Bifurcated Bipartisanship

I love being part of bipartisan organizations, such as the League of Women Voters. It fills my heart with joy to experience Americans crossing political lines to achieve common goals. Such was the intended spirit of the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition. Many years ago, I attended a fundraising dinner for this organization at the Shady Maple. At the time, I was a member of the state executive committee of Socialist Party-USA. I felt it was important to support candidates in my party, and others who were marginalized by the petitioning process in our commonwealth, to promote political participation. I put aside my personal political beliefs so that we could all focus on our common belief that all citizens, regardless of political party, should have access to the ballot in Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, others in attendance did not pay attention when the introductory speaker reminded us of the need to put aside our political beliefs for the evening. I sat at the table with a few members of the Constitution Party and one woman went on and on about her feelings on various political issues – some of which I found to be offensive as a Jew and a Native American (not to mention as an American). I was given literature by another political party; I can’t remember which one because I recycled it upon returning home. While these experiences did provide some amusing conversation on the ride home, I was deeply saddened that it was so difficult for people to resist the urge to promote their party at a nonpartisan event.

I am grateful that I have never had such an experience as a board member or volunteer with my local League of Women Voters. I have had some other interesting experiences, but that will be another story for another day.

Changemaker Chat: Jon Elliot Ramer

Jon Eliot Ramer (born 1958) is an American entrepreneur, civic leader, inventor, and musician. He is co-founder of several technology companies including Ramer and Associates, ELF Technologies, Inc., and Smart Channels,as well as the designer and co-founder of several Deep Social Networks. Former Executive Director of the Interra Project, he is a co-founder of Ideal Network, a group-buying social enterprise that donates a percentage of every purchase to a non-profit or school.  Ideal Network is a certified B-Corp that was recognized as “Best in the World for Community” in 2012 by B-Labs. He is also the designer and co-founder of the Compassionate Action Network International,[an organization based in Seattle, that led the effort to make the city the first in the world to affirm Karen Armstrong‘s Charter for Compassion. Ramer is also the songwriter and lead guitarist in the band Once And For All.

How did you first become interested in social change?

My interest in social change has been a part of my life since I was a kid. I had the sense that things were out of balance; and then I learned that the only way they would change was if we did something about it. I never felt complaining was enough, I felt call to get involved, myself, directly.

How do you define social justice?

For me social justice means ensuring that everybody has an equal opportunity and a fair chance to participate as I do.  In the Jewish tradition there’s a phrase Tikkun O’lam which means to mend, heal and transform that world.  This has guided me through my life journey.

What has been your most exciting experience as an activist?

My most exciting experiences as an activist has been watching our local Seattle efforts evolve to become an international campaign. Through the connectivity of the Internet, the realization and awakening to the fact that so many of us are engaged and wanting to participate in creating a world that works for all of us.

I had the good fortune to work closely with Paul Hawken and others in developing Wiser Earth which is now and was connected to his book Blessed Unrest.  Like Paul I was awestruck at the number of individuals, groups, and organizations around the world that are rising up and working for just and lasting change. These moments of insight and realization of our connectedness has been my most exciting experiences.

What is the most interesting project in which you are currently involved?

The most interesting project I’m currently working on is the Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest. This came as a result of a relationship the city of Seattle’s is building with other cities around the world in particular Louisville Kentucky and their mayor who’s a remarkable leader that challenged us and other cities to dethrone them as the most compassionate city in the world by performing more hours and acts of community service than they performed.

We are reframing the idea of survival of the fittest to be the survival of the kindest. I think is creative, and an inspiring “culture hack” that I consider this the most interesting project I’m currently involved with.  I think the notion of compassion, i.e. empathy into action, and the idea of starting from within is very much aligned with the vision for a better world that I hold and am pursuing. As I see it, this cannot happen from just the top down it requires the bottom up, outside in, and inside out.

What is your vision for a better world?

The vision that I hold is that the elders awaken to support the youth; and provide them with the air time to share their voice, opportunities and resources that are desperately needed to make the shift happen.  In this way we as a community get to coalesce together to turn what we have into what we need to create a better world.

I’m committed to working on issues related to “intergenerational equity” by working with youth and ensuring that indigenous voices can heard and appreciated. Here is the project we started called Young Partners in Development – Empowered Youth, Empowering Society.

Through an event we produced, the Seeds of Compassion, I had the good fortune to build a working relationship with a Hereditary Chief, Phil Lane Jr. He and I wrote a paper on Deep Social Networks and the Digital Fourth Way that lays out this fusion of social networks with ancient indigenous wisdom and science. You can find the paper here.

What are your plans for the future?

To be present and responsive to what comes my way like your invitation!