Chapter 8 – Societal transformation to voluntaryism

Complete political liberty recap

Living complete liberty inside out essentially means personal transformation, which therefore yields societal transformation. In such a new world, political philosophy might be discussed at various times to maintain clarity, but “politics” as we’ve known it will be gone. Imagine that: no more news filled with seemingly endless stories about governmental affairs—no more campaign trails, stump speeches, and scandals of the week, no more lobbying for this or that, no more domestic and foreign “policies,” no more enforcement of endless reams of “statutes” and “laws” and subsequent statist court decisions, ruining countless people’s lives, no more wars and military excursions started by politicians and “defense departments,” no more intrusions into our private lives in the name of “national security,” no more extortion called taxation, no more devaluation of money, and so on.

As noted in Complete Liberty, politics will be a thing of the past because the ideas and actions of political “authority” will be gone as well. Individuals will no longer have an interest in centralized hierarchies of control—no more legislatures to legislate anything, no more judiciaries to adjudicate anything, and no more executives to execute anything. When we reason from the basic principles of self-ownership and property rights, we can see that acting in contradiction to them means acting in contradiction to our own nature as reasoning beings, which necessarily furthers conflict and suffering for untold numbers of individuals and for humanity in general.

Even today, most people in marketplaces throughout the world find it incredibly easy to respect other persons and their property. We go about our own business, and others go about theirs; no harm, no foul. It’s actually a marvel to behold—millions of persons in cities and towns across America, for example, getting so many things done and getting along and exchanging values in so many useful and enriching ways. Sure, a tiny minority of private individuals attempts to use violence and fraud against their fellow inhabitants, but their activities pale in comparison to the coercive activities of the allegedly “public” institutions of government. Millions of people operate in this organization that, by its very design, sacrifices human needs, such as for autonomy, choice, fairness, and respect. The idea of government simply can’t avoid its coercive nature: a legalized monopoly that funds its operations via taxes and fiat currency and that tries to control people via regulations and laws backed by threats and punishments.

Abolition of government both conceptually and organizationally will mean that a crucial evolution in human consciousness has finally taken place. Individuals working on behalf of government will choose the ways of nonviolence, favoring instead voluntary funding and voluntary sustenance in the marketplace, just like everyone else in business. Free markets always welcome more persons to contribute and interact.

Unfortunately, seeking profits instead of tax dollars is not something especially favored in our culture today, at least not without a certain amount of guilt (in response to accusations of “greed”). After all, public education is funded with tax dollars, as is a host of other welfare and warfare programs, which are also funded by fiat currency inflation. And all the myriad of governmental groups that attempt to “regulate” the marketplace of voluntary interactions are funded via extortion too, i.e., taxation. Many, if not most, scientific endeavors are also funded with tax dollars.

The largest source of governmental funding comes from a form of larceny on the grandest scale imaginable: incurring debt by creating money out of thin air (digitally), coupled with non-market-based interest rate controls and fractional reserve banking. As any free market economist will tell you, inflation of the money supply (via fiat currency creation) results in devaluation of the currency, which is our primary medium of exchange (on account of being “legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes and dues”). To our huge economic misfortune, this means continuously reduced purchasing power, wherein the same dollars buy less over time. This is the opposite of what happens in a free market system of money (such as with gold and silver). In the interim perhaps the U.S. dollar’s current non-governmental challenger, the open source and peer-to-peer digital currency called Bitcoin, will continue to make gains in the marketplace, both in terms of valuation and adoption.

Since the inception of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, the dollar has lost nearly all of its original value, i.e., the amount of goods and services each unit could buy. This would be much more noticeable if weren’t for the great counterbalancing effect of the enormous productivity gains via information technologies and other marketplace innovations. Such economic theft might seem minor in a relatively prosperous society, but its devastating effects are inescapable, particularly for persons on low or fixed incomes, from the young to the elderly.

It’s difficult to fully realize how much more value our money can have without the fiscal and monetary governmental controls. In a free market our buying power and savings increase over time, which is an absolute boon to everyone’s standard of living. Practically everyone would become wealthy by today’s standards in a few years, maybe even in a few months. The benefits of a truly free market process can’t be overstated. Few people know how much our lifestyles are diminished by the political system, and the untold and unseen economic advantages of a free market remain the great unactualized potential of humanity. People in the future will look back on this time and be flabbergasted by how much economies were crippled by governmental systems.

Once we become aware of the statist matrix and just how damaging it is to everybody, psychologically and economically (even those who’ve become “rich” in it), we can then acquire a passionate desire to see a free world. Today, most people don’t entirely recognize how their need for freedom can be fully manifested. Few have a clear conception of how their lives can be greatly enriched when that precious need gets met. The total dissolution of the idea and institution of government requires many, if not most, of the psychological paradigm shifts we’ve explored in this book.

A contradictory belief tends to persist that none of us can handle the transition to full self-responsibility—in essence, full adulthood. Supposedly, we can’t take care of ourselves and respect others in a free society, so the alleged “chaos and disorder” of anarchy is imagined and forecasted. Those who hold this belief are in emotional contexts of perhaps fear, anxiety, worry, and distrust, which likely indicate needs for security, stability, understanding, and meaning. The strategies of statism they favor don’t fully get those needs met, of course, and they readily sacrifice their need (everyone’s need) for freedom. Whether or not they favor the political status quo with vigor, any suggestions of transitioning into the realm of freedom typically prompts disagreements and incredulous queries. Many wonder how on Earth could individuals live and provide for themselves without government—as if people’s lives are made better via a system of coercion. In such discussions, we can hear painful echos of conditional parenting experiences.

Indeed, belief in government questions the capacity of humans to be responsible decision-makers. Use of logic exposes the ultimate contradiction that’s been foisted on the human mind for centuries: that other humans calling themselves “government” can be responsible decision-makers that make the rest of us be responsible decision-makers, or at least be in a position to punish us if we aren’t responsible decision-makers, according to their demands (commonly called laws, statutes, rules, or policies).

Now we’re indeed back to the stern and coercive parenting model. To reiterate, the memes of government make much more sense when we consider the fact that most people experience such “authority” in their childhoods. It’s frustrating and sad beyond words that these early experiences serve as a political template for trying to restrict our freedoms as adults.

The notion that human beings are irresponsible by nature can never be true. This false premise is exemplified by those who form the organization of government in order to allegedly keep everyone (including themselves) in line. “Representative democracy” supposedly requires responsible decision-makers; people are supposed to elect persons from the general populace to govern them, who in turn appoint and hire others from the general populace too. Yet, due to its coercive nature, the implementation of democracy is fraught with insuperable problems and irreconcilable inconsistencies, which are no doubt reflected in the low approval rating of politicians and of governmental bureaucracy in general. While documents like the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, are supposed to keep those in government accountable and not tyrannical, governmental duties by definition involve the violation of individual rights.

Tragically, the more one treats others as if they were irresponsible, the more they might act that way, which is a variation of self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether it be in parenting, religion, schooling, or statism, when fellow persons are treated in ways that deny their own choices, they may give up (and give in) or rebel. No matter what, vital needs are sacrificed, both in the victims of power-over strategies and in the persons using them.

To believe that we can choose others to “govern” us in a political democracy reveals the major contradiction once again: that you can choose someone to rule you, to deny your freedom to make your own choices as you see fit with your own property, according to your own desires. Inspecting a thesaurus for synonyms of the verb “govern” yields the following:

1—rule, preside over, reign over, control, be in charge of, command, lead, dominate

2—determine, decide control, regulate, direct, rule, dictate, shape.

These meanings definitely don’t include words that denote respect for persons and their property, unless we’re to view other persons as our property, which is the most harmful yet historically longstanding injustice.

Unfortunately, parents might view children as their property, since they are dependent on caregivers for survival. Yet taking the stance of “ruler of little persons” not only hinders respectful and responsible guardianship. Later on, it also promotes submission to supposed political rulers and their many enforcers, lest we get punished for trying to finally be free.

Of course, most adults view politics as either a game (at best) or an inconvenience (at worst), which can really downplay the significance of this massive contradiction about human nature. It’s deeply upsetting to realize that one is part of a coercive system that inhibits our capacities to be free and responsible individuals. After all, being responsible means being able to respond to circumstances based on your knowledge, skills, and abilities, according to your own capacity to make decisions. When we surrender to some “authority” that claims dominion over these self-responsible processes, we can try to ease our discomfort with the belief that it’s “necessary and proper” for some purported “common good.”

Someone who’s feeling reticent to give up the memes of statism might try to ignore the contradiction that people supposedly require governors (i.e., other people to tell them what to do, or else). Well, what about a system that disallows “free and fair elections” and features a “benevolent dictator” who’s supposed to make better decisions than anyone else? It might sound absurd, but people throughout history (and some currently) have actually favored such a view. While it sidesteps the irony of democracy (of “choosing” rulers to make choices for oneself) it still forwards the contradiction that someone needs to be “in charge” politically, someone who supposedly knows what’s best for all and punishes those who don’t do what’s presumed best.

Be it a “government” or a General Zod appearing from the planet Krypton for us to kneel before, to worship and obey, to our last days on Earth, we still face the ultimate volitional fact: To submit is also to make a choice. In our present political predicament, we’re constantly factoring the odds of being punished by others who haven’t freed their minds from the illusion of “authority.” Now, most of us tend to submit to various coercive aspects of the political system, but as time goes on and the contradictions become ever more apparent to more people, fewer and fewer persons will find any real value in doing so, other than to avoid various punishments. Eventually, perhaps everyone will grasp the immense benefits of self-responsibility and freedom, and they’ll no longer be sleepwalking in a half-dream/half-nightmare situation in which they depend on others to determine what’s best for their own lives.

The fact of the matter is that no one but you knows what’s best for you, because no one else is looking with your eyes, breathing with your lungs, walking with your legs, and thinking and feeling with your nervous system. Sure, others in various areas of expertise can offer their views and recommendations, but ultimately you are your own decision-maker, with the inherent capacity to make responsible decisions.

So, when we reduce “politics” to its plain essence, the contradictions become glaring to the point of deeply disturbing. Ironically, this emotional impact might be what prevents most of us from shouting the truth from the rooftops, in outrage about the constant injustices. The fear of realizing the intolerable nature of these domination systems can keep us locked in status-quo thinking about our lives in relation to political affairs. Yet, on some level, we all know that we cannot have “liberty and justice for all” in a coercive system.

No individual in our species can speak for all individuals, unless what he or she speaks is universally true for all, such as the truths of universal needs and our capacity to meet needs without sacrifices and violations of rights. This means the freedom to do as we please and interact with others voluntarily, i.e., without infringing on their own freedoms (by means of aggression). It is precisely this message that will enable us to see past the mental gatekeepers and into the realm of inspiring realizations.

It doesn’t matter if someone has greater (or lesser) capacities than you, because you are the ultimate decision-maker for your own life and well-being. Each person in a truly free market makes decisions for oneself, and one of these decisions concerns whether to seek help from others in order to make more informed decisions regarding, for instance, safety and security. Unfortunately, this is where persons immersed in memes of statism can become discouraged, so it behooves us to empathize with their perspective. They think that such decisions about safety and security are supposed to be already figured out and implemented by those in power; that’s why we have government to begin with, the thinking goes.

Indeed, if we are given no market choice about governmental “services” from the day we were born, then we might believe that no market-based service is possible or preferable. We might believe that governmental services are too important to be within the realm of choice, even though this overlooks the reality that people in governmental organizations are themselves making choices in their monopolistic context to assist others; after all, governmental workers generally go to work willingly without threats of punishment if they quit (except for the coercive “contract” for so-called military duty).

Simply put, humans have been abiding by a system that denies their capacity to make decisions for themselves in the marketplace. Again, like in strategies of conditional parenting, we see the lack of trust in people to make thoughtful choices, with the consequence being disallowing those choices. The fact of the matter is that each person in society has the right to offer or purchase whatever rights-respecting services or products can be offered or purchased in the marketplace. Arbitrary governmental edicts about “illegality” threaten both entrepreneurs and customers with punishments for making decisions to transact with others.

It’s again painfully obvious that the conditional parenting model is in full effect with the prohibitions instituted by the memes of government. They essentially treat adults as untrustworthy, careless, reckless beings, which other adults allegedly “in charge” (but of the same ilk) know best how to deal with or tell what to do. Thus, we witness the methods of coercion and force via assorted monopolies and exclusive privileges (including patents, copyrights, and trademarks), taxes, licenses, permits, fees, fines, legal complaints and charges, warrants, arrests, detentions, trials, incarceration, probation, parole, and executions. Notice too that these are basically the ill-effects of communized property notions writ large.

Given this matrix of force and coercion, we can plainly see that the organization of government can’t provide actual services. As author and producer of “The No State Project” Marc Stevens queries, so long as governmental activities aren’t offered and funded on a voluntary basis, what evidence can there be that people actually want and seek such activities? The answer, of course, is that such evidence is impossible to ascertain when it’s government’s way or the highway (a literal highway that’s also bureaucratically controlled by governmental law enforcers).

Nothing that’s actually sold in a free market caters to the opposite of what customers want. That would be the ultimate economic oxymoron, a thriving business without customers. As myriad free market economists have pointed out, profits are the result of satisfying customers’ needs and wants. Taxes, in contrast, are the result of tricking people into believing that extortion is necessary—that a win/lose scenario is somehow preferable to countless win/win scenarios (i.e., voluntary trades) in the marketplace. In today’s taxed-and-regulated corporate marketplace, customers become unsatisfied in many ways, revealing the unfree economy of a statist system.

Coercive monopolies arise from the beliefs about government being people’s protector and provider. Being coercively imposed and maintained, such monopolies are always based on a fundamental denial of human choice. Time and again, we return to the basic nature of choice, and the fact that choice is a foundational need that’s sacrificed by any system of government.

When our need for choice is finally met concerning the former “services” of government, our needs for security and safety won’t be sacrificed either. This of course runs directly counter to popular beliefs about roving private gangs or the “chaos of anarchy.” Beliefs of this sort drop the actual, presently harmful context and conjure greater potential harms that don’t accord with societal psychological evolution and free market justice principles.

As noted in Complete Liberty, to use Somalia as an example of market anarchism fails on many counts: Warlords, tribal mentalities, and statist powers continue to impose their non-libertarian views on a war-torn population, and the U.S. government and U.N. continue their interventions. Market anarchism, or voluntaryism (or agorism) is born out of the principles of self-ownership, property rights, and a nonsacrificial ethics of respect for each individual. Needless to say, these principles are lacking in the culture of Somalia, as they are in any tribalistic and statist environment. Complete liberty psychologically and politically represents a major cultural paradigm shift that’s yet to happen. Some individuals have made this shift already for themselves, but it clearly needs to be widely distributed in our culture for any dramatic changes to occur on a socio-economic level.

Our needs for safety and security will be upheld in a much different manner than today’s coercive strategies that arise directly from fear and distrust. Criminality as it’s presently constituted will disappear, mostly on account of abolition of the massive double standard of socially acceptable governmental criminality. Additionally, the private security industry that’s presently available with various protection and prevention devices (such as alarm systems, deadbolts, etc.) might eventually disappear too in a free society, as people integrate principles of nonviolent communication and property rights. While guns and other lethal weapons may be used for recreational purposes, the expectation of using them for self-defense will likely fade away as well.

Note that such a dramatic shift does not require a change in human nature, as for instance Marxist ideology promotes (i.e., a shift from self-interest to altruistic service to the group). Rather, it will entail a more coherent and integrated view of human nature; nonviolent, connected, and compassionate communication practices will be considered essential to flourishing—so, no more self-sacrifice and no more sacrifice of others to self.

Today we of course have a society that exhibits only a fraction of its true potential, troubled by all sorts of dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors. Yet these too are attempts, albeit quite costly, to meet various needs. One look at the prison system reveals how disconnected we can become from a conception of justice that actually helps individuals in society. It’s pretty widely known in the intellectual community that, while America has about 5% of the world’s population, it has about 20%-25% of the world’s prisoners. Imagine that. The alleged Land of the Free and Home of the Brave overlooks some very important things in its tactics of retribution—one being that punishment is not a truly helpful way to deal with actions that we don’t like or don’t want to experience, or that harm others.

Restorative justice instead of punishment

A world of complete liberty inside out is a world without punishment. For many people at present, such a world is almost inconceivable. However, our exploration of the unconditional parenting model points the way, since it doesn’t employ rewards and punishments to “get” children to do various things. We know that the future is oftentimes based on the troubled patterns of history, especially on how persons were reared and “educated.”

If there’s one thing that can enable us to beneficially transform our lives in society, it’s a rejection of status-quo assumptions about what’s possible for humans in general and for each person in particular. So many presently ingrained assumptions simply aren’t true, and they tend to beget more of the behaviors that allegedly validate them (self-fulfilling prophecies, once again).

If we make demands and think that people deserve to be punished when they don’t comply, how in the world do we expect to foster self-esteem and responsible decision-making? In truth, this power-over process contrives a house of distorted mirrors with which to view humanity, thereby precluding a realistic vision of who we are and what’s possible to us. Meanwhile, grave ethical contradictions and psychological conflicts hinder a better way of living and interacting.

In contrast, an undistorted image of human beings—an image free of past biases that have led to so much pain, anguish, suffering, violence, and death—can remake society. Unrealized potential can only be realized when it’s seen as being within the realm of possibility. Fathoming an economic and psychological world without the cultural and political shackles presently in place means altering various strategies for coping, to enable flourishing.

To dispense with the demand-and-punishment model, as well as deserve-oriented thinking and denial of responsibility, is to realize that each person makes choices that try to meet needs. Whether those needs are explicitly known or simply seen as particular motivations (such as thoughts, desires, and emotions), each person attempts to fulfill them. Self-interest is a biological fact of human nature, as it is with any organism that seeks to continue living. For humans, empathy enables self-fulfillment via more connection and life-giving interaction with others; others become reflections of ourselves, in which we can comprehend living in their mental and physical worlds. It also enables us to recognize when respect for self and respect for others are being sacrificed. And if we get off track, the process of restorative justice enables us to return to this recognition.

Restorative justice is a process whereby the harmed, the perpetrator of the harm, and anyone else affected in the community can be recognized and connected with through honoring feelings and needs and formulating requests, thereby mending the psychological and physical damage (to the extent possible) and reestablishing healthy functioning. Recognition that important needs were sacrificed and that restoration is possible ensures that everyone’s life in the community can continue to flourish. Here’s a succinct yet thorough explanation of the process with an NVC emphasis from (which has a full transcript on this webpage of Marshall Rosenberg’s experience with restorative justice):

“NVC in RJ: outline of the process

Step 1: In advance of the meeting, the facilitator coaches the perpetrator to express himself in terms of feelings and needs and to hear the feelings and needs behind whatever the victim may say. Wherever possible, the facilitator will coach the victim in a similar way.

“The amount of coaching needed will vary from one person to another.

Step 2: The victim articulates the pain that he/she feels in relation to the perpetrator’s actions. The perpetrator, with the support of the facilitator, reflects back to the victim all those feelings that are still alive in the victim in relation to the perpetrator’s action(s).

“In Nonviolent Communication, this is described as giving empathy. This process can take some time but should continue until it is clear that the victim feels satisfaction at being fully understood. Until this happens, we predict that the victim will not be able to hear the perpetrator’s feelings and needs, and this will restrict the depth of the healing process.

Step 3: The perpetrator goes deep inside himself and articulates what he feels in response and his own needs that were not met by his actions.

“In Nonviolent Communication, this is described as mourning, and is fundamentally different from any process that encourages the perpetrator to feel guilt or shame.

Step 4: The perpetrator says what was going on in him when he did what he did, that is, the feelings and needs that led him to act in this way.

“This is very different from explaining or justifying what he did: for example, ‘because I was abused as a child.’

“The victim reflects back to the perpetrator the feelings and needs that were alive in the perpetrator that led him to act as he did.

“In other words, the victim gives the perpetrator empathy. Step 4 provides the foundation for further restorative work with the perpetrator: It can help the perpetrator to find new, more constructive ways of meeting his needs in the future.

Step 5: The victim and perpetrator make specific requests of each other.

“We believe it is vital for the facilitator to check whether either party needs to do this in order to complete the healing process.

“This cycle of empathy and understanding for the victim’s pain, mourning for the perpetrator’s actions and understanding how the perpetrator came to do it, maximizes the chance of healing taking place for both parties.”

Thus, restorative justice replaces the age-old punishment paradigm with a genuine connection-and-healing paradigm. This of course extends beyond the domination memes of government into the core of family systems, as I noted on my podcast series regarding restorative justice (episodes 194-198). [35] When restorative justice becomes part of families, ideas of governments can lose their influence and disappear. In a culture without government and its enforcement of statist laws, our adult needs for autonomy, choice, respect, independence, safety, security, fairness, and justice will be honored, rather than systematically sacrificed like today (and historically). Basically, we’ll be able to meet needs without systems of domination getting in our way. And naturally, the more informed we are of our needs-fulfillment process—and present lack thereof—the more we can connect with ourselves and others, which greatly minimizes conflict.

Again, conflict persists because of particular strategies we’ve learned from our domination language and culture and tragically hold on to. Since needs are universal and enable human flourishing, conflict can’t occur on the level of needs, only on the level of strategies. Whenever needs are presumed to be in conflict, it’s time to inspect strategies trying to get them met. Needs remain constant, albeit with varying degrees of urgency, but the ways we go about meeting them can be altered substantially.

Strategies that involve demands and punishments cause conflict immediately and continually. Since they’re guaranteed to sacrifice needs, they lead persons into deficient states of being. Demands and punishments, as we’ve explored, arise from a lack of trust in others to meet our needs—a tragic belief learned from early family experiences, no doubt. So, coercion is then favored over connecting to feelings and needs and making requests.

When requests are turned down, again this is another important indicator that some other needs are taking priority for that person. If that person’s actions have resulted in personal harm or property damage to another, then a restorative process can help all individuals involved get their needs met—for empathy, consideration, understanding, fairness, justice, security, stability, and peace.

Traditionally, humans in civilizations haven’t ventured into the justice process using nonviolent communication. Instead, we’ve tended to engage in moralistic judgment and various forms of retribution. Still more confusion has been created and harm has been done because “the State” has claimed to be both prosecutor and judge in the realm of social conflict. Instead of forming restorative circles between all parties that could benefit from it, those involved in considerable conflict today are left to the governmental “justice” system, which involves an inherent conflict of interest, a host of arbitrary rules, inexplicable and onerous procedures and punishments, and of course coercive funding of its monopolistic “legal service.” Rather than being designed for customer satisfaction, only win/lose or typically lose/lose interactions can occur.

The governmental legal system is alleged to be a public service, yet it suffers from immense and irreconcilable conflicts of interest that sacrifice the actual public’s welfare. As noted, prosecution and adjudication are performed by members of the same organization, “the State.” So, if you’re facing any charges concerning “crimes against the State,” true justice is impossible, on account of no mutually agreed-upon third party adjudication, arbitration, or mediation service. Surrendering to the retributive process of the statist court system practically guarantees that our time and money, and potential for live-giving connections, will be lost. This is partially why out-of-court settlements and plea bargains are so common. Fees are paid and lesser charges and sentences are accepted in order to avoid more severe punishments, such as larger fines and additional time spent in human cages.

The present legal system and all its precursors within the construct of government could be called the most rigged game on Earth—that is, if it were actually a game and not a matter of life and death for individuals. This system, like all systems of domination, has its own inertia, and the people trapped in its processes only end up poorer and further damaged, financially and psychologically. Pitting opposing sides against each other in a courtroom drama/battle certainly prevents everyone’s needs from getting met. Having attorneys at law be zealous advocates for their clients, rather than advocates for truth and justice, doesn’t facilitate a restorative process either. The present problems are in fact so immense that most people simply cave in; this coercive status quo system tends to overwhelm our coping abilities, which makes promoting and implementing viable and life-enriching alternatives much more difficult.

In contrast, restorative justice enables the victim to engage with the perpetrator with the help of a mediator trained in nonviolent communication, so that each person can connect with feelings and needs. Obviously, huge amounts of anger, outrage, fear, frustration, pain, and sadness tend to be present, and likely a sense of wrongdoing, shame, and guilt. Yet, some perpetrators are so disconnected from feelings and needs that they presently experience little to no regret and remorse; instead, defenses and enemy images take precedence within them. Nonviolent communication enables these aspects to be understood and effectively processed. As mentioned, it helps the perpetrator to connect with both the emotions and unmet needs of the victim and his or her own feelings of regret and remorse, stemming from his or her own unmet needs.

Restorative justice naturally isn’t about judging the person “at fault,” “guilty,” or “wrong,” followed by the typically desired obligatory apologies and/or punishments. This common strategy merely continues the same inner disconnection that brought about the rights-violation in the first place. Instead, restorative justice entails realizing and reconnecting with our own humanity, our humaneness and capacity to meet each other’s needs in non-costly, non-sacrificial ways.

Nonviolent communication trainer Dominic Barter is also quite familiar with the systems that impede the process of empathetic connection and restoration of cherished values. His helpful work can be found at, and it too is focused on compassionately processing the feelings and needs of those in conflict and fostering an accepting space, in which each person can be heard and understood, so that useful requests can be made and acted upon. Ultimately, harmed individuals are made whole, and connections are strengthened by working through conflict without any form of punishment, since punishment is so contrary to inner healing (and community healing) and self-supporting (and other-supporting) growth.

Of course, a restorative process is also antithetical to deserve-oriented thinking, which seeks to view persons as right or wrong, good or bad, rather than as persons using particular strategies to meet needs. “Deserving of punishment” is a phrase that we’re all too familiar with in our culture. At the very least each of us has had such a thought, be it about ourselves or about others. After all, punishment can be a quick-and-easy way to express our disapproval, in concert with showing our power. Power-over strategies are what we’ve been trained to use in attempts to get our needs met, and the prison system is the immense political manifestation of this psychological dynamic.

However, we also know that we can learn new ways, new strategies of interaction that better serve our lives. As a life-enriching, win/win alternative, restorative justice doesn’t require the sacrifice of our need to respect others.

Imagine a judge or lawyer in the statist legal system encountering such a process of restoration. What sort of judgments might he or she make about it? How might he or she react to an invitation to connect with feelings and needs and formulate requests accordingly, instead of passing moralistic judgment, making demands, and imposing punishments? He or she might feel upset, with varying degrees of worry, anxiety, fear, and even irritation or outrage, based on needs for stability and meaning. To realize that what one has been trained to do in order to achieve justice falls far short of achieving optimal solutions can leave one in a quite uncomfortable state of mind. When cognitive dissonance becomes palpable, persons in the legal profession may frame such a realization as baseless and absurd, which can calm their feelings of dread, alarm, overwhelm, and embarrassment.

Still, hardly anyone can overlook the fact that things are not what they can be for humans in the realm of justice. Any time spent in a legislative or courtroom process provides ample evidence for major injustices happening and major disconnection happening on an hourly basis. Essentially, humans aren’t being helped to flourish, and there’s no consistent honoring of their persons and property.

For judges in governmental courts to step off their benches, remove their black robes, and form empathetic circles to help persons work through conflicts entails a crucial mental shift. Many more needs can get met by doing so, which can be greatly encouraging. What needs in particular can get met?

How about vulnerability—being perceived as a concerned mediator, rather than an ominous “judge” demanding attention, with armed guards and the power to punish.

How about genuineness—being a real person wanting to connect, instead of being in the stressful mental role of “authority” in one’s own mind and in the minds of others.

How about equality—seeing others as fellow travelers trying to work through their social and psychological troubles.

How about empathy—understanding and accepting others and their presently differing points of view, as well as their commonalities, so that shifts can happen.

Ultimately, how about fairness and respect—for meeting one’s own needs and the needs of others, so that persons in the community can be restored and those who’ve harmed others can truly heal and grow (instead of repeat past patterns).

For sure, all these needs can get met in a restorative circle, needs that the present system routinely sacrifices. In the current state of the “justice” system, some human beings rule over the lives of the accused and victims alike, akin to demigods. Assuredly, when a mental shift to restorative, empathetic connections happens, realness happens. Humaneness happens. Justice happens, finally. It’s an amazing thing to behold, when a person who’s been playing a guarded role in the paradigm of human domination and submission becomes real about the needs he or she has been sacrificing—and now seeks to restore them.

Restorative justice is a profound aspect of the transformation in humanity that we can experience. Inroads are being made here and there even in the present legal system, with sometimes aspects of restorative justice being offered as an option. Clearly, this process isn’t only for the domain of political philosophy; it’s for each of us to practice whenever disagreement and conflict arise, be it with family members, romantic partners and friends, co-workers and clients, or complete strangers. Our lives are enriched by cultivating awareness and fulfillment of physical and psychological needs. Fortunately, this process is a natural one for us, although contrary habits can make it seem unnatural at times.

We’ve been trained our entire lives in the art of win/lose relations, which ultimately means lose/lose. So now, it’s time to depart from those sacrifices and attune to our natural condition of making life more wonderful for ourselves and others. We can indeed create systems of healing and repair, creativity and growth. Society as well as our world ecology can benefit in ways both large and small. This is within our human grasp in the here and now, and as usual, it’s based on our own choices.