On writing and seeking a new kind of politics

Satya_Das_podcast

Join writer Sheelagh Caygill as she explores the obvious - and less obvious - trends and influences in communications, PR, and marketing. Also explored is writing and upping your game as a creator of prose. In this essential listen, she interviews senior comms pros, thought leaders, authors, and marketers to reveal insights you can incorporate into daily life. Sheelagh is an award-winning writer, journalist, podcaster, and poet based in Toronto, Canada.

Writing Us the book; a podcast interview with Satya Das

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Satya Das: Writer of Us the book

Satya Das is a writer, journalist, and strategist living in Edmonton, Canada. He is a frequent commentator and public speaker in both French and English, in media and on stage. Satya’s volunteer work is deeply informed with a lifelong commitment to human rights as a way of life. He embraces the principles of human dignity espoused by Mahatma Gandhi.

On writing Us

In a wide-ranging podcast interview with host Sheelagh Caygill, Satya talks about his new book, Us. Us is grounded in the philosophy of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela. Its essential message is a call for a new kind of politics – one that is pluralistic and based on collaboration, community participation, and love.

Satya discusses the experience of writing Us and what it takes to find one’s voice as a writer. He also offers advice for young writers. Satya looks at the state of journalism in Canada and other parts of the world, along with the decline of community reporting.

Satya Das and On writing us podcast transcript

Sheelagh: Hello listeners, this is Sheelagh Caygill, and I’ll be your host for this episode of the Communicate Influence Podcast. My guest today is Satya Das. Satya is a writer, a journalist, an activist, and author of a new book entitled Us. Us is grounded in the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela.

Finding your voice as a writer

The book’s essential message is a call for a new kind of politics, one that’s pluralistic and based on collaboration, community participation, and love. In this interview Satya talks about the experience of writing Us and what it takes to find one’s voice as a writer. He explores why he wrote Us and some of the key messages in this important new book. Based in Edmonton, Canada, you can find Satya online at usthebook.ca, LinkedIn, and the Facebook group called the Community of Us. Welcome Satya to the podcast.

Satya: Well, thank you, Sheelagh. It’s very kind of you to have me.

Sheelagh: Thanks so much. I’m really glad that you can spend some time with us. It’s great to have you. Let’s talk about your life and how you came to write Us – can you give us a little bit of an instruction?

Satya: Well, certainly, I spent the last quarter of the 20th century as a journalist and I had quite a fortunate career, I was on an editorial list for about a dozen years and a foreign correspondent, I had a column for a while.

But I started to worry about the future of journalism as I saw that newspapers in Canada anyway were investing less and less in actual reporting, and it all devolved into entertainment and personalities and spectacle. So I left at the turn of the millennium and I decided to make a full-time life as a writer.

So that’s the short version of my career progress. As to the book Us, it’s what I’ve seen and observed in about 40 years of public life and what it really comes down to is an effort to apply some of the philosophy that affected me deeply and directly during my own life which is the culture of love and non-violence preached by and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela during my formative years, and more lately by a large number of very impressive and influential young people, especially young women.

Sheelagh: And that’s a lot to capture in a book. How did you go about doing that – it sounds like a huge challenge Satya?

Writing Us took many years

Satya: Well, there’s a lot of thinking and sweat over the last 10 years. This is the longest gap I’ve ever had between books, I’ve had four books out in the last 20 years, but my last book Green Oil was about clean energy for the 21st Century, came out in 2009, and it took me a good 10 years to bring Us to the stage of being ready for print.

I had lots of fits and starts, lots of sort of half pauses and do I really want to go there, not at all certain about what I was going to end up with as an overarching theme until I saw how the politics of division were consuming every democratic society I knew.

And I suppose the impetus for really writing Us came when a country that I loved dearly, which is England or Great Britain perhaps, but much more specifically England, was riven by the most deceitful and mendacious sort of lies which were used to tempt people into leaving Europe which I believe is an utter catastrophe for the English people.

The dark side of political marketing

I mean, people were given ridiculous promises by buffoons riding buses saying there’d be 340 million pounds a month going to the National Health if you left Europe; and people were so desperate, their lives had been made so miserable to grasp any chance of something better, that by the narrowest of margins, and a referendum snapshot, they said, perhaps you should leave, because they’ve been told, well, it’ll all be orderly, it’ll all be fine, life will go on just as before, you simply won’t have any French on your bangers’ packages.

And then from that to go to the shambolic chaos it’s become, that whole process broke my heart so deeply that I said, listen, if we’re going to find a path forward in democracies, it really has to be on the basis of not division, not hatred, but appealing to what we know to be the better aspect of ourselves.

Travelling gives a strong foundation for writing

Sheelagh: Wow, that’s pretty amazing. I mean, I’ve read your book, and that was one thing that I wasn’t unaware of, that Brexit had such a profound effect on you. Obviously, I knew that you thought about it, and had your own opinions, but I didn’t realize that it was one of the main triggers that led to you writing Us. And you were born in India, spent some time as a young boy in the US, in Nashville, and then moved to Canada as well as a boy. But you had some time in Britain – I think, was it in ‘87 you were at Cambridge?

Satya: I was, yeah.

Sheelagh: Yeah. So you obviously really connected with England or Britain, whatever?

Satya: Well, I’m both an Anglophile and a Francophile. The wonderful thing about being a citizen of the modern world is that even though English was the colonial language in the colonial culture of both the countries that I was bred in, India and Canada, choosing to become a Francophile and becoming an Anglophile only by identifying with the ordinary people of England, as opposed to the elite who were at such pains to inflict misery on people when I was there in 1987 and in the decades that followed.

That really gave me a spot of not just identification but genuine affection for people who I realized had been as much victims of their own ruling class as had been the residents of the countries that were colonized by that same ruling class.

A journalist’s understanding of those without a voice

Sheelagh: That’s an important distinction, isn’t it? I mean, tell me a little bit more, or tell our listeners, I should say, about the experience of identifying with those people and other people who don’t have a voice in any way deprived or lack human rights around the world – what was that like for you?

Satya: Well, I’m just starting with England and France because those are languages that I speak well and cultures I belong to. But in the course of my travels as a foreign correspondent, and then in this century I’ve been a bit of a policy guru and a strategic adviser to different kinds of leaders, so I’ve had a chance to travel quite extensively in many parts of the world, and I noticed that even places I had been to first as a journalist and went back later as a private citizen, I’ve been struck everywhere I go by the innate decency of what one might call people whose highest aspiration is to lead in everyday life.

Understanding ordinary people

And these are people who would never by choice start a war, who would never by choice burn down a neighbor’s house, who would never by choice be dragged into a conflict. But all over the world it’s a small clique of ruling elites who completely up-end the lives of people who want nothing more than to have a common peaceful life and just get on with it.

Sheelagh: Do you think that there can be changes made in how democracies select leaders or how we encourage people to become active and get involved in politics and changing people’s lives for the better?

Satya: I think democracy is fundamentally broken and the whole project has to be rethought, and it can’t be rethought from the top down, it has to come from the ground up. So what we need is we need to give people space, empowerment, and the capacity to sort out for themselves what life should look like; and that’s why in the book I come back to what I call the two foundational human rights which is freedom from fear and freedom from want.

Now, fear comes in a lot of different forms – if you don’t have proper health care, you’re afraid; if you think that if you lose your job, you won’t be able to survive, you’re afraid. So fear isn’t the state that’s going to drag me away in the middle of the night. Fear is can I have a reasonable and decent life without having to abase myself in many different ways and to essentially be under pressure all the time.

Most people just want to be free from fear

Freedom from want, which is the other half of that really means that can I have the basic things to life, just food, shelter, clothing, community, people that I’m attached to, a comfortable place for friends and family – can I have all of these things? Not necessarily, with a lot of material acquisition but really a kind of life in which people know one another, enjoy one another’s company, and the very simplicity of being able to work in an atmosphere and to live in an atmosphere of trust and the mutuality of being and belonging with and to one another.

Sheelagh: And those really don’t seem like great things to ask. They don’t seem like enormous things or things that are out of most people’s reach, and yet, one thing that you’ve touched on in your writing is that there are more and more people in the so-called western world who can’t achieve these things and that’s leading to so much dissent and turning to populist leaders who don’t really have the solutions – what are your thoughts on that?

Satya: Well, they do have solutions of a kind. So division, because division always means fear, and fear is what keeps people in power.

I continue to be appalled by how the decline of local news reporting, and the decline of the ability of local media to hold a mirror to their communities has completely undermined and corroded what I would call the foundations of a democratic life. It is now impossible to have a curated, filtered, relatively objective source of information but everything that goes on in your everyday life. So instead, we fall prey to a stream of information often concocted by scoundrels that’s meant to appeal to your prejudices and your biases rather than to your best instincts.

Sheelagh: I think as a journalist, that must affect you quite deeply.

Feeling guilty about abandoning journalism

Satya: Well, and that’s why I felt a bit guilty about abandoning journalism, but I knew that there was really no future in it, in what I saw coming about. I mean, even when a rascal like Conrad Black owned the newspaper and the newspaper company I worked in, even though he disagreed with one politically, he actually invested in local reporting, he believed that a newspaper should be a reflection of its community.

And then when he sold out at great profit, we essentially got to people who looked upon newspapers as they might have a manufacturing industry, as though they were bottling fizzy drinks – and he had 18 plants across the country, why did each of them have their own staff, why did each of them have their own idiosyncratic journalists, couldn’t we centralize it all, can’t we save money?

And then eventually that all started to devolve into the place where my newspaper group was sold to a group of ultra-capitalists who kept on slashing and slashing and slashing – when you and I worked together, I was on the city desk of the time I recall, we had a newsroom strength of 225, now there’s perhaps two dozen people who put out two newspapers from the same building.

What is it like to write a book?

Sheelagh: Yeah, that’s pretty appalling and I’m just hoping that in some way somehow things will turn around the people, and enough people will realize that things need to change. So let’s kind of shift direction a little bit, because I think there are so people out there who want to understand what it’s like to write a book, and your book is – well, it’s not – I was going to use the word unique. It’s not unique, because I’m sure there are others out there that combine that history, the message – I almost want to use the word manifesto, although, of course, it’s not a policy, and the biography as well. But what did it take for you to sit down and write that, you’ve talked about the impetus, but what did it take to kind of sit down and write it and what difficulties did you encounter as a writer?

Satya: The biggest difficulty as a writer is you beat yourself up all the time. I went back and I read my earlier books and I cringed, I cringed through chapters and pages. I said, oh my god, how could I have let that go, what was I thinking of, why didn’t I put a bit more into it.

And that sort of self-criticism gets you to the point where I’m now well past 60. When you’re writing a fourth book, I think this is the first book where I’ve actually found my voice, and it took me perhaps 35 years to get there.

Decades to find the writer’s voice

But now that I have found a voice, and I know that I can say things that I want to say, the hardest part of it was really to focus and concentrate and then still without really knowing the answer ask yourself is this something that people are going to care about and know about. So I was fortunate to have four people who agreed to edit the book for me, each had quite different perspectives; and really even though I supplied a lot of the raw material, it’s the people who agreed to edit with me who really shaped the final message of the book. They come from different ages, different experiences, different generations, and that was a big help.

Sheelagh: So the message there for a writer of any age who’s listening is discuss your work with people that you are close to, but those people have to be objective enough?

Satya: It’s really who do you trust with your words and that trust has to be absolute. To write effectively and well, you have to lose ego, can’t have any aspect of ego in there; and for me, I find with writing that the words can’t get in the way of what you’re trying to say.

People who go for word flourishes actually do it to decorate the fact that their basic message is hollow and empty. But if you have something of substance you want to convey, the word shouldn’t even be noticed, they should simply be a way of directly transmitting your thought to the audience with the least interference possible.

Good writing is about illuminating, framing, and delivering thoughts

So it’s how you illuminate the thought, how you frame it, how you deliver it. The overarching message of us is quite simple. It answers Nelson Mandela’s call for an entirely new political culture, one based on human dignity, our common humanity, the right to be human; or to put it in a very simple way, to replace the politics of violence and fear with the politics of love and acceptance. And that comes across in a lot of different ways and a lot of different chapters.

Writers shouldn’t get too hung up on words

Sheelagh: Well, there’s a lot there Satya, let’s unpack it a little bit. I mean, you’ve made some really profound statements about writing. I mean, you have to think about the words obviously and choose them carefully. But as a writer, you are saying don’t get too hung up on the words, make sure your message is sound before you start writing so that you can convey it clearly and with meaning.

Satya: Very much so. And a big part of it for me is starting with poetry, because poetry is the ultimate distillation of language and the ultimate distillation of sentiment. So you’ll notice throughout Us, there’s quite a bit of poetry that I’ve put into translation from people who have a certain way of expressing things and summarizing things, and I’ve often used them to illustrate and amplify.

So when you start from that basis, sometimes you find that using a very succinct message gives you a chance to almost have a variation on a theme, it becomes an evocation and from that evocation or invocation you go forward to further elaborate what it is that you want to say.

Sheelagh: That’s interesting, Satya, because I interviewed someone recently on reading poetry as a device to help make one a better writer.

Improve your writing with poetry

Satya: Well, very much so. It’s, in fact, if you want to look at how much of the post Second World War history of our planet has been shaped, W. H. Auden’s poems, September 1, 1939 which you wrote the day the Second World War started, really encapsulate everything that had gone wrong before, and foreshadows the horror of what would follow. And it’s a poem he later said he wished he hadn’t written and he wasn’t particularly fond of it. But of all of his poetry, a lot of which has many profound insights and commentaries on the human condition, this is the one universal poem that, to my mind, remains.

Advice to young writers

Sheelagh: What advice would you give to a young writer Satya?

Satya: When you experience, feel, don’t close off your heart, don’t close off your mind. One of the passages I quote from Giorgos or George Seferis, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963, is when he says “And if the soul is to know itself, it must look into your soul: the stranger and the enemy, we see him in the mirror.”

It’s really a call to really look inside yourself, to know yourself to be true to who you are. It helps if you’re a moral and ethical person. If you look inside yourself and find that you’re not, I suggest you take steps to become one. That is there has to be a certain moral compass, there has to be a certain ethical compass if you’re going to become an effective writer as opposed to a manipulative one.

And that doesn’t come with a particular political ideology, people can come from all sorts of the political spectrum and be honorable and decent people, so be honorable, be decent, open your mind, open your heart, open yourself to experience, and write what you see.

Sheelagh: That’s great advice and the poem was beautiful. So let’s go back to the book. You build your message on three influential figures in the 20th Century, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, and they’ve clearly had a profound effect on you and the way you live your life. Tell our readers a little bit more about that aspect of your book.

A political awakening

Satya: Well, I actually grew up with my political awakening, coincident with Dr. King’s civil rights movement in the United States. I lived in the American South for a time when my father was a visiting professor in apartheid area, United States, Nashville, Tennessee, and that really awoke me to a deeper political consciousness. And because of that particular start, and because my family’s life had been quite fervently shaped by Gandhi and the Quit India Movement, and the eventual overthrow of British rule and Indian self-rule, that was a quite a natural transition.

Mandela actually came to much later in life, and I was a bit wary about it all because there was such appalling violence in South Africa that I simply couldn’t see how anyone could make a transition to a relatively peaceful rule without extreme racialist violence and bloodshed on both sides.

Nelson Mandela’s influence

And yet, and yet, you had this transcendent figure in Nelson Mandela who actually was able to renounce the revolutionary past with which he had defiantly proclaimed as he was sent to jail; and when he emerged from jail, he came up with such wisdom and such conviction, when he said in his first major speech, throw away your pangas, throw your clubs and swords into the sea, this is not the way, we cannot, we cannot yield to violence in any form. That in the context of South Africa and the context of unspeakable brutality, the promise in the hope had pretended, he was really saying that the culture of violence and revolution has had its day, we need to have a new beginning and a new way forward.

Now, the irony is that Mandela’s message might have been heard by many ordinary people but the power elites did not hear it. About the time that Mandela was released and before he became president, we also saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, at that time, the great hope, and I remember working on this as a journalist, was that NATO and the Warsaw Pact would fold their tents and go away and we would build up an organization called the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe which would essentially be a peace building mechanism based on sort of principles that Mandela espoused.

But instead of that, we had NATO expanding muscularly, absorbing most of the former Soviet empire taking itself with a nuclear arsenal right up to the borders of Russia and essentially destabilizing and destroying any prospect of a peaceful and progressive Europe in which nuclear arsenals, conflicts between nations, and great power rivalries might have been a thing of the past.

The American Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower feared that militarism and its political alliances were so deeply embedded into the architecture of the world that the military-industrial complex would end up sowing violence where peace ought to reign, and this was from the supreme commander of the Allied forces in the Second World War.

The disorder or our current time

Unfortunately, that is precisely what’s happened, until we’ve come to this: war mongering elites everywhere bristle with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of so-called defense spending and military spending, when even a quarter of that spent in human development would give everybody on the planet better health, cleaner water, cleaner food, a more clement life, freedom from fear, freedom from want, and all the building blocks of a life lived in dignity and harmony with one another and with the natural world.

An optimistic message rising from disorder

Sheelagh: As you’ve said Satya, we are in quite a dark place and, one of the things I found quite amazing about your book was the message, the overarching message of hope because it’s so easy to be cynical and want to switch off and not be active or engage in anything or not to vote. And you were able to weave this philosophy of the rights of the human and the messages from Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, about taking a different path, an alternative path that, as you just described, would allow people to live quite differently.

Satya: Well, I think equally importantly, it’s the millennials and the generation after them who’ve internalized that themselves without necessarily knowing or caring what the philosophical foundations were. They just know that the world they inherited is broken, broken beyond measure, and there has to be another path forward.

So instead of my book trying to say what that path is, I’m sort of pointing out what I learned through my life and hoping that some of that might resonate and people might take it forward – for specific things, for instance, when we see the climate strikes that are going on everywhere, yes, it’s good to demand action; but unless you specify action, politicians are simply going to shove you aside.

Costing out a way forward

So one of the things I proposed, I’ve costed this out in some rough detail is that for the equivalent of every barrel of oil we consume and fossil fuels in the world, we simply levy at $2 tax and put it into an international fund to mitigate that requirement change, and that takes us to more than $200 million a day.

How to move forward amongst the disorder

Sheelagh: And that obviously makes sense to find the funds to help initiate change, and one of the things that is prominent in your book that you’ve come up with a number of suggestions and ideas for people to become active and move things forward. There are some principles on which the UN is based, for example, that you reference in your book. So where my question is going is what’s the next step, you know, people will read your book, it will resonate with them, particularly young people – how do they pick up your strong and grounded ideas and move things forward?

Satya: Well, let’s wait and see, because I haven’t the faintest idea of how that’s going to unfold. All I know is that if you set out a ripple to the world this way, you are really not sure what kind of effect that’s going to have or what kind of change is going to come from it.

But if the future is going to be built on what we know of the failures of the past, at least, today’s emerging leaders ought to know what those failures were, but also to know what some of the ways are to move forward.

I mean, one of the challenges that I put to every one of every generation is: have we broken democracy to the point that it can’t be fixed? We’re seeing in the example of China, quite an audacious experiment in which there are no political rights. There’s no freedom of assembly, there’s no freedom of speech or press in any meaningful way. It’s circumscribed, it’s permitted in certain conditions but you simply cannot stand in the street and speak your mind without fear of consequence; and yet, and yet China has committed so much to the public good, to public infrastructure, to removing freedom from want in almost every aspect of life for most of its citizens that it’s really sort of saying that.

China’s growth without liberal democracy

Why do you need political rights and the instability that inevitably accompanies democracy when, in fact, by trusting in the state that governs you and not challenging the state, you can have this quite astonishing quality of life? Now, that is a dilemma and it is something that if you are somebody who’s never experienced liberal democracy, who’s never grown up with whole political rights, you could be very well tempted to subscribe to that viewpoint.

When you see China’s enormous reach in the world, they’re spending $700 billion dollars a year building the infrastructure for other countries, you can certainly see how countries that have never known liberal democracy, that have never known real freedom would find a certain allure an authoritarian rule allied to capitalist market economics. I don’t know what the answer to that is, I don’t know if it even needs an answer, if it simply needs to be noted.

Sheelagh: Yeah, that was quite striking in your book when you were talking with someone, I believe, in China, who was from there, and you were talking about the governance of Canada and how it works, and this woman looked at you and said so you prefer political chaos, and she was quite sincere in that question, it wasn’t…

Satya: It was you mean people actually prefer instability, but why… Unfortunately, what the Chinese media does is they don’t filter or censor the news out of the West, they run verbatim reports about the American political system as it is now, the chaos that followed Brexit, and they just keep on running these reports translated from English into Chinese.

And I’ve had Chinese readers tell me, yes, that’s exactly what Reuters wrote or what appeared in The Guardian, or yes this is what the New York Times wrote. The New York Times Chinese edition is available online, so they can read the reporting directly firsthand.

In fact, if you go to the New York Times website, you can choose to read it in simplified Chinese and in traditional Chinese. So Chinese people every day are being confronted with what I would call the worst of democracy and the best of dictatorship.

What would you choose? Dictatorship or democracy?

And I wonder, and I fear, that even in our democracies where fewer than two or three per cent of people are partisans and that they actually belong actively to a political party, that most of the people, including the 35 to 40 per cent who can never be bothered to vote, if they were offered a clear choice between a benign dictatorship which provided all the necessities of life and a gleaming high-tech modern infrastructure that really takes the breath away with its quality and its efficiency and the harder work of holding the and building the walls task of constantly improving a democratic society in which they have no – they feel they have no real power or influence, what they would end up choosing?

I can’t say, I don’t know what the answer to that is. I know that people like the Chinese in Hong Kong who have been brought up with expectations of liberal democracy will fight very, very hard to keep their political rights. But when you live in an impoverished state in the midst of a rich society as you generally do in England if you go more than a 100 kilometers north of London, you really have to wonder, if people are presented the choice that would you rather have a much better life with limited political rights or full political rights and the miserable life you lead now.

Sheelagh: That’s a really good question, and I’m sure I could guess the answers from some people living in Britain know. Back to your book, you do say in your book, don’t you, that if you were faced with that choice you would choose democracy anytime over how things are in China?

Satya: That’s my choice, but who am I to tell somebody who’s 30 years old in Shanghai who earns in a week what their parents earned in a year that no, no, no, if you just leave all this behind and take an uncertain leap into something we call democracy where you have the right to choose your own leaders and the right to self-determination, your life will be better, that’s simply not a credible message to give to that person.

Leadership systems not working

Sheelagh: That’s quite a chilling thought, and it speaks to how impoverished our leaders are at the moment. Do you have any thoughts on how we can get people who might lead, would be better leaders involved?

Satya: No, none at all, because I don’t think that our leadership systems work at all. I mean, climate change is the existential crisis of our times, and there’s the only leadership that’s coming for it is coming from the streets. The elected systems that we have, have completely failed to work.

It goes back to Eisenhower and the military industrial complex, and the nexus of capitalism and profit which had liberal democracy as a framing device for a while, still leads one to believe that the interests of capitalism and the interests of democracy coincide – well, actually, they don’t. It’s when you have an authoritarian state like China where you see capitalism really at work and that the state takes the big decisions, the capitalist competition is at the retail level and the street level, but it’s a state that builds the infrastructure, it’s the state that decides to invest in green tech and clean tech basically because you can’t breathe anymore in Beijing, in Shanghai, and Guangzhou, that the big decisions are taken.

Democracies have to work despite the leadership issues

So I really think that if we are going to use the tools of democracy, the ability of free expression, and the ability to organize ourselves that we can’t leave it to electoral cycles and elected leaders, democracies have to work despite of the leadership.

We need citizens groups and citizen movements and communities of interest that every day is going to be a series of choices and decisions, it’s not going to be the election every four years, but every day in between your ability to participate fully in community life, your ability to organize, your ability to come together, your ability to challenge authority and the things that are being left undone – as we are seeing with the global climate strikes every week now, this is where the is going to come.

And when leaders see that a parade is forming, that the momentum is so large that their own comfort is going to be overwhelmed, that they are going to be overthrown unless they respond, then and only then are we going to see any semblance of leadership that actually seems to reflect the aspirations of the people.

Sheelagh: That’s a very strong message Satya, and I think that might be a natural place to conclude our discussion about your book. For you, can you tell us what’s next what happens next on your agenda?

Working as a resource

Satya: Well, I really hope that people will want to discuss the ideas in the book, and I’m around to be tapped as a resource person for anyone who does.

One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed throughout this process in meeting people is the discovery of the fact that we can talk to each other and with each other when we practice the principles of pluralism. And by that, I mean, the ability to understand our differences, to understand our different perspectives, and try to navigate toward common ground between them. That’s an art that happens in community, not necessarily in partisan politics.

I’ve really had the most meaningful and fruitful discussions coming from a model of indigenous Canadian culture where people sit in a circle as equals and pass around a sacred object which actually enables and empowers one to speak and everyone else listens, you keep passing the object as you’re discussing the topic, you can either pass so you can speak, and I’ve found that that sort of experience gives real meaning and definition and importance and worth to what’s being said.

Meet and speak directly to connect and make change

We need to meet more, we need to speak more, we need to speak to one another directly in small groups rather than waiting for political slogans and sloganeering to tell us what we believe the preferred future should be.

So in that sense, what’s next for me is to be here if anyone wants to reach out to me, to engage with me about the ideas in the book. My email is in the book itself for anyone who wants to reach out to me; and I intend to spend the days left to me, however long that may be, I hope it’s a few decades, essentially, talking about illuminating and further advancing the ideas presented in Us.

Sheelagh: So you’re in Edmonton, Canada with an open mind and an open heart, people can contact you. Tell our listeners where they can find you online.

Satya: On Facebook, we have a group called the Community of Us. Right now, it’s about 250 people. I really hope we can build that to about 3000 people. The Community of Us on Facebook is designed as a safe harbor where you can promote ideas that advance the common good and the Commonwealth, and our admins are very careful to ensure there’s no trolling or baiting or malice or destruction or damage on there. We need more safe communities like that where we can speak our minds and speak our hearts and at least be respected and affirmed if not agreed with.

So that’s another place to reach out, and I’m easy to find, a simple Google search will get me anywhere – anyone can get to me. I really, really hope that we will have a chance – and I am willing to go anywhere in the world by the way, to further this conversation in as many ways possible, in as many cultures and societies as possible, because the big thirst today is there has to be a better way forward. Sheelagh,

I’m actually willing to travel anywhere in the world and I don’t charge speaking fees, I simply ask that people cover my travel expenses and find me a reasonably priced place to stay, and I will meet with any group, speak to anyone about the ideas in Us and really to take the idea of the community of Us, the ideas of community that are embraced to engage in that dialogue with anyone who would have me.

Satya Das, journalist and author of Us the book

You can find Satya online at usthebook.ca (and also buy Us there), on Facebook at The Community of Us, and on LinkedIn.

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