A Poem of Hope for the Survival of Democracy


The poem deals with the war in Europe, where Ukraine is fighting for its life against Russia. This is essentially a battle of democracy against authoritarinism. It is THE most important conflict of our time, because if Ukraine loses, democracy is doomed.

Thwink's First Study Confirms High Leverage Point

Using the System Improvement Process, the Thwink analysis of the environmental sustainability problem decomposed the one big problem into four smaller subproblems. Each subproblem was found to have one main root cause. This raised a critical question: Which root cause would be easiest to resolve first?

One subproblem is How to overcome change resistance? We know what we should do to be sustainable, but we're not doing it or not doing enough of it. That is systemic change resistance, because it's occurring in all nations.

The main root cause of systemic change resistance was found to be low political truth literacy. The high leverage point is to raise political truth literacy from low to high. Once that occurs on an estimated 5% to 15% of a political unit's voters, feedback loop dominance will shift from a dominant Race to the Bottom Among Politicians (where politicians compete to see who can tell the most attractive deception) to a dominant Race to the Top (where politicians compete to see who can tell the most attractive truth about what's best for the common good).

This root cause appears to require much less force to resolve than the other root causes, because it's a straightforward matter of literacy education. The world's education systems have long demonstrated they are well equipped to teach reading, writing, and math literacy. All that's needed is to add truth literacy.

You may have noticed the widespread use of deception in politics to fool voters into voting for what is actually against their best interests. Once truth literacy goes high, that can no longer occur. Exploitation of low truth literacy is the main reason Brexit occurred, is why Donald Trump was elected, and is what numerous authoritarians depend on to get elected and stay in power, such as Vladimir Putin of Russia, Recep Erdogan of Turkey, Victor Orban of Hungary, and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. It's also the reason the far right has done so well recently in Europe.

Given these insights, Montserrat Koloffon and Jack Harich designed and ran a study to test pushing on the high leverage point of raise political truth literacy. The study tested how well Truth Literacy Training works on the average voter. Using a randomized controlled design, the study was run on October 2, 2019 on 93 US subjects aged 22 to 51 using three randomly assigned treatment groups. The three groups contained 30, 30, and 33 subjects.

The results are summarized in the image below. The six charts show answer distributions for the "How would you vote?" questions.

Vote Distribution Chart

Group 1 (the control group) received training on a neutral topic. Group 2 (partial training) received training on how to tell if a political claim was true or false, by spotting the pattern of fallacy or non-fallacy used. Group 3 (full training) received the same training as group 2 plus training on how to vote correctly, given whether a claim made by a politician was true or false.

Chart A is where the average voter is today. Chart E is where we want the average voter to be, for democracy to work and to start solving difficult common good problems like sustainability.

We are most interested in the answers to questions about the Deceptive Statements. The answers should all be 9. But as you can see in chart A, only 2% of voters chose the right answer. The other 98% were fooled. Worse yet, most leaned toward some support for the politician rather than toward opposing the politician. The data shows that deception works, which is why we see so much deception in politics.

The old saying that "You can fool most of the people most of the time" is currently all too true. As long as political truth literacy is low, democracy cannot work as designed because the voter feedback loop is unreliable.

The experiment demonstrated that political truth literacy is easily raised from low to high. The Truth Literacy Training that groups 2 and 3 received took only about one hour online. The results were dramatic. Group 2, which received partial training, showed a large shift toward mostly NOT supporting a politician if the person detected deception as seen in chart C. But still, only 6% chose the right answers. Group 3, which received full training, showed remarkable improvement. 67% chose the right answers as seen in chart E.

A followup study 26 days later found a small decrease in truth literacy for the trained groups. 30 minutes of refresh training increased truth literacy back up to close to where it was before.

Overall, the study collected data that allows an important conclusion. The hypothesis that truth literacy can be raised from low to high by the simple method of Truth Literacy Training was confirmed. This has enormous implications, as it suggests there is a relatively easy solution to resolving the key root cause of the sustainability problem. However, the study needs to be replicated and tested on real world voters before we can say with high confidence that this solution strategy should be pursued.

For a more detailed description of the study please see this paper. For even more information, see the chapter on Truth Literacy Training in the book Cutting Through Complexity.

The Democracy in Crisis Film Series

As numerous people have observed recently, Democracy Is In Crisis. In more and more countries we see democracy no longer working for the common good, but backsliding to authoritarianism.

If you want to get the big picture of what Thwink.org is trying to do, these three films are the place to start. It's all here.

Why is this?

We don't have all the answers, but we suspect we have some. The rise of authoritarians fits right in the Thwink.org analysis of the sustainability problem. The analysis went so deep it found four main root causes. It also found a feedback loop structure that explains WHY Trump and other authoritarians have been able to get elected and HOW that can be prevented from happening again, IF the root causes are resolved.

The first film is shown below. Try to watch it with good speakers or headphones because the music score plays a major part in the production. For the rest of the films see The Democracy in Crisis Film Series.

Politician Truth Ratings

Are you alarmed by the huge amount of lies, spin, and deception in politics, not just in the United State but world wide? Were you mortified when Trump was elected because you could see that the best liar won? Have you noticed with increasing concern the worldwide rise of authoritarianism? If so, you may be interested in this project. For an introduction, watch this video:

For more information, including another video, see The Politician Truth Ratings Project.

(NOTE - This is a Vimeo video. Some browsers, such as Firefox, may have trouble running it. If that occurs try Chrome.)

The Voter Feedback Loop

We live in a social universe. The most important feedback loop in that universe is the Voter Feedback Loop. If it's healthy, then a democratic society works to optimize the common good. But if it's not healthy the loop does just the opposite. It works for the uncommon good, for powerful special interests.

Annotated Voter Feedback LoopBelow is the basic Voter Feedback Loop. The annotated version on the right explains how the loop is easily exploited. The most obvious symptom of recent exploitation is the rise to power of Donald Trump, ironically in the nation that invented modern democracy.

Voter Feedback Loop

The annotated diagram concludes that:

"When winning by telling lies instead of the truth becomes the norm, democracy is in crisis."

Unfortunately, that conclusion applies more than ever to the United States. More.

The 60 Second Elevator Pitch

Here's what Thwink.org is all about:

The global environmental sustainability problem has gone unsolved for over 40 years. During that time millions of dedicated activists, scholars, scientists, and politicians have attempted to solve the problem. But despite this massive effort, the problem continues to grow worse with no credible solution in sight.

WHY is this? WHY has humanity been unable to solve the problem?

Because popular solutions do not resolve root causes. Instead, they attempt to solve what are in fact intermediate causes. Popular solutions are symptomatic solutions. They treat the fever instead of the disease.

We know this to be true because all problems arise from their root causes. If a solution fails, it can only be because it did not resolve one or more of the root causes.

If we want solutions that will work, problem solvers will have to change their approach. They need to switch to these four main steps:

Doctor examining the system

1. Define the problem


3. Find solutions to resolve the root causes

4. Implement the solutions

These four steps are what set the Thwink approach apart from conventional approaches, because they omit the crucial second step of find the root causes. That's like a doctor skipping the diagnosis step and guessing at what a good treatment (solution) would be. Would you go to a doctor like that?

Planet Earth has been going to a doctor like that for a long time....

If this makes logical sense, then the next step is reading Mastering the Science of Striking at the Root.

Root Cause Analysis at Thwink.org

The graph tells a grim story.

Despite the best efforts of millions of dedicated activists, the world's ecological footprint keeps rising. Year after year, decade after decade, it just keeps going up. Every dot on the graph is a major effort to solve the problem. There are thousands of more dots not on the graph. But none have made more than a modest difference. The footprint is now at about 50% overshoot. If this overshoot is not brought down below the one planet limit very soon, collapse is dead ahead. (pun intended)

So what are the world's problem solvers doing wrong? Why are popular solutions failing to solve the sustainability problem?

Because popular solutions are incapable of resolving the root causes.

If you believe this answer is reasonably true or might be true, then Thwink.org has a world of helpful material for you and your organization. Here's how you can get started:

If you are a visual thinker, read this article on A Little Story About Corporate Dominance and the Occupy Movement.

If you are an analytical thinker, study this paper on Solving the Sustainability Problem with Root Cause Analysis.

If you are a sharp thinker but not that analytical, try this essay on Mastering the Science of Striking at the Root.

Now, after you've read one of the above items, consider one of the very latest solutions. See the About Us page for Al Gore's Climate Reality Project. The page says:

The Climate Reality Project, founded and chaired by former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, is dedicated to unleashing a global cultural movement demanding action on the climate crisis. Despite overwhelming international scientific consensus on climate change, the global community still lacks the resolve to implement meaningful solutions. The Climate Reality Project exists to forge an unwavering bedrock of impassioned support necessary for urgent action. With that foundation, together we will ignite the moral courage in our leaders to solve the climate crisis.

The Climate Reality Project employs cutting-edge communications and grassroots engagement tools to break the dam of inaction and raise the profile of the climate crisis to its proper state of urgency. With a global movement more than 5 million strong and a grassroots network of Climate Leaders trained by Chairman Al Gore, we stand up to denial, press for solutions, and spread the truth about climate change to empower our leaders to solve the climate crisis.

If you've grasped what our material says, you will immediately be able to see that the Climate Reality Project's approach is simply not going to work. It's basically a "spread the truth" approach. This is no different from past approaches, all of which have failed. Why? Because "spread the truth" pushes on a low leverage point. It attempts to resolve an intermediate cause (the universal fallacious paradigm of Growth Is Good) rather than the root cause (high political deception effectiveness) of change resistance.

You don't believe this? Then read the Wikipedia entry on Sharon Beder's Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism. Be sure to read the link to the Global Spin Review, which explains how corporate spin works.

Spin is deception. It's working like a charm, so well that attempts to "spread the truth" have not worked in the past. Nor will they work in the future.

That "the global community still lacks the resolve to implement meaningful solutions" is a symptom of change resistance. Al Gore's project is trying to overcome change resistance. Wouldn't it help if the project promoted solutions that were directed toward resolving the root cause of change resistance? After all, all problems arise from their root causes.

If this makes sense, then see the glossary entry on More of the Truth. That's the solution strategy The Climate Reality Project is using.

Welcome to a whole new way of thwinking !

Imagine routinely solving whatever portion of the sustainability problem you're working on.

Scott Durlacher presenting paper at Portland conference

Scott Durlacher presented the paper at the Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference in Portland, Oregon, US, on August 1, 2012. Click on the photo to watch the five minute video of Scott covering the highlights of the paper and its context.

How? With the same powerful tool business uses to routinely solve its toughest problems: Root Cause Analysis.

Thwink.org has distilled its central message into one paper: Solving the Sustainability Problem with Root Cause Analysis. PDF The paper is jargon free and an easy read since its target audience is all serious environmentalists.

The key conclusion is that popular solutions don't work because they do not resolve root causes. Instead, they attempt (in vain) to resolve intermediate causes, like externalized costs or the universal fallacy that Growth Is Good.

The analysis found four main root causes. Finding these led to discovery that the environmental sustainability problem is itself a symptom of a deeper problem: the Broken Political System Problem. This is the real problem to solve. Until it's solved the work of environmentalists is largely fruitless. This is a highly controversial and counter-intuitive conclusion, but it's well supported by a mountain of analysis, modeling, references, and examples in the publications at Thwink.org.

Using the results of the analysis a solution strategy is presented. Twelve solution elements are required to resolve the four root causes.

Archery target

Because each solution is aimed at resolving a specific known root cause, you can't miss. You hit the bullseye every time. It's like shooting at a target ten feet away. The bullseye is the root cause. That's why Root Cause Analysis is so fantastically powerful.

If you know where the bullseye is, your solutions can't miss!

If this makes sense then:

Welcome to Modern Activism

1. Ready - Define the problem.

2. Aim - Analyze the problem with Root Cause Analysis.

3. Fire - Develop and implement solutions that can't miss.

These three steps are why we designed this button:

Root cause buttons

Solving the sustainability problem is not a matter of doing the same things better. It's a matter of doing something different. Radically different.

What's the real story? What does Thwink.org have to offer? More