value to share with someone else.
Redefining Work: There are some forms of work that money will not easily pay for, like building strong families, revitalizing neighborhoods, making democracy work, advancing social justice. Time credits were designed to reward, recognize and honor that work.
Reciprocity: The question - “How can I help you?” needs to change so we ask: “Will you help someone too?” Paying it forward ensures that, together, we help each other build the world we all will live in.
Community/Social Networks: Helping each other, we reweave communities of support, strength and trust. Community is built by sinking roots, building trust, creating networks.
Respect: The heart and soul of democracy lies in respect for others. We strive to respect where people are in the moment, not where we hope they will be at some future point.
Timebanking is a non-monetary economy. Yang sees timebanking is a community development tool and works by facilitating the exchange of skills and experience within a community. It aims to build the 'core economy' of family and community by valuing and rewarding the work done in it.
Practically, the way it works is as follows:
People list the skills and experience which they can offer and those that they may need.
Everyone’s skills are valued equally - one hour always equals one time credit.
Everyone agrees to both give and to receive help, to earn and to spend their time credits.
A record is kept of all the time credits earned and spent, ideally on computer using the ‘Time Online’ system.
Everyone is encouraged to spend their time credits to allow others the chance to make a difference and feel needed.
The world's first timebank was started in Japan by Teruko Mizushima in 1973 with the idea that participants could earn time credits which they could spend any time during their lives. She based her bank on the simple concept that each hour of time given as services to others could earn reciprocal hours of services for the giver at some stage in the future, particularly in old age when they might need it most.
To explore further:
The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang
Time Dollars by Edgar S. Cahn
No More Throw-Away People by Edgar S. Cahn
George Bernard Shaw wrote, "I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can." I see this mentality in Andrew Yang who often says, "We have what we need, if we use what we have."
Pondering Andrew Yang: We are the cavalry
Today Andrew Yang tweeted, "When you’re young you think the cavalry is coming. When you get older you realize you’re the cavalry." A few days ago his tweet read, "I find that doing something to solve a problem you care deeply about is the best way to feel better about it."
There is great wisdom in these two statements. First, it advocates the principle of radical responsibility, which is each of us taking personal responsibility for both the problems of our world and the solutions. Rather than blame everyone else and wait for someone else to fix it, we acknowledge how we are directly or indirectly complicit in the mindsets and conditions that cause suffering in our world, and we become active participants in preventing and alleviating human suffering, and aiding human flourishing.
As Yang says, You and I... we... are the cavalry!
Many people in the world go to great measures in seeking a life of meaning, happiness and fulfillment. Yang offers a fairly simple prescription for cultivating such a life: (1) Identify a need, problem or opportunity in the world that you care deeply about; (2) Take tangible, concrete, consistent and courage steps to do something about it.
Yang is not an idealist or wishful-thinking utopianist or a government-can-fix-everything guy. Andrew Yang is a pragmatic and optimist visionary. He is a believer in the human potentialities and possibilities each of us possess and represent, and the potentialities and possibilities of who all of us can be together.
Pondering Andrew Yang: Humanity First
Andrew Yang had me at "Humanity first." One of the profound truths Andrew Yang is elevating into the public consciousness is that first and foremost - before we take on all our other identity differences, distinctions and labels - that we are human. It's the great unifier. You and I and every other person is 100% human, and a member of the same human family.
Being "human" may not seem like much on the surface, but the ideas Yang is promoting in his campaign appeals to the better angels of our nature, challenges us to imagine new ways of being human together, and calls forth the inherent human skills and tools that each of us possess.
Yang stresses the value and goodness of human beings, emphasizes common human needs, and seeks rational ways of solving human problems, based upon critical thinking and compassion. He affirms our human ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity.
The way I see it, Andrew Yang's approach is guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience. His recent display of emotion that is headlining demonstrates he's not some technocrat in an office crunching numbers, but someone who embraces his humanity and feels life deeply. With so much discussion of "toxic masculinity" these days, I see Andrew Yang modeling something better: a man of courage, humanity, authenticity and compassion, a critical thinker, overcomer and deep feeler, someone who takes responsibility for the condition of the world. Andrew Yang sets an empowering and inspiring example for our children.
We are one human family. Yang reminds of that. What makes us one is never threatened, unshakable and able to withstand whatever other ways we are different. I believe what Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." King always lifted our thoughts to the fact of our connectedness. He wrote, "All life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. No one is free until we are all free."
Is Andrew Yang perfect? No. Has every one of his policies been ironed out to perfection? No. Will he make mistakes? Yes. Like the rest of us, he's human.
Andrew Yang is not just one of ten candidates in the democratic nomination process to be president. Andrew Yang has become a symbol of a message we must never forget if we hope for better days ahead: Humanity first.
Pondering Andrew Yang: America Scorecard and Mental Health
A "scorecard" is used to measure achievement or progress. Andrew Yang has been talking about a different scorecard for America.
"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. These are termed as "unalienable rights" afforded to all human beings. Any "scorecard" related to the thriving of our nation would have to consider the level at which we facilitate and empower the conditions by which "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" thrives.
Yang believes that every American citizen should have access to the necessary resources to meet their physiological needs such as food, water, warmth, health and rest, and their need for security and safety (life). He also supports the autonomy of every citizen to freely direct the course of our daily lives without undue restraint (liberty), and to cultivate a life of meaning, well-being and fulfillment (happiness).
Something I appreciate about Andrew Yang is his resolve to re-define the "American Scorecard" more holistically. For example, a few of the areas that Yang identifies as central for determining the well-being and success of our nation's citizens, are:
Well-being and mental health
Quality of our most significant relationships
Civic engagement and volunteerism
Access to basic, higher and vocational education
Just because something is difficult to measure solely in terms of statistics and numbers, doesn't mean it's not a critical area to prioritize. The GDP and stock market cannot be the sole or defining measurement of the well-being of a nation. And on a personal level, quality of life cannot be measured by one's checking account. Research shows that financial advancement is linked to personal happiness when it moves a person from scarcity/poverty to security/sufficiency. In other words, money can increase happiness when it moves you out of financial stress and "survival mode", but after that point, financial advancement doesn't continue to increase your happiness.
This is the brilliance of Yang's Freedom Dividend. The $1,000 a month helps move people out of scarcity/poverty, financial stress and survival mode, so they can tend to other critical areas of their lives such as mental health, relationships, bettering themselves in some meaningful way, and more active community involvement. The Freedom Dividend will help many citizens get their head above water so they can see new possibilities.
I don't think we've ever had a candidate focus on mental health issues like Yang, including his specific policy ideas to address it. Yang wrote, "Americans are not doing well, and we need to change it. My brother is a psychology professor and I believe strongly in the power of counseling and treatment to improve people’s mental and emotional well-being."
Yang often states that there is currently a mental health crisis in America as suicides, anxiety and depression are at record highs. According to Yang, mental health is often treated as a separate set of issues and resources rather than integrated into the greater health care system. As the father of a daughter in college majoring in social work, I especially appreciate Yang pointing out that many communities lack access to psychologists and social workers.
Carl Jung wrote, “About a third of my cases are suffering from no clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives. This can be defined as the general neurosis of our times.”
This is yet another reason Andrew Yang makes sense. His policies will transform the conditions of people's lives so they can truly have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Pondering Andrew Yang: Doing the MATH
One of Andrew Yang's campaign slogans is MATH - Make America Think Harder. You might see it on a baseball hat or t-shirt, worn proudly by the "Yang Gang" - the growing number of people supporting and advancing Andrew Yang's bid to be president.
I do hope Andrew Yang's campaign will "make America think harder" ...
Think harder about converting our vitriolic political partisanship and polarization, into a newfound solidarity and resolve to build a country that works for everyone.
Think harder about looking in the mirror and owning how each of us are complicit in the hardships and suffering of our country and world, and rather than blaming others or waiting for someone else to fix it, choosing to be part of the solution and the change ourselves.
Think harder about putting humanity first by remembering that we are all part of one human family and species, tied together on this planet in an inescapable network of mutuality and single garment of destiny, who must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish as fools.
Think harder about how we are measuring our success and well-being as individuals, families, neighborhoods, cities and country, not solely upon monetary measurements, economic trends, and profit at any cost, but upon the quality of our relationships, strong mental health, and the freedom of every person to actualize our fullest potentialities and possibilities individually and collectively.
Pondering Andrew Yang: American Exchange Program
Andrew Yang's idea of the American Exchange Program isn't discussed often but it should be. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated."
Here's the breakdown:
People are socially separated/isolated (by distance, culture, ethnicity, socio-economic class, etc)
People who are separated do not engage in meaningful communication with one another
People who do not communicate with one another cannot truly know one another
People who don't know one another can come to fear people because of their differences
People who fear others often label, stereotype, judge and objectify them
Which is why I appreciate Andrew Yang's idea of the American Exchange Program. Andrew Yang writes, "Right now it’s far too easy for Americans to generalize about people in another state or region or walk of life. If we have each high school graduate spend time with a diverse set of graduates in different parts of the country, they would forever form a different, deeper and broader understanding of what it means to be an American. It would improve our culture and politics immeasurably over time. Plus, every 18-year old would love a road trip."
The idea is that high school seniors will travel throughout different parts of the country in groups to make friends from different backgrounds and learn about American culture that they would otherwise lack exposure to. While spending time in these areas, these students would participate in local social events and volunteer for local organizations, thus feeling a part of these communities.
What problems does this solve?
Americans are increasingly divided, lacking empathy for fellow citizens with whom they disagree
It’s become easier for us to retreat into our bubbles and view fellow citizens as “the other” or “the enemy”
Most people don’t experience the variety of culture that is on offer throughout America
Political polarization is at an all-time high which is making it very difficult to form a consensus on solutions or common goals
Yang says that the outcomes he hopes to achieve through this program are:
Create a shared culture based on empathy
Highlight our shared humanity rather than our partisan differences
Instill the value of social service and civic engagement on our children as they develop into adults
In my own life, I have found it worthwhile and meaningful not to judge people but to seek to understand them as fully as possible. Human beings are complicated with layers, ambiguities, contradictions, wounds, fears, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. If we could grab ahold of our fundamental solidarity as one human family, we could build a more empowering social order that is not steeped in discord, division, hostility, hatred, separation, greed, prejudice, ego, inequality, dehumanization, violence, injustice and oppression. The possibilities would be limitless, if we began acting like the one human family we truly are.
What better way to instill this mindset then to create the opportunities for young people, which Yang envisions with the American Exchange Program. Historically, student exchange programs have primarily involved college students in international study-abroad opportunities. It's a compelling idea Yang has, to implement the student exchange concept on a high school level, and focus on students learning and experiencing the diversity of our own country.
In the next 24 hours, close to 1,500 teens will commit suicide. The CDC states that suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens. I see Yang's American Exchange Program lighting a fire among our nation's teens, bonding more of them together in mutual understanding, empathy, connection, acceptance and purpose. Road trips with a transformational purpose!
Charles Darwin wrote, “As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.”