Activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/12876/all cached version 21/10/2018 14:04:11 en The everyday power of movement activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/laurence-cox/everyday-power-of-movement-activism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Activism is normal; what’s strange is that we don’t see it that way.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LaurenceCox.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Dublin Castle after the abortion referendum results were declared, 26 May 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:REPEAL_YES04.jpg">Katenolan1979 via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>On September 29th 2018 I took part in Ireland’s annual “<a href="https://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/2018/09/16/march-for-choice-29th-september/">March for Choice</a>” to pressure the government for “free, safe, legal” abortion following the pro-choice vote in May’s referendum. You could feel the demo coming for miles on the train: people got on displaying rows of badges in fantastic costumes and holding placards. The march was cheerful, confident and determined.</p> <p>A conservative cliché has it that ‘Irish people don’t protest,’ and that they are afraid of standing out or saying something controversial. Yet from the start of the referendum campaign people with no previous experience of activism wore “Repeal” jumpers in the streets, told their often horrendous stories in public, and knocked on strangers’ doors, usually meeting a positive response (66.4% of voters voted ‘yes’). </p> <p>As this shows, it doesn’t take so much for social expectations and personal behaviour to change, for a country to become a “<a href="https://medium.com/colloquium/why-social-movements-matter-316eaef9bcf6">movement society</a>” where activism is a normal everyday thing rather than strange or alien – and where its results can transform not just laws but lives. </p> <p>Women’s movements have powerfully changed the vast majority of the world’s countries over the past half-century – and continue to do so, as the #MeToo movement testifies. As that movement also shows, public controversy and private transformation are not so separate. Between the high-profile challenge to a Harvey Weinstein and a non-celebrity woman quietly telling her story lies the slow and difficult process of challenging workplace cultures, community norms, family relationships and adolescent culture. </p> <p>Moving further back in time, most of the world’s countries including Ireland became independent from European empires within living memory. Others overthrew fascism, state socialism, apartheid, other dictatorships and the odd monarchy. The idea that activism is something other than a normal, everyday part of human activity is just a story.</p> <p>In working-class and ethnic minority communities where struggle is routine to get basic services, resist police oppression, self-organise to meet everyday needs or assert community pride, those who do much of this work often resist the term ‘activist’ because it drives a wedge between them and their friends, neighbours, families and other community members who are also involved, if perhaps not so frequently or determinedly. </p> <p>But more generally, when activism is seen as separate from the rest of life or as an eccentric leisure activity we need to ask why this is. What happens to make movements seem so impossibly distant?</p> <p>I once took part in a discussion about engaged Buddhism in my local meditation centre. Participants talked in hushed tones about earth-shattering decisions like choosing to buy this rather than that or voting for a different party as the outward limit of what they could imagine. It reminded me of other Buddhist discussions about ethics where similarly young, well-educated, ethnically-privileged people talked about helping others as a strange, radical step to support their meditation practice.</p> <p>The questions that struck me were: what sort of world do you have to live in to think that <em>helping other people</em> is unusual? How do you imagine people actually survive when they don’t have money to meet their needs? What is it about working together to make things better that seems so hard to imagine? </p> <p>One answer is that much of what is represented in our media as normal is anything but. As <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/jan/24/comment.politics">Oliver James</a> notes in his book <em>Affluenza</em>, the US and UK&nbsp; – whose cultural production dominates both global media and academia and which are often taken as the norm for psychological research – show particularly high levels of social and family disconnection and isolation, especially among the wealthy (and, I would add, men, whites and straight/cis populations). But these post-Reagan, post-Thatcher subcultures that revolve around individuals and their bank balances are not the human norm, and their disconnect from everyday solidarity, caring labour and collective action is not representative of our species as a whole.</p> <p>In the rural west of Ireland, for example, things are very different. Here too people can be very nervous of activism, but for other reasons. In small communities, people are so involved with one another for everyday practicalities like lifts, childcare, lending or giving things, and helping out that the costs of falling out are very high. As a result, people watch carefully to find out which way the wind is blowing before putting their heads above the parapet. And when such communities do engage in action it is typically collective for this reason. </p> <p>Neither situation – being so disconnected from other human beings that collective action seems emotionally impossible or being so dependent on others that individual decisions seem too threatening to take – is particularly good for us. And despite what the inhabitants of these different worlds often think, neither represents the human norm. </p> <p>In fact, despite the stories they tell themselves, people in these worlds also engage in social movements. For example, early second-wave feminism had strong bases among college-educated women (among others), and pro-choice canvassers in rural Irish communities met with remarkable levels of support. As Galileo is supposed to have said, “and yet it does move.” Why?</p> <p>A simple answer is that activism and movements express real human needs against the structures and cultures that deny them, and which block our development and force us into narrow and stunted lives; they are part of a fuller human life. </p> <p>The Italian communist Antonio <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gramsci">Gramsci</a> put this particularly clearly: against the “common sense” that seeks to resign us to the way things are right now and to get our consent for the power structures in society, we need to develop a “good sense.” This good sense articulates stifled needs and tries to find ways of helping them to breathe: but for them to breathe fully, real change is needed in an oppressive and exploitative world.</p> <p>This means that we have to overcome the “<a href="https://www.academia.edu/8707364/_The_muck_of_ages_Reflections_on_proletarian_self-emancipation">muck of ages</a>” as Marx put it - the ways in which we routinely buy into this common sense; develop relationships that reproduce existing structures of wealth, power and status; battle one another for relative privilege within a social order that we fail to challenge; and internalise our own forms of oppression, exploitation and stigmatisation. </p> <p>In this<em> </em>sense, changing the world and changing ourselves are not two separate things: if there is one consistent finding from the history of social movements, it is that the <em>means </em>of how we organise, theorise and strategise, and the forms of personhood we encourage and reward among activists, all too predictably become the <em>ends</em>. Or put another way, what we do to and with each other in organising has real and direct effects on participants, whether or not we are successful in the much chancier business of reorganising wider society. </p> <p>We remake ourselves, not individually but collectively, in movements. Notably, we move away from a local and ethnocentric sense of ‘we’ to a much broader identity through the process of solidarity and alliance-building – and to a much longer one as we come to situate our activism in a movement history that is not restricted to our own immediate concerns.</p> <p>In these ways, participating in movements can be emotionally healthy in very basic ways - a form of deeper maturing beyond the restricted possibilities presented by a world shaped by capitalism, patriarchy and racism. This means articulating our needs together against how things currently happen to be. It means coming to live in a wider world than the one that is immediately presented to us. </p> <p>It also means coming to <em>make</em> our world in a way which is less and less available in modernity. For most of us, most of the time, our lifeworld is presented to us for relatively passive consumption, not something we actively create. This is why the greatest satisfaction in alienated workplaces is often found either in manual skill or in helping people effectively – against the profit, power and <a href="https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/">bullshit</a> that actually structure most jobs; and why gardening, cooking, DIY, craft and other forms of shaping our own environment are so rewarding. </p> <p>Social movements are transformative not only in the changes they bring about in the worlds we live in. They are transformative <em>because</em> we are attempting to bring about these changes, because we are experiencing ourselves as subjects rather than objects in the big structures that shape our lives, and so living a fuller adulthood. In this sense movement activism is a fundamental aspect of emotional health and maturity.</p> <p><em>This essay draws on Laurence Cox’s new book </em><a href="https://whysocialmovementsmatter.com/">Why Social Movements Matter</a> <em>(Rowman and Littlefield International), available from the publishers at a 30% discount using code WSMM18.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frances-lee/no-justice-without-love-why-activism-must-be-more-generous">No justice without love: why activism must be more generous</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/john-picton/social-activism-and-economics-of-mental-health">Social activism and the economics of mental health</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ghazal-tipu/is-it-time-for-voluntary-poverty">Is it time for voluntary poverty?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Laurence Cox Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 16 Oct 2018 19:21:17 +0000 Laurence Cox 120037 at https://www.opendemocracy.net With the crisis of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation comes opportunity https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/george-lakey/with-crisis-of-brett-kavanaugh-s-confirmation-comes-opportunity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>All of us living through America’s crisis time need to remember that our strategizing brain lives within a whole person: acknowledge your feelings and turn to the group for support.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/kavanough-confirmation-legitimacy-crisis-opportunity/">Waging Nonviolence</a></em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GeorgeLakey7.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Stop Brett Kavanaugh Rally, Downtown Chicago, 2018. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cemillerphotography/43596176034">Flickr/Charles Edward Miller</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>October 6 was a tough day for a group of social justice activists to hold a strategy retreat. Brett Kavanaugh was clearly going to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, and we weren’t in any kind of mood to plan next steps for our campaign.</p> <p>Fortunately, facilitator Yotam Marom was prepared. He invited everyone to take two sheets of paper and a set of pastel crayons. Each of us was to make two pictures: One would represent what losing our fight might look like, and the other one would represent what winning the fight might look like.</p> <p>The group came through: the array of images we created and our talking about them permitted and normalized the rage, grief and despair we were experiencing. Because fear is so rooted in individual ego, our sharing about it in the group brought us back to the present moment, able to think again. We ended the day with a plan, and a higher degree of unity than before.</p> <p>All of us living through America’s crisis time need to remember that our strategizing brain lives within a whole person, holding feelings that can block clarity and creativity. Fortunately, humans have evolved to handle this problem: feel and acknowledge your feelings, and turn to the group for support.</p> <p><strong>Kavanaugh creates an opportunity.</strong></p> <p>While trust in elected officials has been waning in recent years, the Supreme Court has managed to retain at least some respect as “above the fray.” Even though the court was trending toward the political right, neither political extreme has fully gotten what it wants from the court and most of the citizenry has had some confidence in its steadiness and caution — until now.</p> <p>The 2016 refusal of the Republicans to fill the empty seat, and now the choice of Brett Kavanaugh, combine to reduce the court’s reputation. This means that the entire federal government’s credibility is in serious decline.</p> <p>People on the left do not agree on a diagnosis of this legitimacy crisis. Some don’t see its link to the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-build-progressive-movement-polarized-country/">dramatic polarization</a>&nbsp;that has been accelerating in recent decades and that it is structural, related as it is to the widening income gap. They therefore believe there’s a political fix that can restore trust in government, like a third party or limiting campaign contributions or persuading the Democratic Party to defy its Wall Street controllers.</p> <p>What they don’t see is that the legitimacy crisis is an opportunity. It’s a truism in political science that when regimes lose their legitimacy, major change — even revolution — becomes a possibility. After all, that’s when the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-swedes-and-norwegians-broke-the-power-of-the-1-percent/">Swedish and Norwegian movements made their move</a>, and pushed their economic elites out of dominance.</p> <p>In the United States, movements aimed for that during the Great Depression, when free market capitalism lost its legitimacy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats responded to the nonviolent action of mass movements by changing the role of the state. Unfortunately, the grassroots movements had two competing visions for what they wanted: communism verses democratic socialism. Among other factors at play, the competing visions gave Roosevelt maneuvering room to build the credibility of the state by making reforms — thereby restraining capitalism enough to save it.</p> <p><strong>Barack Obama and the Rooseveltian moment.</strong></p> <p>2008 was a year when people were staring over a cliff. Even Republicans were ready for “socialism,” as mass media noted. While campaigning, Sen. Obama said the United States should do what the Swedes did when their banks failed them in the early ‘90s: seize them and run them for the public good. He also acknowledged that, if elected, he wouldn’t be able to do that because the United States didn’t have that kind of “political culture.” In other words, unlike the Swedish social movements, we wouldn’t demand it with direct action.</p> <p>He was right. And even though he kept saying people would need to step up and pressure for change, most liberals sat back and expected him to do the heavy lifting — and then criticized him when he didn’t do it by himself. But Obama did, through many acts of leadership, maintain the legitimacy of the presidency, offsetting his Democratic colleagues in Congress who couldn’t even pass a climate bill despite being in the majority.</p> <p>The failure of Obama’s supporters to form social movements that would demand the changes he himself wanted and that we all needed, was the key difference from the 1930s. Even the health reform effort was supine and Obama was forced — given the vacuum — to call out Big Pharma and the health insurance companies himself.</p> <p>On his own, he was powerless to stop the overall Democratic abandonment of the working class, Main Street, family farmers and black people as they lost their homes.</p> <p>However, people’s heads continued to change during those eight years of Obama, judging from the polls and subsequent events. The elements of a democratic socialist vision emerged, even strongly enough to support a self-proclaimed democratic socialist presidential candidate who came from obscurity in 2015. Pollsters found that a couple years after the Republicans had gathered working class and small business people into the Tea Party, most Tea Party members were still furious with Wall Street.</p> <p>To oversimplify: In the 1930s, we had plenty of direct action by mass movements, but we also had the downside of two visions for major change competing for majority support. In the late 2000s, we had an emerging vision that was growing, but a paucity of mass movements waging sustained direct action. (Even Occupy failed to morph into multiple campaigns, win available victories and generate an economic justice direct action movement.)</p> <p><strong>Let’s not miss the boat this time.</strong></p> <p>The easiest thing to predict these days is crisis. The Florida teens showed the grown-ups in the gun control lobby how to use a crisis: mount a direct action campaign that compels (in the case of Florida) a response from politicians. Since we know crises are coming, why not prepare?</p> <p>As it happens, there’s a way to prepare that builds our skills, supports our mental health and gives us the jump on the historical moments of crisis. It’s called creating direct action campaigns. Choose a demand that is winnable and a target that can yield the demand, gather a group of people eager to win and willing to focus their attention, and begin.</p> <p>In the&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/">Global Nonviolent Action Database</a>, we find successful campaigns both small and large. High school students in Flour Bluff, Texas,&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/students-win-gay-straight-alliance-club-flour-bluff-texas-high-school-2010-2011">won the right to have a gay-straight alliance</a>. Waterfront residents and Green Justice Philly&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/environmentalist-groups-stop-construction-oil-export-terminal-philadelphia-2016">stopped construction of an oil export terminal</a>. Iranians nonviolently&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/iranians-overthrow-shah-1977-79">brought down the Shah of Iran</a>, even though the dictator was supported by a modern army, torture chambers and the U.S. government.</p> <p>Those who doubt that direct action campaigns can take on the economic elite of the United States need to take another look at what the civil rights campaigns of the 1950s and ‘60s were up against. Southern black people faced the largest American terrorist organization in history, the Ku Klux Klan. Local law enforcement was on the side of the Klan. State law enforcement was directed by the White Citizens Councils. The federal government declined to enforce its own laws. The FBI actively worked to undermine the freedom movement. Neither national political party wanted to stand up for the rights of black people. Yet, 10 years after the mass phase of the movement began, President Lyndon B. Johnson was forced to intervene, following the Selma direct action campaign in 1965. His fervent hope was that the campaign would disappear.</p> <p>For a decade that was the lop-sidedness of the U.S. power equation: local terrorism and state repression with a federal government wanting to avoid the whole thing on one side, and the power of nonviolent direct action mobilized through campaigns on the other.</p> <p><strong>But how is the power best applied?</strong></p> <p>Even if direct action campaigns can develop the power to function unprotected in Klan country and bring down military dictatorships, how can that power be tapped for this political moment?</p> <p>This is where the drawings at the beginning of this story come into play. Strategists in each of the earlier-mentioned campaigns were able to think clearly enough to map out campaigns that won. We need to step up and use our strategy heads to do the same — especially since the declining legitimacy of government reveals more and more people who feel their disenfranchisement and are open to alternative ways to stand up for themselves.</p> <p>We may need to use Yotam’s wisdom at the strategy retreat. First, feel our range of feelings and reach for each other. Then, in community, clear our heads and do the thinking required. You can learn your strategy skills in a campaign where you live. And there’s no need to try to do it alone.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/navigating-white-water-of-these-turbulent-times">Navigating the white water of these turbulent times</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Activism Thu, 11 Oct 2018 21:28:03 +0000 George Lakey 120032 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The DIY Central Bank https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/dan-edelstyn-and-hilary-powell/the-DIY-Central-Bank <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Asserting the moral right to repudiate debt may be the only way of rebuilding democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanielEdelstyn.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Members of Bank Job in Walthamstow, London. Credit: Peter Searle. All rights reserved.</p> <blockquote><p><em>“</em>Our future is mortgaged, calculated, and owned far in advance, and our democratic right to change it for the better is effectively minimized.” Andrew Ross, <a href="https://www.orbooks.com/catalog/creditocracy/">Creditocracy</a>.</p></blockquote> <p>At the peak of the 2008 banking crisis the UK government had <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/8262037/Bank-bail-out-adds-1.5-trillion-to-debt.html">liabilities worth £1.5 trillion</a>.&nbsp;In the emergency bailouts that were agreed at the time by the then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the British taxpayer bought <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/aug/03/rbs-sale-fred-goodwin-bailout-years-of-losses">£45 billion of shares</a> in the Royal Bank of Scotland and <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/uk-government-lloyds-sale-2017-4">almost £20 billion</a> in Lloyds. It was, as commentators said, a nationalization project that would have put Lenin to shame.</p> <p>However, while the public owned the lion’s share of these banks the ensuing stimulus packages and sell offs have not been carried out with the wellbeing of the population in mind nor the transformation of the banking system. Ten years of austerity - allegedly to balance the national books - have left the poorest even worse off than before.</p> <p>Declining government spending in Britain has seen private debts balloon to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/18/uk-debt-crisis-credit-cards-car-loans">over £1.6 trillion in 2018</a>, most of which are mortgages. Between 2012 and 2017 unsecured credit <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/18/uk-debt-crisis-credit-cards-car-loans">increased by 19 per cent, student debt doubled to £100 billion, and Council Tax Arrears increased by 12 per cent</a>. These data are symptoms of a creditor class gone wild.</p> <p>But what if the crash had been used as an opportunity to reshape the financial system with fresh purpose, and to create space to re-imagine an economy that works for all of us and promotes economic justice? While it’s impossible to correct the debt crisis through local action alone, grassroots experiments can provide both inspiration and concrete assistance to those who are caught at the sharp end of the problem and who are often forced into traditional structures of shame which leave them feeling crushed and even suicidal.</p> <p>This leap of imagination lies at the heart of ‘<a href="https://bankjob.pictures/">Bank Job</a>,’ a team of artists and activists who took over the former Co-Op Bank on Hoe Street in Walthamstow, London, in early 2018, and replaced it with ‘HSCB’ – the ‘Hoe Street Central Bank.’ We were united by a desire to do something about the status quo and to rally against a system we felt had let us down. Our rebel bank is a place to come together and discover the collective power of art, sharing and community action to defy the alienating power that financial capital has in our lives.</p> <p>In concrete terms we’ve opened our own bank and we’re printing our own art-based banknotes. In place of the Queen and other famous figures from British history, each denomination of our banknotes features the face of a local cause: the ‘Gary’ (after Gary Nash, the founder of local foodbank ‘Eat or Heat’); the ‘Saira’ (after Saira Mir who, together with her family, set up a kitchen for the homeless called “Pl84U-Al Suffa”); the ‘Steve’ (featuring Stephen Barnabis who set up ‘The Soul Project’ for young people after his nephew was fatally stabbed); and the ‘Tracey’ (the headmistress of local Barn Croft Primary School).</p> <p>Our banknotes are printed on-site and sold at face value for Pounds Sterling, and we’ve raised just shy of £40,000 so far. The proceeds are split into two, with half going to buy up £1million worth of local payday debt (you can buy up people’s debts for as little as two pence in the pound), and half going to the four causes depicted on the notes. People who buy them are supporting those causes and purchasing artwork we produce. The notes are not exchangeable for other goods or services.</p> <p>The team that’s gathered around the bank has their own stories of how debt has touched their lives. Alison, for example, had worked as a teacher in one of our local primary schools but was laid off due to the school’s debt from the UK Government’s ‘Private Finance Initiative’ or PFI - a way of creating ‘public private partnerships’ in which private firms are contracted to complete and manage public projects using loans &nbsp;from bond markets or private investors. The firms then charge high rates of interest to the public trust that’s responsible for the assets the project creates.</p> <p>“I’ve been a primary school teacher for 33 years” <a href="https://vimeo.com/271975525">she told us</a>, and “Last summer I was made redundant, quite a shock and surprise. The school I was at is a PFI school so it means that every year quite a large proportion of their budget has to go to the PFI company, and so five teachers like myself who were non-class based were made redundant.” Such debts have proved incredibly controversial because the interest rates are widely seen as immoral.</p> <p>In Walthamstow our health trust, Barts, is the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/john-lister/bart%E2%80%99s-flagship-hits-rocks-of-pfi">most indebted in the country in terms of PFI</a>. To pay these debts the hospitals have to cut staff and are therefore overcrowded and dangerously under-resourced. An excellent <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41778609">report from the BBC</a> shows that five of the biggest PFI companies are based in tax havens, despite earning more than £2 billion in profit.</p> <p>Isabell is another member of Bank Job - a banknote printer who is also a recent graduate. “I’ve spent seven years of my life in education,” <a href="https://vimeo.com/271975975">she says</a>, and “Coming out of uni today, young people are just saddled with this huge debt burden. I’ve got credit cards, personal loans, overdrafts, I’ve got student loans.”</p> <p>To run our bank we borrowed pieces of equipment and drew on the talent of our community in setting up what we needed to design and print the new currency. It became a sort of ‘DIY uprising’ in which the bank became a space of work and play, with economics talks laid on in the evenings for anyone who wanted to come and learn.&nbsp; When <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/23/hoe-street-central-bank-walthamstow-london-debt">an article about the bank came out in The Guardian</a> and went viral people travelled from all over Britain and queued around the block to buy banknotes and talk about the impact of the debt crisis and what we can do to address it.</p> <p>In October 2018 the bank is moving into a new phase - printing gilt-edged paper bonds as part of what we’re referring to as a ‘collectively owned and distributed explosion’ of the £1 million payday debt that we’ve bought so far through bank note sales. The bonds are being sold to finance the literal, cathartic explosion of this debt at the end of 2018 in order to push the message of the project into greater public view. Each bond grants the holder the bond itself as an artwork and a share in the explosion – called ‘Big Bang 2’ - in which a transit van filled with debt will be detonated. What remains will be transformed into commemorative coins to be distributed to bond holders.</p> <p>In all these ways we feel we’ve made some useful progress, though there’s a long way to go. But how has the project changed people who have come into contact with it?</p> <p>At one level the answer is clear: having even part of your debts written off through a simple act of citizen intervention feels good. But this isn’t a hack that can be used to fix the entire system; rather, it’s a stunt that draws people into the story of debt and teaches them about the secondary market, perhaps empowering them in the future to have a different conversation with creditors who chase them for debts that are in some sense imaginary.</p> <p>At a deeper level, the project has given us hope that communities can be resilient and will fight together – that we owe it to one another to shape the sort of world which our children can inherit with confidence and pride. The feeling that we are not alone – or as the <a href="http://strikedebt.org/">Strike Debt</a> campaign puts it “not a loan;” that we can get together and create value that transcends the traditional debtor/creditor relationships that are ripping our communities apart; and that we oughtn’t to feel so ashamed of our debts because they reflect negatively on our characters – have all taken root.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The project has also allowed us to imagine that the world we want is not just a vague or distant dream, but something that can be achieved in the here and now by getting together to take control of our immediate surroundings and rewrite the rules. If you can get hold of the money supply, you have infinite power. That is what this is really all about - taking back the power to choose the sorts of lives we feel are useful. As Andrew Ross argues in his excellent book <a href="https://www.orbooks.com/catalog/creditocracy/">Creditocracy</a><em>:</em></p> <blockquote><p>“Loading debt onto the citizenry creates grievous harm to our democracies - when a government cannot or will not respond on behalf of a citizenry then taking relief for ourselves may be the most indispensible act of civil disobedience. Asserting the moral right to repudiate debt may be the only way of rebuilding democracy.”</p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/emily-kawano/seven-ways-to-build-solidarity-economy">Seven ways to build the solidarity economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/transforming-financial-system-from-within-interview-with-finance-innovation-lab">Transforming the financial system from within: an interview with the Finance Innovation Lab</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/esteban-kelly/why-transforming-economy-begins-and-ends-with-cooperation">Why transforming the economy begins and ends with cooperation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell The role of money Economics Activism Tue, 09 Oct 2018 18:07:53 +0000 Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell 119947 at https://www.opendemocracy.net All you need is love? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sujatha-fernandes/all-you-need-is-love <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Transformative organizing fails to address the underlying conditions through which exploitative care relationships are generated and maintained.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SujathaFernandes2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">New York City Rally and March to raise the minimum wage in America, April 15 2015. Credit: The All-Nite Images via Wikimedia Commons. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The last decade has seen many pioneering approaches to social justice organizing that revolve around personal-political transformation. One notable example is domestic worker organizing in the United States. During several Bill of Rights campaigns across the country, coalitions of domestic worker organizations emphasized <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/maureen-purtill/labor-of-love">the transformative power of love and connection and the need to make employers part of the solution</a>. It has been just over eight years since these coalitions won a <a href="https://labor.ny.gov/legal/domestic-workers-bill-of-rights.shtm">New York Bill of Rights for Domestic Workers</a> and five since the passage of <a href="https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DomesticWorkerBillOfRights.html">a similar Bill in California</a>.</p> <p>These Bill of Rights campaigns have shifted the broader public consciousness about the value of domestic work and created a greater sense of dignity for workers. But in evaluating this approach in the aftermath of the passage of these Bills, is it true that ‘all you need is love?’</p> <p>My own experience with labor abuses among care workers in New York City convinced me that demonizing employers is not the best way forward. The lack of affordable state-provisioned childcare for working parents often forces them into exploitative employment situations with domestic workers. However, our ability to truly transform the broader universe of caring relationships is limited under the current conditions of the global domestic work industry.</p> <p>Exploitation and abuse are inherent in the employer-employee relationship in contexts where cheap and vulnerable migrant labor has come to fill the gaps left by an absence of subsidized childcare services and non-flexible employment conditions for working parents. In order to end the chain of exploitative relationships produced by this situation we need to challenge the conditions that send migrant women to high-income countries for care work and force working parents into undesirable arrangements with their employees.</p> <p>One of the main organizations within the New York Bill of Rights coalition was Domestic Workers United (DWU). DWU was founded in New York in 2000 as a collaboration between three organizers: Ai-jen Poo, Carolyn de Leon and Nahar Alam. Over the course of six years, DWU enlisted a multi-ethnic coalition of organizations in the city to work on the Bill of Rights campaign which included CAAAV (originally the Committee against Anti-Asian Violence), Andolan, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, Unity Housecleaners, the Damayan Migrant Workers Association, and (later) Adhikar for Human Rights.</p> <p>The coalition argued that existing labor laws and government protections were vastly out of sync with workers’ realities, and proposed a new Bill to include mandated health insurance, notice of termination, personal days, severance pay, and a minimum wage of up to $16 per hour. These ‘dream’ provisions eventually became the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.</p> <p class="PI">Initially, the campaign sought to make a technical argument about why basic rights were necessary for domestic workers. But after becoming mired in frustrating debates with a small number of legislators, Poo felt the need to shift the debate away from legal technicalities toward fundamental human rights, and to change the perception of domestic work outside of the state capital, Albany. As <a href="http://newlaborforum.cuny.edu/2011/01/03/a-twenty-first-century-organizing-model-lessons-from-the-new-york-domestic-workers-bill-of-rights-campaign/">she said at a City University of New York Labor Forum in 2011</a>:</p> <blockquote><p class="PI">“The problem was not just technical—domestic workers were dehumanized and invisible in&nbsp;popular consciousness, so it was hard for many to see the connections between the issues facing domestic workers and the issues facing all New Yorkers.”</p></blockquote> <p class="PI">As part of a more effective approach, Poo argued that the campaign would have to humanize care workers and show their interconnections with others, partly through personal storytelling. Poo frequently told her own story of realizing the interconnectedness of all humanity when her grandfather was paralyzed by a stroke and cared for by a home attendant.</p> <p class="PI">The strength of this approach was most apparent in the area of movement building. Meetings and rallies became sites for sharing stories and collective witness, which helped to inspire other domestic workers and bring them into the campaign. As domestic worker Jennifer Bernard related to me in an interview, she heard one such story that really moved her when she attended her first DWU meeting:</p> <blockquote><p class="PI">“I found myself there, very excited and enthused and hurt at the same time, because I was sitting there listening to the story of a domestic worker who, when she came to this country spoke very little English, and now had enough English to tell her story, and every domestic worker in that room, in that meeting, had tears in their eyes…after listening to her that day I just knew that I wanted to be a part of this movement that makes changes.”</p></blockquote> <p>The same techniques were used in building alliances with employers and formal sector unions, creating sympathy for the cause among prominent media outlets, and convincing legislators to pass the Bill of Rights. During the New York State Senate debate on June 1, 2010, for example, several senators testified about the histories of their own immigrant mothers and grandmothers who had worked as domestic workers.</p> <p>By emphasizing ‘our collective humanity’ the campaign garnered widespread support, but this framing also encouraged a conformity to the dominant myths and tropes that would resonate for a mainstream, white liberal audience. In media interviews, workers were often required to present themselves as isolated, helpless and powerless, and had to excise emotions such as anger for fear of appearing violent.</p> <p>In legal hearings around the Bill, domestic workers were asked to focus on their labor conditions and leave out any analysis of the broader conditions of inequality that structured their work, thereby making it seem as though the problem consisted of ‘bad’ individual employers rather than a system of exploitation. The need to appeal to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers imposed restrictions on the kinds of representations domestic workers could fashion, which worked against the building of a class-based movement that could draw on existing bases of solidarity among workers and challenge the underlying system of economic exploitation.</p> <p>By focusing attention on interpersonal relationships, individual stories and reforming laws to the exclusion of analysing and challenging global structures, the legal advocacy approach failed to address the underlying conditions through which exploitative care relationships are generated and maintained.</p> <p>The final Bill that was signed into law by New York Governor David Paterson on August 31 2010 was watered down from the original proposal and established a very low floor of protections. <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/curated-stories-9780190618056?lang=en&amp;cc=us">Some domestic workers</a> who had been involved in the campaign were skeptical of the benefits the whittled-down bill would bring them. In the aftermath of the campaign, these domestic workers along with other allies came together to restructure DWU as a worker-led organization focused on member outreach, direct action tactics, and community resources rather than large foundation grants. In their daily organizing and storytelling events such as the PEN World Voices Festival, they have sought to engage deeply and critically with the broader structures that perpetuate the care industry.</p> <p>A vision of social change that transforms caring relationships is vital, but it can only be achieved by removing the power relations and vulnerabilities induced by the current regime of labor migration that uses poor women from the global south to fill care gaps in the north. As an anonymous domestic worker said when submitting a written testimony on behalf of fellow domestic worker Marichu Baoanan at a New York State Assembly Labor Committee hearing for the Bill of Rights campaign in 2008:</p> <blockquote><p class="EXT">"Marichu and I are part of the global crisis that enslaves Third World women into dehumanizing conditions—working in a foreign land as second-class immigrants. We are two of the ten million Filipinos abroad who are treated as products in the global market. We prop up the Phillipine economy with more than $20 million in remittances. We also contribute to the annual $952.6 billion that is generated by the New York City’s economy. We not only shoulder the crisis of our homeland, but we also carry the weight of the deepening crisis in the US. Billions of dollars turn into profits as a result of our labor and at the expense of our dignity and humanity.”</p></blockquote> <p class="EXT">Advocates of transformative organizing aim to solve worker exploitation by improving the wages and conditions of undocumented workers and challenging the draconian immigration policies that make them vulnerable to abusive employers. As a rapidly aging population and a growing need for childcare create a demand for more care workers in the global north, there’s a clear need to fill this gap with workers who are treated with dignity and respect. These are important and worthy goals, but on their own they don’t address the underlying inequalities that drive the global care industry.</p> <p class="EXT">Even if workers from the global south could receive better wages and work visas to reduce their vulnerability, the fact remains that they are often forced to leave their own homelands and families behind in order to service families in richer countries. This is what we need to challenge, and that means demanding an end to the free trade agreements and other policies that turn the global south into a source of cheap labor.</p> <p class="EXT">Local sources of work have to be expanded so that labor migration is a choice and not a necessity, and comprehensive, government-funded childcare and elder-care in the global north is required to give people the option of subsidized home or institutional care. In all these areas campaigning is vital, but love is not enough: worker-led and community-funded organizations like the newly reorganized DWU —who are prepared to use adversarial actions to pursue these goals—are essential.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/maureen-purtill/labor-of-love">A labor of love</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sujatha-fernandes/evisceration-of-storytelling">The evisceration of storytelling</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/steven-parfitt/future-of-trade-unions">The future of trade unions</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sujatha Fernandes Care Activism Sun, 30 Sep 2018 18:50:34 +0000 Sujatha Fernandes 119700 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Healing solidarity: re-imagining international development https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mary-ann-clements/healing-solidarity-re-imagining-international-development <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>NGOs and other aid agencies need to lead in the <em>practice</em> of re-distributing wealth and power—not just the theory.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MaryAnnClements2.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.maxpixel.net/">https://www.maxpixel.net</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>What are the first two words that come to mind when you think about foreign aid? Probably not ‘healing’ and ‘solidarity,’ especially in the context of recent scandals at Oxfam, Save the Children and Amnesty International and the emergence of the #Aidtoo movement. Yet an online conference last week was buzzing with over 1,500 people who are actively re-imagining the values and practices of the international development sector around these radically different principles.</p> <p>Fundamental to this process is the recognition that there will be no change in the ways in which wealth and power are so unequally distributed in the world unless we do things differently at both the individual and the collective levels—unless we acknowledge that we are all part of the problem as well as the solution, however well-intentioned our efforts. And that means transforming ourselves and the institutions we’ve created if we are serious about transforming the broader structures that dispossess and discriminate against certain groups of people, wherever in the world they live.</p> <p>International NGOs (INGOs) and other aid agencies are late in waking up to this fact, but why is that, and what can be done to put it right?</p> <p>The first issue raised by many of the conference speakers was that colonial and racist structures still permeate much of the work of the international development sector, and are both pervasive and strongly rooted. These attitudes show themselves in the concrete details of decision-making, governance, spending patterns, staff selection and remuneration beyond and beneath the rhetoric of NGOs, UN agencies and governments.</p> <p>Researcher <a href="http://gemmahouldey.com/">Gemma Houldey</a> puts this down in part to the idea of the ‘perfect humanitarian:’</p> <blockquote><p>“This idea that to be a really good humanitarian you have to be a certain person. And that certain person is the one that's put out in all the awareness raising materials of NGOs and charities, often a white, western aid worker who’s flying from one emergency to another, who’s so committed [and] doesn't have any family ties because they're just there throwing themselves into their work.”</p></blockquote> <p>This archetype continues to pervade the structures through which many INGOs operate, structures in which the power over decisions and resources still sits with people in offices in places like London, New York, Oxford and Geneva rather than those whose lives are directly affected by poverty and marginalisation.</p> <p>It’s also reflected in the differentials that often exist between staff with similar levels of training and expertise but who are treated differently as a result of where they come from and work. As Wanja Muguongo, Founding Executive Director of <a href="http://www.uhai-eashri.org/">UHAI</a> (The East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative) asked the audience:</p> <blockquote><p>“Is the Yale graduate that will be employed by a funder in the Global North different from the Yale graduates that I employ in Kenya? Because they have the same kind of education...the same kind of thinking about what their brain is worth but somehow there is an assumption that African labour is cheaper.&nbsp; Maybe we want to go back to the historical truism that African labour should be free.”</p></blockquote> <p>The second challenge raised by many speakers was the need to reconceptualise the work of the international development sector from a frame of benevolence (with all the hierarchies it implies between ‘givers’ and receivers’) to one of solidarity that’s marked out by equality and <em>horizontal</em> relationships. One way to do this would be to re-frame foreign aid as reparations for the horrors of slavery and colonialism. In this frame the right to decide on what happens to money would stand squarely with those whose lives have been shaped by those horrors, whether in the past or the present.</p> <p>There are other ways to operationalise the principle of solidarity beyond reparations, but the general point is this: so long as we keep imagining ourselves and our work through a framework of benevolence towards distant others we will miss the need for transformation in ourselves, in the ways in which we live and the histories and realties we take for granted. International aid as it is right now exists because we created a deeply unfair and unjust world. Working for change in that world therefore means identifying and addressing injustice within us as much as without.&nbsp;</p> <p>That was the third theme of the conference: a constant tendency in the sector to externalise problems and solutions while failing to provide enough opportunities for self-critique and the self-care that must go with it to avoid burnout and alienation. <a href="https://www.devex.com/news/authors/angela-b-1378362">Angela Bruce Raeburn</a>, who previously worked for Oxfam in Haiti, put it like this:</p> <blockquote><p>“We don't lead with our authentic selves. We don't lead with the conversations about truth, about race.”</p></blockquote> <p>And as Lisa VeneKlasen Executive Director of <a href="https://justassociates.org/">JASS</a> added, nothing will change:</p> <blockquote><p>“unless you really change the culture and how we see ourselves. And that means changing who we are and being comfortable to be able to step into something that maybe we didn't know...[otherwise] we're not going to be able to contribute to major, major shifts. So it is really about changing who we are but from a place of much deeper politics.”</p></blockquote> <p>One of the reasons why deeper work of this kind is so rarely prioritised is the drive towards ‘value for money’ in the sector, a drive which emanates from the headquarters of aid agencies and funders rather than from the communities and people affected. “It’s as if you shouldn't be paying salaries—you should just be doing work” as Muguongo pointed out, an attitude that actually <em>devalues</em> people.</p> <p>It is hard to see how such inequitable frameworks consolidated by corporatised INGO and other aid agency structures can be fit for the purpose of transforming inequity in the world, but what should replace them? A plethora of ideas emerged from the conference, all of which seek to re-distribute power and centralise wellbeing and an ethic of care throughout our work.</p> <p>Speakers included representatives of two other funds which, like UHAI, have found ways to develop decision making processes in which those whose lives are affected by the resources they allocate can be involved in making decisions about how those resources are utilised. At <a href="https://youngfeministfund.org/">FRIDA (the Young Feminist Fund</a>) and the <a href="http://www.starsfoundation.org.uk/">Stars Foundation</a>, participatory grant making processes are accompanied by a focus on, and a willingness to fund, wellbeing and self-care for the activists and organisations they support: when people are involved in making decisions they are also being valued in and of themselves.</p> <p>Secondly, whilst <a href="https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-can-aid-organizations-really-be-part-of-social-movements-92738">INGOs are not social movements</a> and are by nature institutions that are not representative of the communities they serve, we should be willing to take more of our inspiration from their flexibility, responsiveness and commitment to challenging power rather than following in the footsteps of corporate brands and the planning processes, communications strategies and funder demands they impose. Muguongo put it like this;</p> <blockquote><p>“If philanthropy structured itself as a partner and came to the table from a place of humility, of ‘Hey, this is what I bring in the room, what do you bring in the room and how can we work together?’ I actually think that would resolve a whole load of problems.”</p></blockquote> <p>In short we need to lead in the <em>practice</em> of re-distributing power and wealth and not just the theory.&nbsp;Jennifer Lentfer, Director of Communications at <a href="https://www.how-matters.org/">Thousand Currents</a> and Founder of the <a href="https://www.how-matters.org/">How Matters Blog</a>, called on those of us working in the sector to acknowledge the lived histories of colonialism and patriarchy in our own lives and those of our ancestors:</p> <blockquote><p>“Working in Africa eventually necessitated...understanding the place where my people are from, and the genocide and removal and erasure of native Americans that created the ‘manifest destiny’ so that my great great great grandfather could own that land.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>An awareness of our own stories and histories seems an essential first step in reforming our actions and seeking to be in solidarity with others in ways that actively re-distribute power and resources. “I don't know that in our lifetimes we can right that wrong,” Lentfer added, but “I do know that we can acknowledge that wrong.”</p> <p>True solidarity of this nature may not be able to operate within the large INGO structures which—as researcher and consultant <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/tina-wallace-9021939/">Tina Wallace</a> reminded us during the conference—only took on their current corporatised nature in the 1990s and 2000s.&nbsp;But none of these reforms require us to expend ourselves in service to some imagined other—only that we accept the concrete practice of solidarity rather than paternalism in everything we do. The message of the conference is that we can start to re-imagine our sector by paying due care and attention to ourselves and each other, and by developing a commitment to honest reflection about our own roles and histories.</p> <p>That requires that we put people and relationships first, and in doing so acknowledge that they have legitimate needs for rest, fun and happiness. Jessica Horn, <a href="http://www.stillsherises.com/">writer</a> and Director of Programmes at the <a href="http://awdf.org/">African Women’s Development Fund</a> spoke pointedly to the fact that in 17 years working in the sector she had seldom heard anyone speak about “African women's happiness;” instead we expect only ‘resilience’ and continual hard work, as well as placing the risks and responsibilities for fighting injustice on their shoulders. We have to do better.</p> <p>If we can be much more open about things we have struggled to talk about for so long, then we can begin to shift our practice towards one that prioritises actual justice rather than colonial benevolence, takes its lead from activists and communities rather than the corporate bodies that cause so much of the harm we are fighting, and places humility and self-development at the heart of all the work we do.</p> <p><em>Find out more about the conference and access recordings from it at <a href="http://healingsolidarity.org/" target="_blank">healingsolidarity.org</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/could-ngos-flourish-in-future-without-foreign-aid">Could NGOs flourish in a future without foreign aid?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/pablo-yanguas/foreign-aid-is-waste-of-money-unless-it-s-used-for-transformation">Foreign aid is a waste of money—unless it’s used for transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/david-sogge/inconvenient-truth-about-foreign-aid">The inconvenient truth about foreign aid</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation foreign aid NGOs Mary Ann Clements The role of money Activism Economics Tue, 25 Sep 2018 16:18:24 +0000 Mary Ann Clements 119791 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The politics of Latinx recognition https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ed-morales/politics-of-latinx-recognition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new fluid, multiracial and multicultural identity is emerging in American politics. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/ed-morales/latinx-el-reconocimiento-de-una-nueva-identidad-pol-tica">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/EdMorales.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez canvasses in Sunnyside, Queens on June 26th, 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez#/media/File:Alexandria_Ocasio_Cortez_Primary_Election_Day_Photo_by_Corey_Torpie_02.jpg">Corey Torpie/Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>In March of this year, 18-year-old South Floridian <a href="https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a18715714/protesting-nra-gun-control-true-story/">Emma Gonzalez</a> announced that she was “Cuban and bisexual” in the midst of her battle for stronger gun controls following the <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/police-respond-shooting-parkland-florida-high-school-n848101">Valentine’s Day shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School</a>. A few months later, 28-year-old <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/07/23/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-historic-win-and-the-future-of-the-democratic-party">Alexandria Ocasio Cortez</a> claimed a working-class, Puerto Rican identity during her successful challenge to the&nbsp;<a title="Democratic Caucus Chairman of the United States House of Representatives" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Caucus_Chairman_of_the_United_States_House_of_Representatives">Democratic Caucus Chair</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Crowley">Joe Crowley</a>, clearing the way for her to represent the Bronx and Queens in the US Congress.</p> <p>These young women were asserting an intersectional identity that is easily recognized by many of their millennial generation peers but unfamiliar to many others: after years of debate within the Latino community they became emblematic of “Latinx,” a new identifying label that is rapidly taking hold among millennials, Latino activists and advocacy groups, and academics.</p> <p>In a political climate marred by the continuing ascendance of authoritarian, nativist politics embodied by the Trump presidency, Latinx may be able to create a wealth of political capital by embracing a fluid, multiracial and multicultural identity. And this might stimulate a more effective reaction to Trumpian rhetoric which uses the phrase “America First” as a code to further anti-immigrant scapegoating, reaching sordid new lows with the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/migrant-children-detention.html">separation and detention of over 12,000 immigrant children</a> from their families in 2018.</p> <p>The advent of the term Latinx is the most recent iteration of a naming debate that is grounded in the politics of race and ethnicity. For several decades the term ‘Latino’ was the progressive choice over the European-ethnic sounding ‘Hispanic,’ carrying with it the notion that Latin American migrants to the United States were not merely hyphenated Europeans but products of mixed-race societies and cultures.</p> <p>Still, as Latino became the preferred choice of those who wanted to identify as multiracial, gender politics quickly emerged in the politics of labeling. As racial identity began intersecting with gender and sexual preference, Latino became ‘Latino/a,’ then ‘Latina/o’ to move the ‘o’ out of its privileged position. After the universalization of digital communication it briefly became ‘Latin@.’</p> <p>In the last few years the term Latinx has become popular among members of the LGBTQ community who wanted to dispense with gender identifiers in language—as witness the now-ubiquitous millennial practice of posting pronouns to be used when referring to an individual like ‘she/her,’ ‘him/her’ and ‘they/them.’</p> <p>When many of us first see the word in print, Latinx can seem strange and unpronounceable, but after closer inspection it appears liberating and futurist. Just as identifying as Latino represented an attempt to defy America’s black/white racial binary, Latinx defies conventional gender conformity by defying the male/female gender binary. As far as I know, Latinx is the first attempt by a racial and/or ethnic group to make a statement about emerging issues of gender identification.</p> <p>When political figures like Ocasio Cortez, González, and other emerging candidates like <a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/julia-salazar-new-york-722616/">Julia Salazar</a> openly tout their multiple identifications alongside progressive policies, they are representing a new form of intersectional politics (Salazar recently won her Democratic Primary for State Senator in New York and identifies as Colombian and Jewish, though not without controversy). Pioneered by African American feminist projects led by the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Smith#Combahee_River_Collective">Cohambee River Collective</a> in the 1970s and coined by legal scholar<strong> </strong><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimberl%C3%A9_Williams_Crenshaw">Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw</a> as well as the Chicana “border thinking” feminism of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_E._Anzald%C3%BAa">Gloria Anzadúa</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherr%C3%ADe_Moraga">Cherrie Moraga</a>, intersectionalism seems like a fitting antidote to a political landscape in crisis over the conflict between neoliberalism and nativist authoritarianism.</p> <p>Even before the ascension of Trump, community organizers and street demonstrations were trying to promote a message that Black Lives Matter, the Women’s Movement and the Sanctuary Cities movement to protect the rights of the undocumented were intersecting causes that should be joined together. So it wasn’t that much of a surprise that the demonstrations that were held at JFK airport in early 2017 against Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban were organized by a coalition of Jewish and Muslim groups and featured a multiracial cross-section of New Yorkers.</p> <p>For Latin American descendants, multiracial identity is, to varying degrees, ‘cooked into’ their varying national cultures. <em>Raza, </em>the Spanish word for race, is often used to designate a collective identity that is itself a mixture of races. Prominent Mexican scholar <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Vasconcelos">José Vasconcelos</a>’ essay <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_raza_c%C3%B3smica">La Raza Cósmica</a> </em>tried to celebrate mixture as a path to transcendence beyond racism, but in many ways it only served to privilege European identity at the expense of indigenous culture.</p> <p>For many Latinx in the US, the harsh reality of the black-white racial binary they confront as immigrants is a wake-up call that in many cases reinforces their solidarity with their roots as marginalized people. This was manifested most clearly in the 1970s among Puerto Rican migrants in New York, whose embrace of African roots informed cultural and political movements, and in the West, where Mexican Americans came to identify as ‘Chicanos,’ a name derived from their indigenous ancestors in Mexico and the Southwestern USA.</p> <p>While dormant for much of the last 30 years, these new multicultural and intersectional forms of identity are gaining in prominence, and they represent a kind of synergy between people of color and white millennials whose dampened economic prospects have led them to embrace class politics. Much of Ocasio Cortez and Salazar’s support comes from neighborhoods in Queens with an increasing millennial demographic. The two women are both members of <a href="https://www.dsausa.org/">Democratic Socialists of America</a>, a group favored by politically-aware millennials which stresses class politics and socialist solutions to social problems.</p> <p>Yet the case of Latinx also argues against the supposed dichotomy between class-based politics and so-called identity politics. Much of the debate among progressives following the Trump election centered on whether Republicans were more successful in appealing to class-based politics through their critiques of free trade agreements and the loss of jobs overseas, as opposed to the Democrats’ perceived focus on identity politics rooted in Obama’s victory. Latinx and other marginalized groups are large constituencies that are affected by growing global inequality as much as, if not more than, the white working class.</p> <p>“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” says Ocasio-Cortez in her <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/27/nyregion/alexandria-ocasio-cortez.html">now-famous campaign video</a> depicting her ties to working-class Bronx. “I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family. I was born in a place where your zip code determines your destiny.” For <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/17/nyregion/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-outfit-designer-criticism.html">all of the critique</a> recently leveled at her for posing in an <em>Interview</em> magazine photo shoot wearing thousands of dollars of designer clothing, Ocasio-Cortez is practicing the politics of recognition. She is asking to be recognized, not only as a woman of color—the &nbsp;object of both racial and sexual discrimination—but also as part of the struggling 99 per cent: central to her platform is an increase in the minimum wage, universal health care, affordable housing, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, confronting climate change and campaign-finance reform.</p> <p>It's this politics of recognition that Francis Fukuyama attacks in his new book, <em><a href="https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374129293">Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment</a>. </em>For Fukuyama, the claim to difference, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, gay marriage, Osama Bin Laden or Vladimir Putin, is the ultimate threat to the new liberal order established by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. For him, this form of identity politics is a kind of misplaced passion somewhere between desire and reason.</p> <p>Latinx does represent something in between, a way of thinking that moves in and around borders, but on that journey it retains memories and moments of everywhere it travels. It’s a politics of recognition that not only brings to light the unrepresented and the marginalized, but also sees many forms of marginalization existing in one person. For that reason, the new politics it represents, defined by mulitiracial and multicultural awareness and inclusive of gender difference, is not the end of history but a new beginning.</p> <p><em>Ed Morales’ new book is <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2563-latinx">Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-Music/barretto_3302.jsp">Rice and beans with collard greens: the America of Ray Barretto, 1929-2006</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/oliver-ward/what-hope-for-millennial-generation-in-politics">What hope for the millennial generation in politics?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/where-are-all-leaders">Where are all the leaders?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ed Morales Trans-partisan politics Intersectionality Culture Activism Sun, 23 Sep 2018 19:13:47 +0000 Ed Morales 119763 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How does change happen? One man’s journey through the personal and the political https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jason-angell/how-does-change-happen-one-man-s-journey-through-personal-and-political <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first step to building a new world is to start living it, but don’t stop there.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jason Angell.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="normal">J<span class="image-caption">ason Angell at Longhaul Farm in the Hudson Valley, New York. Credit: Theo Angell. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p class="normal">For most of my life I‘ve been a political activist, believing the story that social transformation comes through radical legislation pushed along by brave elected leaders. I once imagined becoming one of those leaders myself, and had a mental picture of giving a speech to a massive group of people in what looked like the National Mall in Washington DC.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> I know I inherited that picture from my father, who harbored dreams of being a politician who had something true to say to people that would lead them out of the wilderness. He ran for Congress in 1972 unsuccessfully in the same community where I now live and have a farm, but my path to becoming a farmer was unexpected, paved by three experiences that challenged my belief that the change I hoped to see in the world could be won through the current political system.<br /> <br /> The first was a brief run for the New York State Senate in my early thirties in the Hudson Valley.&nbsp; Most of my days were spent alone, calling people to ask for money which I dreaded. Sometimes I would stand in front of civic groups, introduce myself, and tell them why <em>I</em> had the answers (which I didn’t). So I dropped out.<br /> <br /> Eventually I got a job as Director of the Center for Working Families—a think-tank allied to the <a href="http://workingfamilies.org/">Working Families Party</a> (WFP) and a place where ideas could be translated into direct action through the Party’s political muscle. It was 2009 and New York State faced one of the largest budget deficits in the country. The old debate raged on: increase taxes or cut public services drastically? This was a fight I wanted to be a part of. I still remembered the visceral wrongness of walking by homeless people on frigid winter streets when I moved to New York City as a kid in 1986.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Now Manhattan was the playground of the world’s wealthy elite—bankers and hedge fund managers bringing home bonus check millions while the economy collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage lending greed. My job was to design a tax reform proposal to increase taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers, which had been slashed for decades.<br /> <br /> Progressives united around the cause—teacher and healthcare unions, poor people’s organizations, private foundations, (some) Democrats and WFP legislators—and the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/nyregion/29tax.html">“Millionaire’s Tax” became law</a>. But in the aftermath of this victory I grew increasingly skeptical.&nbsp; The tax reform was won on the argument that putting a few hundred dollars in people’s pockets was better for economic growth than cutting public services.&nbsp; But what about putting capitalism’s unregulated greed on trial or questioning the spiritual damage of living in a culture that maintains money should remain our highest aspiration? Things were changing on the surface but not deep down.<br /> <br /> As a third party in New York (and active in 17 other states), the WFP organizes to drag the Democratic Party left by organizing progressive voters in close elections.&nbsp; It’s good at what it does, using the remaining power of organized labor to place working people’s issues on the agenda.&nbsp; But at the end of the day, it is still very much a creature of the political system, often constrained by the narrow agendas of its most powerful union leaders and more dedicated to winning a seat at the table where political decisions are made than democratizing decision-making so that regular people have more power.</p><p class="normal"> As I came into the office everyday to craft more powerpoints and papers, was I happy or fulfilled or convinced that any of this would lead to transformation? Life in the city was expensive, so both I and my partner Jocelyn had to work full-time. The city was pushing us towards a way of living that seemed to be just as much a part of the problems I hoped to solve through new policies and laws. Cracks began to appear in the first story I had told myself about how change is accomplished, and I didn’t have another to replace it.</p> <p class="normal">A year after that blank page moment we quit our jobs and moved to Argentina. I had to imagine a new story of life and needed as much space as possible to create it. We moved to El Hoyo, a small rural town in Patagonia a friend had traveled through years ago and rented a small cottage on a farm called Chacra Millalen, run sustainably by a family for 20 years. Our mornings were spent thinking, writing, and exploring what was most important to us and in the afternoons we worked in the garden and learned how to farm. I had grown up privileged, never really doing much physical labor, and I found that the balance of the mental and the physical left me more content at the end of the day than I had ever been before.</p> <p class="normal">Living in El Hoyo exposed us to a much larger sense of community than any we had experienced in New York. We were eating and cooking together. A lot of neighbors bartered, trading vegetables for having a car fixed for example. Large jobs like hauling wood for the winter were collective and people relied on each other more. Everything was treated as invaluable, so was cooked, canned, preserved, fixed and sharpened until the bitter end. <br /> <br /> One day we woke up and realized that we had built a new story of a life for ourselves, one that involved farming and trying to build the same kind of communities back home. We realized that the first step to building a new world is to start living it.<br /> <br /> So we moved back to the Hudson Valley and started <a href="https://www.instagram.com/longhaulfarm/">Longhaul Farm</a> and the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/ecologicalcitizensproject/?hl=en">Ecological Citizen’s Project</a> to create spaces, programs and podcasts through which people can <a href="http://ecologicalcitizens.org/nextstopnow">learn about&nbsp; ways of life that are built around different values and routines</a> than those offered by mainstream America. But we didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes we saw in the ‘back to the land’ and earlier Utopianist movements, which became islands of personal improvement and perfect community creation cut off from larger political work required to transform society.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It’s very difficult to sustain a countercultural personal life in a society that doesn’t value that kind of life nor is built to support it. Farming at our scale doesn’t pay all the bills or provide benefits.&nbsp; Eventually, we were able to find flexible teaching work that allowed us to share child care duties, get our healthcare through a mix of work-based and state programs, and reduce our housing costs through a farming tax credit. Transformation requires that we both pioneer new personal ways of life while also working together to enact policies and build new social institutions that will sustain them.<br /> <br /> I’ve begun to reconsider the old picture that I had in my head, the one where I’m delivering the speech on the Mall. I’ve realized that a lot of that dream came from my ego, which is a barrier to greater progress.&nbsp; Our culture celebrates the greatness of the individual—celebrities, business icons and agents of social change—without acknowledging the collectives around them that are the true source of greatness.<br /> <br /> We’ve built a political industrial complex made up of candidates, political operatives, lobbyists and think tankers that keep people far from the privileged places of decision-making. It’s no wonder that <a href="https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf">what the majority of people want</a> doesn’t really matter if it runs counter to moneyed interests. Conventional politics treats citizens largely as consumers, whose only power is to vote for the best person to represent them from a field of candidates culled by donors. Since campaigns follow a zero-sum dynamic that leads candidates to tear down all their competitor’s ideas and magnify their negatives in the pursuit of winning office, the bitter partisan divide grows ever wider.</p><p class="normal"> Who really believes that the problems we face can be addressed by selecting the right candidate in this kind of system? To bridge the divide between our personal and political lives we need to build new democratic norms and institutions that abandon the ego-driven ‘great individual’ model and allow mass participation in coming up with solutions, while also demanding that we enact them in our own lives. <br /> <br /> Over the past year, we’ve tried to do this by conducting a <a href="https://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2017/11/13/civic-engagement-thriving-democracy/852677001/">local experiment</a> in the Town of Philipstown called the <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/551bf6b6e4b088e1f8030880/t/5b6c9928aa4a9997a24e1023/1533843763178/HVCC%2C+Process+%2B+Impact+%285%29.pdf">Community Congress</a>. We asked any resident to answer the question, “What’s your idea for preserving and promoting a strong community?” Over the course of three public forums, residents proposed 40 ideas across a range of issues. Then we invited all Philipstown residents age 13 years and older to name their top three priorities through an online and mail-in ballot. <br /> <br /> Over 750 residents voted, and even more hopefully 450 identified themselves as willing volunteers to roll up their sleeves and get to work turning the priorities they voted for into reality. In the next few years we’ll begin the work of building other Community Congresses throughout the Hudson Valley, forging a more people-centered democracy to build the world that people want.</p><p>I realize now that the path to social transformation is not a binary choice between personal or political change.&nbsp; We must live our political values within the daily routines of our personal lives and grow a new kind of politics that’s grounded in a higher quality of human relationships—unafraid of asking much more of us than our votes. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi">What we can really learn from Gandhi?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/liam-barringtonbush/you-can%E2%80%99t-love-whole-planet">You can’t love a whole planet</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ted-fertik/can-working-families-party-succeed-in-america">Can the Working Families Party succeed in America?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jason Angell Transformative nonviolence Trans-partisan politics Care Activism Sun, 09 Sep 2018 17:20:13 +0000 Jason Angell 119499 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How repression can fuel a movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lester-kurtz-lee-smithey/How%20repression%20can%20fuel%20a%20movement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Repression often energizes resistance and undercuts the legitimacy of elites.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-repression-can-fuel-a-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a></em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LesterKurtz.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Rally "for a free Russia without repression and despotism" Moscow, June 10 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:For_a_free_Russia_without_repression_and_despotism_163.jpg">Don Simon via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/choose/zero/">CC0</a>.</p> <p>From Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses attacking U.S. civil rights demonstrators to the massacre at Amritsar in colonial India, the use of coercive force against dissidents often backfires, becoming a transformative event that can change the course of a conflict. Rather than demobilizing a movement, repression often ironically fuels resistance and undercuts the legitimacy of a power elite. Although a long scholarly tradition explores the unintended consequences of martyrdom and other acts of violence, more attention could be paid to what we call the paradox of repression—that is, when repression creates unanticipated consequences that authorities do not desire. Efforts by power elites to oppress movements often backfire, mobilizing popular support for the movements and undermining authorities, potentially leading to significant reforms or even a regime’s overthrow.</p> <p>As civil rights activist, clergyman and author Will Campbell writes, “Of one thing I am certain: [the civil rights movement] was not destroyed by hooded vigilantes and flaming crosses. Nor by chains used on school children, dynamiting of churches and homes, mass jailings. All those things were an impetus to the movement and brought determination to the victims.” Repressive coercion can weaken a regime’s authority, turning public opinion against it. Paradoxically, the more a power elite applies force, the more citizens and third parties are likely to become disaffected, sometimes inducing the regime to disintegrate from internal dissent.</p> <p>According to political scientist Christian Davenport, repression is often defined as “actual or threatened use of physical sanctions against an individual or organization, within the territorial jurisdiction of the state, for the purpose of imposing a cost on the target as well as deterring specific activities and/or beliefs perceived to be challenging to government personnel, practices or institutions.” We prefer to see repression as a much more complex phenomenon that goes far beyond physical threats or sanctions. We find it conceptually helpful to place these methods along a continuum stretching from overt violence, on one end, to hegemony on the other. Viewing repression from this broad perspective helps to correct some of the narrowness of previous research.</p> <p>Overt violence includes the actions we usually think of when we consider repression, such as beatings, torture, shooting unarmed demonstrators and arrests. They are the repressive tactics most likely to cause moral outrage within the broader population and are, therefore, more likely to precipitate backfire. Because authorities are sometimes aware of the risks involved in using brute force, they may employ less-lethal methods such as pepper spray or “active denial systems” or simply intimidate activists with indirect threats, harassment or surveillance. </p> <p>Soft repression, a concept developed by Myra Marx Ferree, includes such actions as stigmatization of protesters and their movements, framing contests, and manipulative attempts to divide, divert, or distract social movement organizations or their pool of potential recruits. “The distinguishing criterion of soft repression,” Marx Ferree explains, “is the collective mobilization of power, albeit in nonviolent forms and often highly informal ways, to limit and exclude ideas and identities from the public forum.” Although she develops the concept to explain gender-based movements, it is a strategy widely used by power elites to minimize the participation of movements and dissidents. Finally, the most effective demobilization technique used by authorities is the promotion of hegemony, in which dissidents censor themselves.</p> <p><strong>Nonviolence and the paradox of repression.</strong></p> <p>As Jonathan Schell eloquently asserts in “The Unconquerable World,” one of the most profound legacies within modernity has been the realization of popular nonviolent power. The last century produced a surge of innovation in nonviolent conflict strategies and methods, many of which have made effective use of the paradox of repression. (Violent insurgencies may also sometimes benefit from the paradox of repression, but their own use of violence can undermine and diminish support within their own communities and especially among third parties.)</p> <p>Despite its ubiquity, the obscurity of the paradox of repression should not be particularly surprising. It is most apparent in conflicts in which one party employs strategic nonviolent strategy. However, it is only in the 20th century that we witness the prodigious expansion of nonviolence corresponding with globalization and accelerating technological development. In a globalizing world where communications, travel and arms technologies have become widely available, even small pockets of resistance have developed the capacity to challenge more traditionally powerful institutions, such as corporations and states.</p> <p>Greater international interdependence requires economic and political cooperation across an increasingly complex network of cross-cutting alliances. The use of coercive force in this environment may offend or inconvenience mutual allies and neighbors and leave an aggressor isolated. The United States has experienced this dilemma in connection with the invasion of Iraq. Despite considerable support from the United Kingdom, the Bush administration encountered significant obstacles in cobbling together a coalition of smaller, less influential states. Larger states on the United Nations Security Council, such as France, Germany, and Russia, probably declined to participate in part because of significant economic interests in the region, but they were also under pressure from their own citizens who sympathized with the Iraqi people and considered the invasion unjustified aggression.</p> <p>The structure of insurgent groups has also changed to take advantage of ever-emerging electronic communications technologies, such as fax machines, the internet, cell phones and instant messaging, while limiting the ability of authorities to repress resistance. Nonviolent direct action sometimes takes on the form of cell or affinity groups developed by non-state terror organizations to avoid repression. However, this trend may diminish the paradox of repression. </p> <p>As explained later in the book, the paradox of repression relies in large part not on avoiding repression but on enduring and sometimes provoking it. In order for insurgents to invoke the sympathy and outrage of bystander publics, these publics must relate to and identify with the target of repression. Although affinity groups may make resistance groups appear shadowy and unrecognizable, much important organizing for nonviolent campaigns has taken place underground. The latter approach is more likely to prove effective in highly asymmetrical scenarios, where there is little ambiguity over public sympathies and the illegitimacy of a regime.</p> <p>The paradox of repression is one manifestation of what the pre-eminent scholar of nonviolence, Gene Sharp, calls “political jiu-jitsu.” In the martial art of jiu-jitsu, one uses the weight and momentum of one’s opponent to throw the opponent. Similarly, in strategic nonviolent action, one can use an opponent’s resources, needs and culture to one’s own advantage. Thus, for example, arrests and imprisonment have always been a primary tool of governmental authorities against agents of social change. </p> <p>Nonviolent activists, however, have often prepared for arrest and willingly accepted or even sought incarceration in order to overload jails and strain government bureaucracies. The same dynamic can apply to the use of cultural resources to trigger the paradox of repression. Social philosopher Richard Gregg first wrote about this dynamic as “moral jiu-jitsu,” drawing on Gandhi’s idea that self-suffering would induce conversion by an opponent, who, when confronted by a nonviolent resister, would lose “the moral support which the violent resistance of most victims would render him.”</p> <p>As students and activists of nonviolence understand, the paradox of repression can be cultivated. True, in some cases, such as the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, repression has been so complete as to overcome nearly all resistance. In other cases, however, where the relationship between opponents has been better integrated and where those traditionally considered less powerful have developed effective methods of resistance (such as cell structures and nonviolent collective action techniques), imperial and authoritarian states have found themselves unable to contend with grassroots opposition, often because the movement was able to rob the regime of some of its legitimacy. </p> <p>While the overtly systematic use of nonviolent collective action theory varies widely from case to case, training and strategic planning continues to spread. The cases we offer as illustrations do not always document an intentional preparation for the paradox of repression (though preparation is common, as we elaborate below) but indicate how challengers adopted collective action tactics that often both amplified and subverted attempts to repress and intimidate nonviolent activists.</p> <p><strong>An overview of the book.</strong></p> <p>The chapters in this book have two main goals: to gain a more nuanced understanding of how the paradox of repression works and when it has happened, on the one hand, and to examine how nonviolent activists have managed it, on the other, to enhance the extent to which it empowers movements and undermines unjust systems. We hope this book will be valuable to scholars and activists alike, and we have recruited both scholars and activists as chapter authors (including several authors who are both). </p> <p>The first task of the contributors is thus to look at various aspects and cases of the paradox of repression to get a better sense of its topography beyond the isolated anecdotal cases diffused through the scholarly literature and activists’ lore. We provide a conceptual and empirical overview and bring together quantitative and qualitative scholarship with activists who have experienced repression and experimented with its management. We begin with Erica Chenoweth’s quantitative birdseye view of the phenomenon across the globe over half a century. Chapter two, “Backfire in Action: Insights from Nonviolent Campaigns, 1945–2006,” analyzes her large data set comparing 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns for major change to evaluate how backfire works and which movement features are most likely to provoke it.</p> <p>Chenoweth identifies three critical factors facilitating a positive outcome from repression: (1) sustained high levels of campaign participation, (2) loyalty shifts among security forces and civilian leaders, and (3) the withdrawal of support from its foreign allies.</p> <p>Doron Shultziner’s conceptual chapter addresses a key aspect of the paradox of repression by delving into two historical cases. In chapter three, “Transformative Events, Repression, and Regime Change,” he focuses on the central tension between the parameters of opportunity structures and the agency of collective action. He explores the social psychological impact of “transformative events,” which can sometimes suspend the habits and assumptions that normally underpin the political status quo and open up new opportunities for resistance. Transformative events that involve repression can thus operate as a causal mechanism or path to regime change and democratic outcomes. Shultziner focuses on cases such as the Soweto Uprising in South Africa and the Montgomery bus boycott to illustrate the relationship between repression and backfire as transformative events.</p> <p>Elite defection has been identified as an important factor in the success or failure of nonviolent civil resistance campaigns, demanding that we delve into the ways in which agents of repression experience the repression they carry out. In her exploration of successful nonviolent revolutions, Sharon Erickson Nepstad found that defections by security forces were an important strategic factor. Nonviolent resistance has an advantage in managing and framing repression because it can create dilemmas for repressors.</p> <p>Rachel MacNair reminds us in chapter four, “The Psychology of Agents of Repression: The Paradox of Defection,” that aggression and fear are not physical properties that people hold in their hands, but are psychological experiences. Agents of repression do not merely follow orders; they are caught up in complex psychological dynamics and risk suffering what she calls perpetration induced traumatic stress.</p> <p>In recent years, the nature of civil resistance has changed with the increased role of the internet and social media in political processes. Jessica Beyer and Jennifer Earl bring their extensive expertise in this emerging field to bear in chapter five, “Backfire Online: Studying Reactions to the Repression of Internet Activism.” It is crucial to understand the ways in which online activism and the activists behind it interact with the state and other entities interested in silencing them. Drawing on recent cases studies, Beyer and Earl systematically present various forms of online repression and show how it has backfired on elites. They explore the affinities between different types of internet activism and repressive tactics, identifying multiple levels of analysis of how backfire and deterrence can be differentiated according to the actors involved (individual versus group and public versus private).</p> <p>A second major aspect of the book turns to repression management — that is, how nonviolent resisters, but also repressors, have attempted to shape the outcome of repression to their benefit. We begin with the firsthand experience of Jenni Williams, founder of the movement Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA. In chapter six, “Overcoming Fear to Overcome Repression,” Williams emphasizes the importance of establishing a movement culture that prioritizes nonviolence and encourages empowerment through shared leadership and the creative use of traditional cultural themes to withstand and blunt repression. </p> <p>When WOZA transformed the traditional role of motherhood to scold and challenge the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe, the activists were met with a brutal repression of their movement. By accepting and even courting arrest, Williams argues, the activists took away the regime’s major weapon of repression, turning it instead into a source of empowerment for the movement and individual participants, increasing the costs of the regime’s efforts to thwart them. They mobilized a campaign of “tough love,” transforming a culture of fear into a culture of resistance and constructing a creative leadership structure that allowed them to be more flexible in their tactics than the rigid authoritarian police establishment bound by its limited repertoire.</p> <p>Chapter seven, “Culture and Repression Management,” focuses on the symbolic aspects of repression and its backfire. We conceptualize nonviolent struggle as a dance between an establishment and its dissidents, a regime and its insurgents, as they contest the frames used to make meaning of repressive events. This chapter explores proactive efforts by nonviolent activists to choreograph actions in ways that help to ensure the backfire effect of repression by clearly establishing the aggression of the agents of repression. In chapter eight, “‘Smart’ Repression,” we address the growing efforts by elites to be more strategic about how they use repression, in order to mitigate the effects of its potentially backfiring. That chapter examines a relatively unexplored aspect of repression, the use of tactics that are deliberately crafted to demobilize movements while mitigating or eliminating a backfire effect.</p> <p>Dalia Ziada gives us a participant’s-eye-view of the Egyptian revolution of 2011 in chapter nine, “Egypt: Military Strategy and the 2011 Revolution,” although she is also familiar with the literature on strategic nonviolent action. What she found most remarkable was that the army in some instances chose not to use violence during the citizen uprising, and ended up collaborating with the activists to oust President Hosni Mubarak, although they returned to the usual armed forces modus operandi after seizing power from Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in 2014. Ziada provides a firsthand account of the events of 2011 based on her own participation in the revolution and draws on her interviews with Egyptian and American military personnel.</p> <p>In chapter 10, “Repression Engendering Creative Nonviolent Action in Thailand,” Chaiwat Satha-Anand explores activist creativity following repression in Thailand. He argues that repression, such as the violent actions in 2010 of the Thai government against protesters in the Red Shirts movement, created space for new movement leadership and the introduction of creative nonviolent resistance. He calls this dynamic “the cleansing effect of violent repression.” In this Thai case, Sombat Boonngamanong developed a series of highly symbolic and creative flash mob actions that drew on a history of nonviolent resistance in Thai society.</p> <p>Finally, veteran activist, scholar and trainer George Lakey concludes the volume by providing insights from decades of practical experience and reflection in chapter 11, “Making Meaning of Pain and Fear: Enacting the Paradox of Repression.” According to Lakey, nonviolent activists create narratives that provide meaning for their risks, injuries, suffering and losses, helping them to transform pain and fear into opportunities for mobilization. These stories in turn have consequences for the tactics and strategies they choose and help to trigger the paradox of repression. Activists use these stories to prepare in advance for repressive events by training and shaping confrontations.</p> <p>By weaving together these case studies, scholarly analysis and activists’ reflection, we aim to shed light on how the paradox of repression works in multiple contexts and how activists have managed repression to enhance its potential to backfire and empower resistance.</p> <p><strong>Repression as relational conflict.</strong></p> <p>Nonviolent resistance is based in large part on the strategic harnessing of relational power. We focus on one subform in this volume: the strategic cultivation of the paradox of repression. Sometimes, when one party takes coercive action that violates basic norms, its ability to rally support and cooperation—its legitimacy—is undermined, threatening its capacity to meet its own goals. The contributors to this volume present cases in which authorities or elites used intimidation, coercion and sometimes violence in attempts to crush dissident movements. However, in each case, intimidation and physical force were seen to violate norms of proportionate response and helped to mobilize movement recruits. Elites’ efforts rebounded on them, undermining their legitimacy and diminishing their ability to govern as they wished.</p> <p>Moreover, activists can rhetorically frame the actions of their opponents or can choreograph their own actions in ways that draw attention to repression by opponents. By adopting nonviolent tactics, activists can generate a striking contrast between their own actions and the “unfair” tactics of their opponents. The dissonance that gap creates can, in turn, provoke a moral outrage that increases the support and involvement of local and third parties. Such a contrast can also cause factions to develop among a movement’s opponents as some withdraw their cooperation and refuse to participate in further repression. When repression does occur against nonviolent civilians, it may serve as a deterrent to other regimes, as when Gorbachev took note of the negative consequences worldwide of the Tiananmen Square massacre and decided not to back communist states across Eastern Europe with force when they faced nonviolent uprisings a few months later.</p> <p>Activists may also draw on local indigenous cultural resources to sensitize potential recruits and sympathetic publics to acts of repression. Legacies may be framed that perpetuate the paradox of repression long after the immediate crisis has passed. Dissidents in Czechoslovakia in 1989 commemorated the death of a young student, Jan Palach, who self-immolated in response to the 1968 invasion of Prague by Warsaw Pact troops two decades earlier. Similarly, the legacy of the British Army’s killing of civilians on Bloody Sunday in 1972 continues to influence Northern Ireland politics today, more than 40 years after the event. </p> <p>Figuring out how to harness cultural resources requires indigenous creativity or what sociologist James Jasper has called “artfulness” in developing effective tactics. The ability of activists to design effective nonviolent collective action creatively that mitigates repression or induces it to backfire may develop out of rational strategizing, but it will often emerge instinctively from the habitus, the intimate, unspoken and inarticulable perception of relations that is uniquely local. This creativity is the source of agency, which complicates cost-benefit paradigms since it is elusive and difficult to measure, and yet can significantly enhance the power potential of groups who might otherwise be considered susceptible to repression.</p> <p>In short, although the paradox of repression is a phenomenon that is widely glossed over in both policy and academic circles, it seems an obvious and ubiquitous fact in 21st century political culture and a key element in the history of successful nonviolent movements. We hope that this collection of studies will enhance understanding by reconceptualizing repression as an interaction between conflicting parties, by expanding our scope of the spheres in which repression occurs, by delving into the social, psychological and cultural dimensions of repression, by thinking more closely about the costs of repression among agents of repression, and by introducing repression management to explore ways in which strategic nonviolent activists become powerful agents within repressive contexts.</p> <p><em>Purchase a copy of “The Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements” at&nbsp;<a href="http://syracuseuniversitypress.syr.edu/spring-2018/paradox-repression.html">Syracuse University Press</a>.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi">What we can really learn from Gandhi?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/steven-parfitt/us-teachers-strike-in-historical-perspective">The US teachers strike in historical perspective</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/james-rowe-mike-simpson/lessons-from-front-lines-of-anti-colonial-pipeline-resistance">Lessons from the front lines of anti-colonial pipeline resistance</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lee Smithey Lester Kurtz Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 31 Aug 2018 07:00:00 +0000 Lester Kurtz and Lee Smithey 119213 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No justice without love: why activism must be more generous https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/frances-lee/no-justice-without-love-why-activism-must-be-more-generous <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">I want to be a member of a thriving and diverse social movement, not a cult or a religion.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FrancesLee.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Occupy Love, Hella Love Oakland March, February 14 2012.<strong> </strong>Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ghalog/6880222317/">Flickr/Glenn Halog</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0.</a></p> <p class="normalCxSpMiddle">As an intersectional activist who is concerned about the future of our movements, I’m really worried that social justice activism in the West is stuck in a dangerous state of disrepair. Ideological purity has become the norm. Social justice movements, which were originally about freeing marginalized people from oppressive institutions and social structures, have become imbued with their own narrow framework of morality.</p> <p class="normal">Our knowledge base is made up of reactionary think-pieces, self-righteous social media posts, romanticized narratives of movement histories and prescriptive checklists of how to stop being problematic. &nbsp;Activists who are deemed <a href="https://www.theroot.com/the-6-degrees-of-wokeness-1819384614">“woke”</a> are praised and accepted, while others who are judged not to possess a sufficiently layered analysis of power and oppression on the axes of race, gender, sexuality and disability are demeaned or excluded. In many social justice communities, fear and shame are regularly used to control other people’s behavior and shut down contentious discussions.</p> <p class="normal">As someone who is deeply embedded in activist communities in Seattle that organize around anti-racism, prison abolition, and queer and trans folks of color this affects me every day. I’m so afraid of being <a href="https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/6-signs-your-call-out-isnt-actually-about-accountability/">called out</a> in this way by another member or group—and possibly losing access to my networks of belonging and support—that &nbsp;I am very, very careful about the political opinions and ideas I put out into the world, especially if they are still in development.</p> <p class="normal">After publishing an <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/why-ive-started-to-fear-my-fellow-social-justice-activists-20171013">essay</a> in YES! Magazine about this anxiety I received countless letters from readers around the world expressing similar stories. Many of them identified as <em>former</em> activists and leftists, having been pushed out of activist spaces for ‘not being radical enough’ or ‘being too privileged.’</p> <p class="normal">Some readers relayed that they wept with relief to read that they weren’t the only ones feeling utterly ostracized. Others shared that they felt like they were not allowed speak up in activist spaces because they were newer to activism and weren’t familiar with social justice language, norms and analyses. Readers who identified as having privilege expressed feeling turned off by the ways they had to perform unquestioning allyship to marginalized people and respond to the guilt by shrinking themselves into nothingness.</p> <p class="normal">This pattern is hugely counterproductive because movements need critical masses of people to function in ways that transform the structures of power. It doesn’t make sense to push out members because they don’t go about doing social justice work in exactly the same way you do. Sometimes people make horrible mistakes that reinforce the status quo of power, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need them alongside us.</p> <p class="normal">Heated debates are unfolding in progressive spaces around <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/the-dos-and-donts-of-cultural-appropriation/411292/">cultural appropriation</a>, <a href="https://thoughtcatalog.com/sade-andria-zabala/2017/01/7-famous-white-feminists-im-so-over/">white feminists co-opting activist movements</a> and ‘<a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2013/07/intentions-dont-really-matter/">intent vs. impact</a>’ among other issues, and such debates are important; but while we argue the finer points of detail among ourselves the Trump administration has been largely left to its own devices to <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-trump-immigration-bill-negotiating-tool-20180615-story.html">separate immigrant families</a>, <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/30/eye-popping-payouts-for-ceos-follow-trumps-tax-cuts-747649">increase corporate tax cuts</a>, <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/26/supreme-court-rules-in-trump-muslim-travel-ban-case.html">reinforce the Muslim travel ban</a> and <a href="https://splinternews.com/the-state-department-is-retroactively-revoking-transgen-1827946847">revoke trans women’s passports</a>. The danger is that intra-group debates create rifts within, or even implode, communities that have to be strong and united in the fight for justice.</p> <p class="normal">Modern activists are now expected to follow specific sets of standards to be trusted and heard by the larger group. These standards are largely driven by the evolving conversation on power, privilege and oppression on social media. Rather than opening up discussions ideas are often presented as diktats in uncomplicated listicles like <a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2018/07/white-people-this-is-how-to-check-your-privilege-when-asking-people-of-color-for-their-labor/">“This Is How To Check Your Privilege When Asking People of Color For Their Labor”</a> or in viral infographics like <a href="https://upload.democraticunderground.com/100210942645">“Cool Kids vs Organizers.”</a></p> <p class="normal">I have no problem with the well-intentioned content of these pieces since they often bring up forgotten voices or conveniently-ignored viewpoints. But the way they are presented, re-shared and absorbed into activist culture as infallible gospel truths removes people’s agency to think for themselves. I want to be a member of a thriving and diverse social movement, not a <a href="http://www.catalystwedco.com/blog/2017/7/10/kin-aesthetics-excommunicate-me-from-the-church-of-social-justice">cult or a religion</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Furthermore, I worry that identity is being deployed as a way to separate people rather than to create coalitions to work together <em>en masse</em>. There is so much distrust of white, male, and/or straight people that marginalized identities often serve to regulate the makeup of activist communities. To tell the truth, I’ve also participated in this kind of behavior myself in queer and trans people-of-color spaces.</p> <p class="normal">After being rejected from dominant society for so long, it felt good at first to have full permission to turn away from the kinds of people who had invalidated me for much of my life. While I do believe it’s critical to curate identity-specific spaces, at this point I wonder if judging all people with more privilege hurts more than it helps. As former US president Barack Obama <a href="https://mobile.twitter.com/ABC/status/1019233996943683591">tweeted</a> recently about democracy: "You can't do it if you insist that those who aren't like you because they're white, or because they're male...that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters."</p> <p class="normal">What’s the antidote to this situation? I believe that social justice activists must be committed to rooting out supremacy, dogmatism, and unhealthy behaviors inside themselves while fighting for justice in society. And that means prioritizing the building of healthy relationships both with ourselves and with others, choosing alternatives to rage, and honoring ourselves as whole beings.</p> <p class="normal">So much of modern activism is a public performance, amplified by the lightning-quick churn of the internet. What does it tell us about the condition of our hearts when we are reactive and not engaging in slow contemplation? The ancient Chinese philosopher <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/100074-d-o-d-j-ng">Lao Tze reminds us</a> that “knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.” Tending to our internal landscapes and cultivating wisdom and character is paramount to maintaining integrity as an activist. Whether through practices steeped in spirituality, religion, movement, ancient texts, nature or any kind of higher power, some sort of internal practice is necessary for sustaining ourselves.</p> <p class="normal">For example, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza goes against popular opinion and <a href="https://mic.com/articles/166720/blm-co-founder-protesting-isnt-about-who-can-be-the-most-radical-its-about-winning#.AX4Sq69Gw">espouses</a> an attitude of welcome and forgiveness towards newer activists, especially toward white feminists who are still trying to grasp the uniquely harsh struggles of Black women. As she says, “if our movement is not serious about building power, then we are just engaged in a futile exercise of who can be the most radical.” This means setting aside the desire to be seen as the ‘most woke’ or the ‘most correct’ and accepting people at all stages of their activist journeys, no matter how outdated their politics may appear.</p> <p class="normal">Another internal quality that strengthens and grows activist movements is compassion. So often, when we as marginalized people are disregarded and abused by society we respond with rage and fighting back. How can we challenge ourselves to cultivate care and compassion for those we perceive as our enemies, so that they can be transformed into accomplices and allies? How can we hold anger and love in balance at the same time in our hearts?</p> <p class="normal">One great example is the life and work of Civil Rights elder <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_Sales">Ruby Sales</a>. In a recent <a href="https://onbeing.org/programs/ruby-sales-where-does-it-hurt/">radio interview</a> she called for a ‘liberating theology’ for poor, white people that shows them that they worthy of recognition. She understands that speaking to the redeeming parts of white people is essential for bringing them along in the fight for racial justice. This is a profoundly different message from the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/06/my-travels-in-white-america-a-land-of-anxiety-division-and-pockets-of-pain">flurry</a> of <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/12/31/trump-white-working-class-history-216200">think-pieces</a> that have blamed working-class white people who ‘voted against their own interests’ to elect Donald Trump.</p> <p class="normal">My new book, <a href="https://hellofranceslee.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/toward-an-ethics-of-activism-20182.pdf">Toward An Ethics of Activism: A Community Investigation of Humility, Grace and Compassion in Movements for Justice</a>, maps out a whole range of ways to address the relational problems of progressive activism. For example, trans activist and law professor Dean Spade outlines a toolkit for resolving interpersonal conflicts within activist organizations so that they can stay intact. He draws on the embodied practice of <a href="http://www.generativesomatics.org/content/what-somatics">Generative Somatics</a> to lead the reader into a set of self-reflective questions when feelings of anger, hurt or disappointment arise towards another person. This includes taking space to recognize how you are feeling in your body, identify past wounds that are being triggered, ask yourself what else is true about the person who harmed you, and attempt to seek reconciliation privately.</p> <p class="normal">At the root of all this work is a long and deep-seated history of oppression. Marginalized people have every right to fight back and rage about the injustices we and our ancestors have experienced in the face of colonization, slavery, imperialism and capitalism. At the same time, holding onto a constant state of antagonism towards those who are more privileged than you is exhausting and <a href="https://www.lennyletter.com/story/how-i-overcame-anger-as-a-black-writer-online">leads to devastating personal burn out.</a></p> <p class="normal">Aligning on the ‘right side of history’ in struggles for justice doesn’t mean that our own communities don’t have serious areas of growth to address, including patterns of <a href="https://selfishactivist.com/the-hidden-cost-of-call-out-culture-is-bigotry/">intolerance</a> and dominance. I believe that we must create ample space for rage and critique and also humility and gentleness, understanding that they are all valid expressions of the spectrum of human emotions. We must honor our full humanity, especially the parts of ourselves that aren’t in alignment yet with our liberatory values. And part of honoring our humanity means honoring the humanity of others, even that of our enemies and oppressors. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/pacita-rudder/building-different-form-of-power-young-people-s-voices-from-california-">Building a different form of power: young people’s voices from California’s Central Valley</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Frances Lee Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 28 Aug 2018 18:47:30 +0000 Frances Lee 119358 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Social activism and the economics of mental health https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/john-picton/social-activism-and-economics-of-mental-health <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Apolitical volunteering is ill-equipped to address the structural causes of depression.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/John Picton.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">“Volunteering.” Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielthornton/8620041374">Flickr/Daniel Thornton</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>‘Social prescribing,’ where patients with depression join in community activities as a part of their treatment, is moving from the fringe of medical practice to the mainstream. Matt Hancock, the new British Minister for Health and Social Care, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/social-prescribing-schemes-across-england-to-receive-45-million">has pledged £4.5m to promote it</a>, but we should stop to think before we take this medicine: linking patients to their communities is a positive step, but a better move would be for people to get involved in social activism.</p> <p>The Minister probably has one eye on his budget, since social prescribing <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/social-prescribing-health-conditions_uk_5b586a95e4b0de86f4923524">is thought to stop patients coming back to doctor’s surgeries</a>—so saving the state money in the National Health Service (NHS). But this scheme, which normally involves referring the patient to a link worker who then recommends different types of community activity for them, is about more than balancing the books: in fact the NHS is administering a large dose of social theory. </p> <p>Almost 20 years ago, the American Political Scientist <a href="http://robertdputnam.com/">Robert Putnam</a> published <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowling_Alone">Bowling Alone</a></em>. Since then there has been a groundswell of interest in its central concept of ‘social capital’—the idea that community bonds such as those developed in bowling leagues in the USA make both individuals and societies happier and healthier. </p> <p>Putnam is a nuanced writer, but the core focus of <em>Bowling Alone</em> is on community participation not social activism. He wants to unify us not cause political fights, and hopes to develop a country of association-joiners: religious service attenders, sports club players, park gardeners, members of knitting circles and school governors. In one interview <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2007/jul/18/communities.guardiansocietysupplement">he analogises this to a honeycomb</a>, a social system of welcoming and interlocking groups, each empowered as a part of a greater civic whole.</p> <p>Charismatic, and with the enigmatic appearance of a nineteenth century preacher, Putnam has become an academic celebrity. His ideas on social capital have been met with great enthusiasm by policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic. <a href="https://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/north-america/robert-putnam-celebrating-his-incredible-contribution-to-the-study-of-social-capital/">One British policy group</a> working right at the heart of the Cabinet Office has called him the most influential political scientist alive. Before his promotion, Hancock held the British Government’s brief for civil society, and the influence of <em>Bowling Alone</em> can be clearly felt in his new policy on social prescribing. Linking individual depression to a lack of community activity takes a leaf straight out of Putnam’s book. </p> <p>At core the idea is simple: integrating patients into their communities is thought to <a href="https://bmcfampract.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2296-9-27">develop self-esteem</a> and social support, providing a holistic treatment instead of just prescribing drugs. In turn, the community will also be improved. It would take a hard heart to reject this idea completely; friends and community really are an important element in our lives whether or not we have depression. </p> <p><a href="https://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/For-professionals/Health-and-wellbeing/Social_Prescribing_Report.pdf?dtrk=true">One report by the charity Age Concern</a> describes the case of a woman who, having lost her husband to suicide, found solace in volunteering as a befriender and in theatre outings. Another, trapped in a rural community without access to transport, was encouraged to organise a local party. Social prescribing <a href="https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/social-prescribing">is also deployed</a> in support of community gardening, sports and arts and crafts. Although there <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/4/e013384">is little hard evidence</a> to back this up, strengthening the community links of patients seems likely to have a positive impact on their health.</p> <p>But there is something missing from this picture. Depression is intimately connected with economic structures. Even when we are well paid we might still have a difficult boss. Target-driven work culture <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(18)30176-7/fulltext">is bad for us</a>, leading to intense and demanding jobs in environments over which we have little control. When we are also short of money our situation gets even worse; unemployment impacts negatively on health, and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0001879109000037">the effect is more pronounced</a> in countries with weak social security systems. Discrimination <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1471-6402.00090">impairs our mental well-being</a>.</p> <p>In their new book <em><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kate-pickett-richard-wilkinson/enemy-between-us-how-inequality-erodes-our-mental-heal">The Inner Level</a></em>, epidemiologists Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson make a data-based case, not only that unequal societies are worse to live in but also that inequality erodes trust and leads to anxiety, causing an arms race in competitive consumption. This animus is good for no one; disparities in wealth connect with the prevalence of mental illness, and so depression is linked to a deep economic ordering which volunteering is ill-equipped to address. No bowling league will work for a fairer society and no gardening club can keep your boss off your back. </p> <p>It’s not that social capital theory is wrong, just incomplete: community networks are an important, perhaps vital, element of our lives. But even combined with medication they are not a truly holistic solution to depression. By emphasising community over political action, social prescribing side-steps the economics of mental illness: a focus on social capital shifts the frame away from the social effects of capitalism. It is <em>economic </em>society that needs a visit to the doctor. </p> <p>Of course we should not abandon hope in voluntary action. In its more radical guise as social activism it focuses attention on the economic context of depression. In this vein, a charity called <a href="https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/activity/persuade-your-employer-sign-time-change-pledge">Time to Change</a> encourages its members to meet with their bosses, requesting a pledge to tackle mental health stigma in the workplace. Another charity, <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/our-policy-work/benefits/">Mind</a>, works to improve welfare benefits for mental health sufferers, encouraging its members to lobby Parliament. In contrast to much community work, these campaigns put politics at the centre.</p> <p>In the period since Putnam wrote <em>Bowling Alone</em>, it has become obvious that society cannot realistically be theorised as a civic whole of interlocking groups: there is no ‘honeycomb.’ News reports reflect a world of irreconcilable conflict, from Brexit in the UK to the polarising impact of President Trump in the USA. Yet the fact that we can no longer ignore our divisions might lead us to mount a back-to-front argument <em>against</em> politicising volunteering in this way: in a context of strife, non-political community work could be said to provide a neutral space which opens up a civic domain in which we can come together and leave politics at the door; a place where we might give it all a rest and just concentrate on something fun like bowling.</p> <p>There is some mileage in this view. It’s true that not everyone wants to talk politics with their neighbours, but all political silence has a cost. After two years of field work, the American Sociologist <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/658024?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">Nina Eliasoph concluded</a> that volunteers often work to keep their conversations neutral, taking care not to sour the mood at meetings. Yet to disengage on social questions is to accept a type of disempowerment, a self-removal from the scene. For Eliasoph, social activists have something valuable that community workers do not—a willingness to recognise complexity, challenge authority, and relate deeply with each other. To confront political issues is only to recognise social reality. </p> <p>While a focus on the economics of depression might push some right-leaning volunteers out of the meeting room, single-issue activism can still be reasonably inclusive. In contrast to party membership, which might require the broad embrace of a cluster of divisive policies, social activism hones in on a cause. A single issue can provide a point around which diverse people might coalesce, even when they agree on little else. At best, activists enjoy the community advantages of a cell in Putnam’s honeycomb. They can be tightly bound together as friends, but they also have a critical awareness of cracks in the overall social and political structure.</p> <p>Social activism can mean leafletting, door knocking and collecting signatures, but it is not necessary to get cold outside in order to change the world. Those that prefer the warm might turn to art. <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/3653925?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">William Morris</a>, the Victorian socialist and designer thought that joy in creativity was nature’s compensation for toil in labour. Depressed in office work, we might still take pleasure in music, dance, film, photography, crafts or ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kali-swenson/social-justice-with-knitting">craftivism</a>.’ It is even possible to politicise a knitting circle if activists put slogans onto clothes, quilts and samplers, voicing the economics of depression in cross-stitch. Or they might write and blog together, explaining the world in order to change it. What matters is that we do all our work with an awareness of society, politics and economics, combined with a willingness to change all three.</p> <p>The British Minister for Health should be given credit for being innovative, but it is unrealistic to expect him embrace or encourage social activism. No Minister could prescribe social change on the National Health Service; part of the attraction of Putnam’s theory is precisely its political safety. Policy-makers are responsible for steadying the ship of state not rocking it. </p> <p>When Brooks Newmark, a former British Minister for Civil Society <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/03/charities-knitting-politics-brook-newmark">said recently</a> that charities should “stick to their knitting,” he meant to imply that they should keep out of political and economic issues. But that is the voice of the <em>status quo</em>. In fact, politics is precisely what volunteers should be doing—not least with their needlework.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/when-is-civil-society-force-for-social-transformation">When is civil society a force for social transformation?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/participation-now/hilde-c-stephansen-leah-lievrouw-nick-mahony/when-is-citizen-participation-transfo">When is citizen participation transformative? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Five ways to build solidarity across our differences</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation ourNHS Transformation Civil society John Picton The politics of mental health Activism Tue, 21 Aug 2018 20:02:44 +0000 John Picton 119353 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 1968: The revolution that will not die https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gregory-leffel/revolution-that-will-not-die <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How conservatives won the counter-revolution after 1968—and how they might lose.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GregLeffel.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/year-retro-1968-memory-737433/">Pixabay/Geralt</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CCO 1.0</a>.</p> <p>This year’s fiftieth-anniversary media celebration of 1968’s ‘year from hell’ feels a lot like opening a high school yearbook to reminisce about old friends. HBO’s fresh take on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVGRg89DbyM">Martin Luther King Jr's</a>&nbsp;last years and Netflix’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io3uQ6Q4NlU">Bobby Kennedy</a> bio-pic reconnect us to our ‘class presidents.’ And who can forget the colorful gallery of ‘classmates’ in CNN’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEnRklOsCCk"><em>1968: The Year that Changed America</em></a><em>, </em>from Abbie Hoffman and Daniel Cohn-Bendit to Alexander Dubcek and Richard Nixon?</p> <p>But so what? Why not lock up 1968 in a time capsule and forget about it? The answer is simple: because it was a hugely-significant event that even now refuses to leave us alone.</p> <p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Wallerstein">Immanual Wallerstein,</a> faculty representative that year for radical students at Columbia University, insists that 1968 was a “world revolution,” comparing it to Europe’s numerous 1848 national revolutions, many of which backfired, but all of which together redefined radical and reactionary politics for a century. Likewise, 1968 will play out well beyond 2018, but not only in a positive sense: it was that year’s reactionary counter-revolution that undid the promise of radical freedom and equality and continues to do so today.</p> <p>What did the Sixties’ “<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Sixties-Years-Hope-Days-Rage/dp/0553372122/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533332657&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=todd+gitlin+years+of+hope">years of hope, days of rage</a>” actually reveal? In a nutshell: a cultural transformation that marked the beginning of the end of white, liberal, male-dominated America as we had known it. The Sixties broke the cultural authority of liberal democratic-capitalism and the West’s grand narrative of ‘progress.’ A wide public came to agree with <a href="https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/beyond-vietnam">King’s demand</a> for “a revolution of values” to challenge the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism,” to which feminists added emancipation from patriarchy.</p> <p>We lost trust in our institutions, especially political institutions, thus commencing their 50-year slide into a crisis of legitimacy. Bourgeois mores and ‘high culture’ gave way to the sexual and pop revolutions; Enlightenment rationality to new forms of consciousness; the hegemony of homogeneous white culture to diversity; and excessive economic growth to protecting the planet. The personal became political, while identity and identity rights replaced national citizenship as the foundation of political solidarity.</p> <p>All these gains—and they are substantial when compared to the pre-1960s world—continue to define the left’s thinking and political culture. Disastrously, however, the’68ers never put in place a coherent political economy to institutionalize these gains; nor did they manage to assert enough cultural authority to define the new world on their own terms. Instead, that initiative was picked up by racial and economic reactionaries.&nbsp;</p> <p>The conservative counter-revolution began in 1968 with Richard Nixon’s race-baiting, ‘law and order,’ “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1970/05/17/archives/nixons-southern-strategy-its-all-in-the-charts.html">southern strategy</a>” and the shift of the anti-civil rights vote to the Republican Party. This story of &nbsp;white backlash in the aftermath of the Civil Rights era is well-known—‘white flight,’ continued housing discrimination, private ‘segregation’ schools, violence over mandated school bussing, resistance to affirmative action, and vicious ‘law and order’ policies that targeted African-Americans.</p> <p>But there is another side to this coin: the furious counter-revolution of business elites to protect their ‘freedom’ from the insurgent democratic and ‘socialist’ masses. ‘<em>Panicked’ </em>might be a better word in light of their perception of a concerted left-wing attack on capitalism. Just as the radical student New Left organized around the 1962 <a href="http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/sixties/HTML_docs/Resources/Primary/Manifestos/SDS_Port_Huron.html"><em>Port Huron Statement</em></a>, radical capitalism’s call-to-arms grew from the 1971 <a href="http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/"><em>Powell Memorandum</em></a>, and the movement it set off continues to drive the counter-revolutionary narrative 50 years later.</p> <p>The first part of this story has been well-told by economic historian&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Globalists-End-Empire-Birth-Neoliberalism/dp/0674979524/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533320991&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=quinn+slobodian+globalists">Quinn Slobodian</a> in terms of the acceleration of global <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/aug/18/neoliberalism-the-idea-that-changed-the-world">neoliberal</a> capitalism from the early 1970s. Neoliberals set two revolutionary goals to protect capitalists from insurgent radicals.</p> <p>First, to re-organize capitalism on a universal, transnational scale and thus place global markets out of reach of the influence of national governments, making markets less subject to national-scale popular democratic demands and freeing corporations to exploit labor and the environment at will.</p> <p>Second, to apply global economics in a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_to_the_bottom">“race to the bottom”</a> competition between nations, creating ‘austerity societies’ of disempowered consumers at the expense of social groups and their ‘market-distorting’ demands. &nbsp;The formation of the World Trade Organization in 1995 capped-off this revolutionary process of transferring economic power from nations—which ostensibly could be controlled democratically—to the much-less accountable global level.</p> <p>The second part of the counter-revolution’s story is unique to the United States. Historian&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Democracy-Chains-History-Radical-Stealth/dp/1101980974/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533335608&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=nancy+maclean%2C+democracy+in+chains">Nancy MacLean</a> and journalist <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Money-History-Billionaires-Radical/dp/0307947904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533335658&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=jane+mayer+dark+money">Jane Mayer</a> have at long last given it a systematic, critical narrative. Copying from the Sixties’ New Left revolutionary style and even adopting Lenin’s plan for secret, revolutionary cadres, radical libertarians created their own revolutionary movement for economic ‘freedom’—a capitalist ‘declaration of independence at the expense of popular democratic government.</p> <p>The libertarian’s ‘stealth revolution’ was not exactly a secret: Senator&nbsp;<a href="https://www.randpaul.com/">Rand Paul</a>, anti-tax crusader&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grover_Norquist">Grover Norquist,</a> the <a href="https://www.cato.org/">Cato Institute</a>, the legislative policy-setting council <a href="https://www.alec.org/">ALEC</a> and the <a href="https://fedsoc.org/">Federalist Society</a> (which has ties to Supreme Court justices Alito, Roberts and Gorsuch as well as new nominee Brett Kavanaugh) are all connected to it; while the 2010 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_movement">Tea Party</a> movement gave it more visibility. It seeks to restrain democracy altogether to protect a ‘pure’ market economy of ‘makers’ from the voting power of ‘takers’—the ‘grasping masses.’ Take Wisconsin politics as an example of this logic in action: Congressman Paul Ryan’s assault on welfare entitlements and tax slashing; and Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting, education-cutting and voter-suppression policies.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Their success would, as MacLean puts it, “unquestionably take the ‘demos’ out of American democratic government.” In terms of money raised, organizations created (like think-tanks, media outlets and activist networks), and numbers of employees, it is substantially stronger than the Republican party apparatus and has taken over the conservative movement itself, providing a stronger ideological foundation for the laissez-faire, democracy-suppressing, ‘classical liberalism’ that has defined Republicans since they abandoned Reconstruction in the 1870s.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>What are they after? Something far more prosaic than you might think, and deeply rooted in U.S. history, culture and jurisprudence: a return to the 19th Century’s<em> fin-de-siècle</em> era of <em>laissez-faire</em> economics and racial segregation (though they would deny it). Here is the connection between the racial and the business backlash after 1968.</p><p>Arcane as it may seem, the ultimate libertarian objective is a recovery of the U.S. Supreme Court’s convoluted 19th century history of applying the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution">Fourteenth Amendment</a> of the US Constitution to individuals, an argument always advanced in favor of business and segregation.</p> <p>Passed in 1868 to defend the individual rights of former slaves, the Amendment was <a href="https://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/beyond-publicprivate-understanding-excessive-corporate-prerogative">applied by the Court most often</a> to defend white individual rights—most famously, the right of individuals to discriminate on the basis of race (through the 1897 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plessy_v._Ferguson"><em>Plessy</em></a> decision legalizing Southern Jim Crow segregation laws), and to protect individual corporate ‘persons’ from industrial regulation and labor organizing (through the 1905 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lochner_v._New_York"><em>Lochner</em></a> decision that made regulation nearly impossible for 30 years).</p> <p>Returning the Supreme Court to this earlier era of ‘strict,’ individualist Constitutional jurisprudence backed-up by retrograde state legislatures that are permeated by the institutions of the counter-revolution ties the hands of citizens’ groups, unions and popular democracy and effectively creates a veto power over progressive government policy making and regulation.</p> <p>The result of ‘individualizing’ Constitutional law in this way takes us back to what legal scholar&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/World-Fire-Chua-amy/dp/B001GTV4SG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533337375&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=amy+chua+world+on+fire">Amy Chua</a> calls an era of “market-dominant minority” rule. By that she means the capacity of a wealthy minority (usually defined by race) to maintain permanent control over the majority—made all the more salient today by the coming minority-majority demographic wave. The net effect of the Supreme Court’s transformation in this direction will be nothing short of creeping <em>de facto</em> class- and race-based economic and social apartheid, advanced one ruling at a time. Hence the crucial importance of libertarian judge Brett Kavanaugh’s current nomination to the Court.</p> <p>We’ve seen this story before—conservative Court activism, unrestrained economic elites, judicially limited recourse for social justice, and a racial majority that perceives itself as ‘threatened’—and it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it took the Great Depression, the New Deal and the Sixties revolution to overturn it.</p> <p>This year’s 1968 ‘year book’-quality reminiscences may engender nostalgia, but they should be taken as a wake-up call to remember what was gained, and what we risk losing. The ’68ers (and the still-struggling left they inspired) have to face the reality that the liberal establishment they brought down in 1968—which despite its faults had produced hard-won advances from the New Deal to the Great Society—opened the door to a libertarian-conservative counter-attack that was intent on dismantling them. Libertarians are winning today by paralyzing the very political institutions on which progressives depend. We are stuck. No wonder we’re at each others’ throats.</p> <p>I once heard Wallerstein asked a question about how to translate anger into productive activism. “Cold, hard analysis” was his answer. It’s time to relearn the lesson that the New Left forgot but the Old Left understood: popular democracy and unregulated markets are locked in a perpetual death match, and have cycled back and forth through modern history.</p> <p>We need to rebuild our democratic institutions once again, recover their legitimacy, and assert collective cultural authority in favor of people and the planet to rein in the power of property. It was a new story in 1848 and an old one in 1968; it’s still a necessary story in 2018. The revolution is far from over.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/hans-georg-betz/everything-that-is-wrong-is-fault-of-68-regaining-cultural-hegemony-by-trashing-left">Everything that is wrong is the fault of &#039;68: regaining cultural hegemony by trashing the left</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/left-s-problem-isn-t-politics-it-s-metaphysics">The left’s problem isn’t politics—it’s metaphysics </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-catastrophe-only-cure-for-weakness-of-radical-politics">Is catastrophe the only cure for the weakness of radical politics? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation 1968 Gregory Leffel Trans-partisan politics Culture Activism Sun, 19 Aug 2018 19:11:03 +0000 Gregory Leffel 119235 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “The price on everything is love:” how a Detroit community overcomes a lack of city services https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kevon-paynter/price-on-everything-is-love-how-detroit-community-overcomes-lack-of-cit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A range of neighbor-to-neighbor efforts address basic needs that aren’t met by local government.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KevonPaynter2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Jessica Ramirez in front of the storefront that houses&nbsp;<a href="http://detroitershelpingeachother.weebly.com/">Detroiters Helping Each Other (DHEO)</a>. Credit: Kevon Paynter for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>A multitude of voicemails and text messages from desperate neighbors flooded Jessica Ramirez’s cell phone on a brisk morning in October 2013. Winter was coming.</p> <p>Using social media to reach potential donors as well as those seeking help, Ramirez created a makeshift donation center on the sidewalk outside her Southwest Detroit home. There, the community organizer and her neighbors handed out warm clothing to children and recycled beds, dressers and microwaves to new mothers who needed furniture.</p> <p>When school began the next year, she was at it again, donating reams of school supplies she had collected from businesses and individuals. “Everything was being done out of my home when I started,” Ramirez says.</p> <p>Recognizing her efforts, the property manager of an abandoned local storefront gave her use of the facility. That’s when her charitable acts became a community shop—<a href="http://detroitershelpingeachother.weebly.com/">Detroiters Helping Each Other (DHEO)</a>—where kindness and generosity, not money, is the currency of exchange. Their motto: Teamwork makes the dream work.</p> <p>“I would love to see us not need this anymore,” she says.</p> <p>“In the meantime it’s showing people the community still cares.”</p> <p>Decades of economic and population decline, a depleted tax base, and critically underfunded city services have forced Southwest Detroiters to self-organize, establishing a local network of goods and services to fill in for missing city services. The result is a range of neighbor-to-neighbor efforts, like DHEO, that seek to address broader needs that are going unmet by local government agencies.</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://cocswdetroit.com/2018/04/" target="_self">Congress of Communities</a>, for example, is a charitable programming organization that, among other things, offers anti-domestic violence trainings to Southwest Detroit residents in 2010. The trainings aimed to improve public safety at a time when it took police nearly an hour to arrive at a crime scene.&nbsp;</p> <p>A coordinated effort called<em>&nbsp;</em><a href="https://www.facebook.com/MowerGang">Detroit Mowers Gang&nbsp;</a>organized volunteers with gloves and protective eye gear to mow overgrown grass in the city’s abandoned lots and public playgrounds. The so-called weed vigilantes get together every other Wednesday to do what the city doesn’t, calling itself a “crafty crew” that refuses to let budgets and bureaucracy stand in the way of unruly grass on a playground getting cut.</p> <p>And the&nbsp;<a href="http://detroitblackfoodsecurity.org/">Detroit Black Community Food Security Network</a>, organized educational programs for youth and adults, and operated a food co-op to ensure Detroiters had access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. Its ongoing work includes a food council that promotes a sustainable food system and advocates for food justice and food sovereignty in the city.</p> <p>“The price on everything is love, man,” says Rico Razo, a native Southwest Detroiter and a former mayor-appointed district manager tasked with ensuring city services respond to residents’ needs.</p> <p>“It’s spreading love through giving with the hopes that the people they’re helping out—if they catch someone else who’s on hard times—that they pay it forward. That’s the model that [DHEO] rolls with. I think it’s been successful.”</p> <p>Three years ago, the city of Detroit named DHEO “Organization of the Year” for its role helping families recover from a fire that burned seven homes to the ground, just blocks from Ramirez’s home. Her generosity has extended beyond helping people in need. She collected a U-Haul truck of dog food to feed 369 of her neighbors’ dogs and donated straw to keep their kennels warm during Detroit’s cold months.&nbsp;</p> <p>She shares stories about DHEO’s work on social media, so that donors can see who they’re helping.</p> <p>She vets people who say they are in need to make sure no one is taking undue advantage of the community’s generosity. “We do our homework,” she says.</p> <p>She has asked for a police report in the case of a family replacing items they say were taken in a home burglary or documentation when a family asked for a donated bed to keep their children out of Child Protective Services.</p> <p>But Ramirez says a family’s inability to produce any of those things won’t be a hindrance to receiving help. And ultimately, the organization relies on trust between neighbors in the community and the social networks that underlie it.</p> <p>“Yeah, they get stuff for free,” Ramirez says. “But we can call recipients up and say ‘come volunteer.’ If they’re able-bodied, we tell them ‘hey go cut the elderlies’ grass’ or ‘show up to a community feeding event.’ And they show up,” she says.</p> <p>Razo said that for the longest time when the city cut back on services, including trash pickup, streetlights, and lawn maintenance, he saw self-organized community initiatives and nonprofits offer food and healthcare to people in need. After-school programs and summer jobs for high school students emerged as well as job training and job readiness efforts.</p> <p>City and state government services are rebounding but the hope is they won’t threaten what neighbors have already built to save their communities.</p> <p>Rather, Razo said he believes the city should look to them and partner with them to remove some of the burden and empower them to continue. He’s said he running for state representative to the Michigan Legislature on a platform that seeks to bolster Detroit’s community-based sharing economies, especially by integrating them into city services.</p> <p>“They don’t do it for us,” Ramirez says of business and city government. “The community takes care of itself without the suit and ties.”</p> <p><em>This article was funded in part by a grant from the Surdna Foundation and was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/the-price-on-everything-is-love-how-a-detroit-community-overcomes-a-lack-of-city-services-20180719">YES! Magazine</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kevon-paynter/with-marijuana-now-legal-los-angeles-goes-further-to-make-amends-for-wa">With marijuana now legal, Los Angeles goes further to make amends for the war on drugs</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kevon-paynter/before-nfl-took-knee-four-lesser-known-moments-of-resistance-in-sports-">Before the NFL took a knee: four lesser-known moments of resistance in sports history</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/caitlin-endyke-sean-thomas-breitfeld/breakfast-in-detroit">Breakfast in Detroit </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Kevon Paynter Economics Care Activism Thu, 16 Aug 2018 19:29:34 +0000 Kevon Paynter 118981 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Navigating the white water of these turbulent times https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/george-lakey/navigating-white-water-of-these-turbulent-times <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The struggle for liberation has never been about safety; justice is gained by confronting reality, however dangerous it may be.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article first appeared on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/navigate-turbulent-times/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GeorgeLakey4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">White water rafting, Rangitata Valley, NZ. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_water_rafting,_Rangitata_Valley,_NZ.jpg">Flickr/Rob Chandler via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The latest lurch in global statecraft—Trump’s dissing NATO allies then playing footsie with Vladimir Putin—leaves many scrambling to maintain some balance. Republicans for whom the enemy status of Russia is an article of faith are beside themselves. Democrats are running out of adjectives to describe Trump’s behavior. And activists who have been around for longer than the last election are wondering how to steer a steady course in the midst of extremities.</p> <p>It reminds me of whitewater rafting on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia, the kind where people aren’t supposed to even get into the raft unless they’ve had prior experience. I never paddled so hard in my life. At one point, even our guide was tossed out of the raft; thankfully a nearby kayaker grabbed him and returned him to us.</p> <p>When the activist and lesbian feminist writer Barbara Deming encountered Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth,” she praised his raising the question of balance. Fanon, involved with with the Algerian war of independence from the French empire, was writing about armed struggle for liberation. He said a major challenge for revolutionaries at a time of accelerating turbulence is how to avoid vertigo, the dizziness that accompanies highly emotional events happening around us.</p> <p>Deming’s personal experience in the 1960s civil rights movement brought that kind of challenge, she said in her reflection “<a href="https://www.warresisters.org/store/revolution-and-equilibrium-barbara-deming">On Revolution and Equilibrium</a>.” Deming found in the midst of turbulence that her commitment to nonviolence was steadying for her and others. Locked up in jail in Albany, Georgia, as one of a group of pacifists arrested for breaking the segregation laws, Deming undertook a fast that—when I saw her in the courtroom—left her hardly able to walk. The group won their struggle with the infamous Sheriff Laurie Pritchett.</p> <p>When I read her essay, I saw that her nonviolent commitment had a steadying ability to lead her more deeply into her center—where, as organizer and trainer Starhawk teaches, one source of power lies.</p> <p><strong>What does the white water mean for strategizing?</strong></p> <p>Whichever practices we choose for self- and group-centering, there is still the question of strategy. When paddling to keep up with the river, it matters whether you avoid the biggest rocks and how you handle the waterfall that lies just ahead. Black historian Vincent Harding&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/There_is_a_River.html?id=ppCEJb_lZh0C">likened the history of his people to a river</a>, sometimes so placid that the current was hardly noticeable, and other times racing at a furious pace. His metaphor helped me to see that in black history the ability of people to make the most of the rapids was linked to the group capacity they’d built in the quieter times.</p> <p>Community organizers know this, nurturing leadership skills and supporting group solidarity—so that when the white water comes, the team will paddle together. But what do we do now that we’ve already entered the white water?</p> <p><strong>Use opportunities efficiently.</strong></p> <p>We need to choose tactics that achieve strategic goals. Venting is not enough reason to have a demonstration. For a hundred years we can express ourselves through one-off actions and not make a difference. Corporate executives and politicians know that we can gather a hundred thousand or a million people together and that we’ll go home the next day. From their point of view, no problem.</p> <p>A politician running for office knows that winning requires more than holding a rally and then counting the votes. To win, they need a campaign. That’s exactly the case for activists: direct action campaigns give us a chance to win. A campaign has a demand, a target (the decider who can yield the demand), and a series of escalating actions that reflect campaign growth and increased campaign militancy.</p> <p><strong>Expect attitude change.</strong></p> <p>In the accelerating 1960s, a number of white segregationists began to accept the need for integration. In the turbulent 1930s, stoutly racist white auto workers in Michigan&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/unions-have-been-down-before-history-shows-how-they-can-come-back/">began to see the value of an integrated United Auto Workers</a>. I’ve watched patriots supporting the Vietnam War start to oppose it and family members contemptuous toward LGBT people embrace us. A century ago, while war and industrialization accelerated change, male chauvinists became willing to give the vote to women.</p> <p>As the river runs faster, the big problem becomes rigidity among activists who grew accustomed to excluding those who weren’t “in the know.” Judgment becomes more important than effectiveness, when activists would rather be right than learn how to unite to win.</p> <p>I’m told that increasing numbers of young people are now realizing that “the calling out culture” was a toxic trap, creating activist groups on campuses and elsewhere that marginalized themselves.</p> <p>As a gay man brought up working class, I am in touch with the fear that leads me to judging, to differentiating myself from people who I expect through long experience will keep the micro-aggressions coming. These days I rage and cry, at home, about the professional middle-class activists whose description of Trump supporters is riddled with prejudice against my class.</p> <p>It helps me to know that the struggle for liberation has never been about safety, about protecting myself inside a bubble apart from the reality that is out there. Justice is gained through campaigns confronting the reality and changing it. Ironically, the greatest availability for change is in those political moments when the ugly reality is most apparent, when the bigots yelled “fag” at me and my people as we campaigned for equality.</p> <p>In the midst of turbulence humans tend to “gird ourselves for defense” instead of continually scanning for the changes in attitude that happen around us. Then we miss opportunities to support the changes. It helps to watch revealing films like John Singleton’s “Higher Learning,”<em>&nbsp;</em>or listen to reformed white nationalist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510298/ted-radio-hour">Christian Picciolini tell his story</a>.</p> <p><strong>Support growing interest in alternatives.</strong></p> <p>Most people experience political turbulence as stressful, since it comes on top of what can be challenging personal lives. Some respond with nostalgia for the “good old days,” but others open their minds to an alternative vision.</p> <p>The 1850s in the United States was a period of whitewater. In the turbulence surrounding the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision, black abolitionist Martin R. Delany published a utopian novel “Blake.” Feminists and ecological writers famously published visions in the 1970s. We see the theme now again in the hit movie “Black Panther.”</p> <p>Alternative visions help in vital ways. They express hope, especially needed now by those distracted by the negativity of Trump. Visions help to create platforms for uniting a movement of movements, an essential if we want a living revolution. They also add significance to the new economy institutions that are being built in our midst, the start-ups for what needs to happen after a power shift opens the way to the new society.</p> <p>In her book “No Is Not Enough,” Naomi Klein shares the process Canadian civil society groups went through to come up with&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/resistance-cant-win-without-vision/">their vision of a just Canada: The LEAP Manifesto</a>. They intentionally called it a “leap” to distinguish from the step-by-step incrementalism that held many Canadian progressives in its soggy embrace.</p> <p>In short, acceleration of the pace of change opens opportunities that activists need in order to launch mass movements. After the failure of Occupy, we’ve been in a period of what I’ve called “low-grade depression,” a dogged determination accompanied by a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.</p> <p>Symptoms include plodding through tactical rituals (marches and rallies) and indulgence in blaming and guilting. The choppy white water of the river we’re traveling on invites a different orientation: to devise creative tactics as part of ongoing campaigns that can produce wins, to invite everyone to join whether or not they’re hip or use our favorite language, and to plant alternatives while taking seriously the need for a vision to replace the imploding status quo.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/reaching-trump-supporters-with-promise-of-vision">Reaching Trump supporters with the promise of vision</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 09 Aug 2018 18:26:17 +0000 George Lakey 119084 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What hope for the millennial generation in politics? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/oliver-ward/what-hope-for-millennial-generation-in-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="xmsonormal">Millennials are confronted by political systems that don’t look like them, speak like them or address their core concerns, but that may be changing.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="xmsonormal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Oliverward.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffdjevdet/28221768912">Flickr</a>/<a title="Go to Jeff Djevdet&#039;s photostream" href="///C:/Users/edwarmi/Documents/Documents/speedpropertybuyers.co.uk/">Jeff Djevdet</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Millennials have faced a litany of charges in the media from displaying traits of narcissism, self-entitlement and laziness to killing off traditional&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-04/young-americans-are-killing-marriage" target="_blank">attitudes to marriage</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/hey-millennials-stop-killing-the-vacation.html" target="_blank">vacations</a>, and even causing the future demise of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/jefffromm/2014/10/02/will-the-millennial-generation-kill-home-depot/#32c1283b522b" target="_blank">Home Depot</a>. They are infantilised and derided, branded as a generation of “<a href="http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/05/26/nation-peter-pans-have-created-country-filled-with-perpetual-children.html" target="_blank">Peter Pans</a>”&nbsp;who shun responsibility and fear growing up.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">But unlike the baby boomers before them, millennials have not had the opportunity to step out of their parent’s shadow and flourish. The economic climate of the 21st&nbsp;century has produced a generation of overworked and underpaid employees living through a rise in right-wing thought that is testing the resilience of the political system on both sides of the Atlantic.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">In the US, the average millennial enters the workforce with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/annajohansson/2017/09/28/why-are-millennial-salaries-disproportionately-low/#75c3b91a23f8" target="_blank">more than $37,000 of student debt.&nbsp;</a> Millennial unemployment is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ballstatedaily.com/article/2016/10/news-millennial-unemployment" target="_blank">more than double</a>&nbsp;the national average, and those who do find work are paid salaries that are&nbsp;<a href="http://fortune.com/2017/03/29/millennials-income-chart/" target="_blank">20 per cent lower</a>&nbsp;than those the baby boomers received when they were the same age. Between 2008 and 2013, millennials were the only section of the workforce who saw their&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-unluckiest-generation-what-will-become-of-millennials/275336/" target="_blank">real wages fall</a>.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">With real wages sinking and student debt climbing, economic circumstances are causing millennials to postpone taking on financial responsibilities. In 1985, the 21-34 demographic accounted for&nbsp;38 per cent&nbsp;of America’s car sales, a figure that <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-unluckiest-generation-what-will-become-of-millennials/275336/">had fallen to 27 per cent by 2010</a>. Between 2008 and 2011,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-unluckiest-generation-what-will-become-of-millennials/275336/" target="_blank">half as many</a>&nbsp;young people took out a mortgage than between 1998 and 2001. Despite falling prices for food and clothing, younger generations trail their parents' wealth at the equivalent age by&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-unluckiest-generation-what-will-become-of-millennials/275336/" target="_blank">seven percentage points</a>.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">The decision to put off marriage, children, and purchasing a home is not borne out of some &nbsp;“Peter Pan syndrome;” it’s a product of the economic uncertainty that faces most millennials, who havn’t been fed the same economic nourishment that promoted maturity, self-sufficiency and independence among their parents. Instead, economic malnourishment has left many craving the financial safety and security of the nest.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-unluckiest-generation-what-will-become-of-millennials/275336/" target="_blank">More than a third</a>&nbsp;of 25-29-year-olds report moving back into the family home at some point.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Millennials grew up with the mantra that a college degree guarantees a better life, but after graduating into a recession they are discovering that this is an illusion. Education-inflation has eroded the value of an undergraduate degree even though employers now expect undergraduate studies for even the most rudimentary positions.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Once entering employment, millennials are facing longer workdays. Rather than a lazy generation fused to their iPads, they work longer hours than their parents’ generation. ‘Manpower Group’ found that millennials in the US shun the 40-hour working week, with the average young worker putting in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.revelist.com/science/millennials-work-harder-than-parents/2601" target="_blank">45 hours</a>&nbsp;a week and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.revelist.com/science/millennials-work-harder-than-parents/2601">21 per cent&nbsp;of the survey’s millennial respondents</a> working more than one job to make ends meet. A ‘Project:Time Off’ survey also found that millennials are more likely to forfeit paid vacation (<a href="https://hbr.org/2016/08/millennials-are-actually-workaholics-according-to-research" target="_blank">24 per cent</a> compared to&nbsp;<a href="https://hbr.org/2016/08/millennials-are-actually-workaholics-according-to-research">17 per cent&nbsp;</a>of baby boomers among respondents).</p> <p class="xmsonormal">How does this feed through into politics?</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Millennials are confronted by a two-party political system that doesn’t look like them, speak like them, reflect their political views or address their core concerns about precarity.&nbsp;The under-30 demographic is the most ethnically diverse in American history, but the&nbsp;<a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/house/306480-115th-congress-will-be-most-racially-diverse-in-history" target="_blank">115thCongress</a>&nbsp;that took office in January 2016 was made up of just 19 per cent women, nine per cent African-Americans, seven per cent Hispanic members, three per cent Asian-Americans, and one per cent openly gay members.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">That’s one reason why young voters are disenchanted with politics. Baby boomers now outvote millennials by some&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/02/the-liberal-millennial-revolution/470826/" target="_blank">30 per cent</a>&nbsp;and voting among the under-30 demographic in non-presidential elections is at its&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/02/the-liberal-millennial-revolution/470826/" target="_blank">lowest rate</a>&nbsp;in 50 years. This means that millennial concerns are often overlooked in favour of themes that resonate with a candidate’s older core voters. But without candidates that inspire them, a growing number of young people are turning their backs on the traditional political system.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">A growing majority of 18-35 year old voters reject the core values of both the Democrats and the Republicans. A Reuters/IPSOS poll showed that the Democrats&nbsp;<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-millennials/exclusive-democrats-lose-ground-with-millennials-reuters-ipsos-poll-idUSKBN1I10YH" target="_blank">have lost nine percentage points</a>&nbsp;of support among voters aged 18-35 in the last two years. But this support is not going to the Republican Party. Only&nbsp;<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-millennials/exclusive-democrats-lose-ground-with-millennials-reuters-ipsos-poll-idUSKBN1I10YH">28 per cent&nbsp;of 18-35 voters</a> expressed support for the Republicans, the same figure as two-years ago.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">These unaffiliated voters are politically receptive and ready to put their support behind a candidate or a party that speaks for them. But neither of the established parties have offered much to excite the millennial generation. However, when millennials do mobilise behind a candidate they become a powerful voting bloc. Bernie Sanders attracted more than&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/02/the-liberal-millennial-revolution/470826/" target="_blank">80 per cent</a>&nbsp;of the under-30 vote in key states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and partly as a result was able to mount a coherent campaign in the Democratic presidential primaries.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Most recently, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez">Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez</a> has emerged as a beacon for millennial voters. A 28-year-old community activist and former Bernie Sanders campaign organizer, Ocasio-Cortez defeated the incumbent and senior leader of the House, Joseph Crowley, in New York’s 14th&nbsp;Congressional District Democratic primary in June 2018.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Ocasio-Cortez is running on a Democratic platform, but she doesn’t fit the Democratic mould. On paper, she is even further to the left than Sanders, and supports the abolition of ICE (America’s immigration enforcement agency), free college tuition, and universal healthcare. Her off-the-script running campaign acknowledged her break from the Democratic faithful. Rather than targeting Democratic voters she went after the unaffiliated, persuading them to register as Democrats to vote in the primary, which they did in overwhelming numbers.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">The Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez campaigns have shed some light on what it might take to bring millennial voters back into the political fold, and what the future of American politics could look like if they did.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Firstly, millennials don’t subscribe to the current two-party model. Although Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez emerged from within the Democratic Party they occupy the fringes, living in a political River Styx with one foot in the Democratic camp and the other in a political world of their own making.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Secondly, millennial voters are not single-issue voters. Unlike their parent’s generation, just because a candidate aligns with them on one core issue doesn’t mean that they will feel sufficiently inspired to head to the polls and vote. This was evident in the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump ran on a platform to reduce the influence of established economic and political interests in politics—a message that is often promoted in millennial circles—but he still&nbsp;<a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2016/11/21/how-millennials-voted/" target="_blank">lost the youth vote</a>&nbsp;to Hilary Clinton.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Finally, young people are acutely aware of the limitations of the four-year-democratic-cycle. They crave solutions to problems that transcend such cycles like climate change and racial injustice. Neither problem has a solution which can demonstrate results within a single term. These issues consistently rank at the top of millennial voter agendas but are rarely priorities for established political candidates, who prefer to channel resources into issues which have quick solutions and produce tangible results that they can call on to drive their re-election campaigns.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">But as generational shifts reduce the political influence of the baby boomers, millennials have the opportunity to transform American politics. They have the chance to break up the two-party system, perhaps introducing new parties founded on millennial values or pushing the Democratic Party to the left. Millennial voters could also force both parties to confront the limitations of the current political system. Revitalising democracy to tackle the problems of the modern world would inspire millennial voters and could lead to the emergence of grassroots movements campaigning for reform within the American political system.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Ocasio-Cortez was recently quoted in the left-wing magazine ‘In These Times’ as&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-new-york-20180627-story.html" target="_blank">saying this:</a>&nbsp;“the only time we create any kind of substantive change is when we reach out to a disaffected electorate and inspire and motivate them to vote.”</p> <p class="xmsonormal">In millennials she has found a whole generation of disaffected voters—disaffected by an economy that has left them working longer hours for less pay than their parents’ generation; disaffected by the pursuit of education and a better life that has left them saddled with debt; and disaffected by a political system that has pushed them and their left-leaning beliefs into the margins.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders are showing that millennial voters carry political clout, and that it is perfectly possible to bring them back into the political fold. The Democrats and Republicans can ill-afford to dismiss them as non-voters in the future. Whether or not the two party system survives, the millennial generation will be a force to be reckoned with in the future of American politics.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/saskia-brechenmacher/democratic-distress-in-europe-and-usa-transatlantic-malaise">Democratic distress in Europe and the USA: a transatlantic malaise? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/when-will-there-be-harmony">When will there be harmony?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/where-are-all-leaders">Where are all the leaders?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Democracy and government Oliver Ward Trans-partisan politics Activism Tue, 31 Jul 2018 19:15:32 +0000 Oliver Ward 118979 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Could shock tactics do more harm than good to the vegan cause? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chris-fittock/could-shock-tactics-do-more-harm-than-good-to-vegan-cause <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As veganism advances in popular culture it makes sense to shift the movement’s strategies from ‘horror’ to ‘hipster.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ChrisFittock.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Inside Veganz, a vegan supermarket in Berlin. <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Veganz,_Schivelbeiner_Stra%C3%9Fe_34,_Berlin,_June_2012.jpg">Flickr/Josefine Stenudd via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC 1.0 Universal</a>.</p> <p>The slaughterhouse: as a locus of elemental horror it’s surely sited near the foot of hell. A grind-core kitchen of mechanical death; a bone-yard of plenty; an acre of flesh; a dead weight of muscle, blood and spine.</p> <p>This image is at once real and rhetorical, its cruel rationale demanding the type of language usually reserved for myth or nightmare yet actual and abiding, and even <a href="https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-07-02/countryfile-host-tom-heap-schools-should-visit-slaughterhouses-as-part-of-the-national-curriculum/">championed</a> by BBC <em>Countryfile</em> presenter Tom Heap as a necessary schoolyard excursion. The same image was also the visual focus of a recent workshop on veganism I attended at the <a href="https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/festival-of-ideas/food-thought/">Food for Thought Festival</a> held at Edge Hill University in the north west of England.</p> <p>Nine of us sat in a small lecture room—eight vegans and one vegetarian. Taken quickly and credibly through the health and environmental benefits of a vegan diet, it readily became apparent that the session’s centre of attention was animal advocacy. And so it came to pass.</p> <p>“You may wish to look away,” it was suggested before the videos rolled, “But nobody who views this sort of footage could fail to stop eating meat.”</p> <p>Ignoring the fact that everybody in the room <em>had</em> <em>already </em>stopped eating meat, the workshop became a site of collective penance in which to martyr ourselves for the sins of others. Look at this torture. Look at this heartache. The burden of the omnivores must be ours.</p> <p>Downstairs however, the atmosphere was different. The festival’s main space had been transformed into a busy vegan market, with vendors displaying everything from candles and confectionery to juices and junk food. The whole enterprise was fun, friendly and informative, full of aspiration and—perhaps most significantly—sheer ordinariness.</p> <p>Everything was vegan, but the aesthetic wasn’t something removed from everyday life. Don’t attend this market to be worthy but to be healthy seemed to be the message. Don’t purchase this candle to be ethical but because it smells great. In building support for veganism this seems sensible to me, and perhaps more effective as a strategy than the temporary shock value of images from the slaughterhouse.</p> <p>Can negative imagery play a decisive role in the movement’s maturation from fringe to mainstream, or does the advance of veganism in popular culture render such tactics irrelevant?</p> <p>The UK is reputedly home to over <a href="https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/veganism-skyrockets-to-7-of-uk-population-says-new-survey">three-and-a-half million vegans</a>—an increase of more than 500 per cent in just two years—while the Vegan Society reports that over half of all adults now follow <a href="https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/news/vegan-lifestyle-winning-hearts-and-minds-across-britain-survey-shows">vegan buying behaviour</a>. Britain’s biggest supermarkets are clamouring to catch up, with <a href="https://uk.kantar.com/consumer/shoppers/2018/is-2018-the-year-brits-go-vegan/">200 million more meat-free meals</a> eaten in 2017 than in the previous year, and an additional £30 million spent on meat-free products. Meanwhile <em><a href="https://veganuary.com/blog/a-record-breaking-veganuary-2018/">Veganuary</a></em> has seen the number of registered participants rise from 59,500 in 2017 to 168,500 in 2018. Google Trends showed a 525 per cent increase in searches for the term ‘vegan’ between January 2014 and January 2018.</p> <p>Clearly, the growth of vegan culture has been exponential, but the traditional provocation of graphic imagery may not be the primary cause. In 2018 for example, for the first time health and environmental concerns surpassed animal welfare as the top reasons for registering with <em>Veganuary</em>, while NeoReach’s top ten Vegan Influencers on Instagram now concern themselves exclusively with healthy living and environmentalism. Of the ten most subscribed-to vegan channels on YouTube, nine are food and lifestyle-based and the tenth (“The Dodo”) focuses on feel-good narratives.</p> <p>With around 40 per cent of vegans in the UK aged between 15 and 34, online and social media spaces are pivotal for information and advocacy, and it’s in these spaces that the movement must compete with lifestyle blogs, recipe websites, celebrity news, and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/catsofinstagram/?hl=en">#catsofinstagram</a>. When the noted vegan actor and singer <a href="https://www.instagram.com/jaredleto/?hl=en">Jared Leto</a>’s Instagram count exceeds <a href="https://www.instagram.com/peta/?hl=en">PETA</a>’s by over nine million people, and the plant-based food channel <a href="https://www.facebook.com/bosh.tv/">BOSH!’s</a> Facebook followers outnumber <a href="https://www.facebook.com/farm.animals">Compassion in World Farming</a>’s by a factor of fifteen-to-one, it makes sense to shift veganism’s primary mode of evangelisation from shock to swank and from horror to hipster.</p> <p>Admittedly this view derogates the cultural message of explicit advocacy documentaries such as <a href="http://www.nationearth.com/"><em>Earthlings</em></a>. If a key component of veganism’s rise has been the co-option of mainstream media combined with digital availability, then Amazon and Netflix have bestowed a kind of cultural commonplace on the deployment of graphic imagery, with <a href="http://www.cowspiracy.com/"><em>Cowspiracy</em></a>, which interrogates the environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry, now as accessible as <em>Captain America</em>. Anecdotal evidence for these films as catalysts for change cannot be discounted.</p> <p>However, appraising the efficacy of either approach rigorously is fraught with difficulty. Barbara McDonald’s 2000 <a href="http://www.animalsandsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/mcdonald.pdf">study</a> into vegan adoption strategies found that emotional shocks could be effective catalytic experiences; but Marie Mika’s 2006 <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/4494944">research</a> into non-activists’ responses to shocking imagery cast doubt on its ability to persuade. Neither is there any systematic evidence to gauge the extent to which viewers of <em>Earthlings</em> are self-selecting or casual, already on the road to veganism or unwitting carnivores. Nor do we know how many of the 1.5 million followers of the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/bestofvegan/?hl=en">Best of Vegan</a> Instagram account are actually vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, omnivore, or something else entirely.</p> <p>It’s precisely this broadening out that vexes many vegans, who argue that veganism without a moral basis is not veganism at all—it’s just a diet instead of a doctrine; a lifestyle rather than a different way of living. Such faddish co-option gives the impression of a problem being solved while actually obscuring the perpetuation of cruelty against animals.</p> <p>Despite the rise of veganism in mainstream culture and the increasing availability of vegan products in our supermarkets, there is yet to be any significant drop in the consumption of animal products. In the UK for example, the <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/716200/slaughter-statsnotice-17may18.pdf">volume of meat production</a> for April 2018 rose year-on-year by 13 per cent for beef and 18 per cent for pig meat, while consumer spending across all meat purchases increased by one percentage point. Meanwhile, production of <a href="https://dairy.ahdb.org.uk/market-information/dairy-sales-consumption/cheese-market/#.W0g7r34na7O">milk and cheese </a>&nbsp;rose by around one per cent in 2017.</p> <p>This goes some way to explaining why many of the vegan faithful—as opposed to the greenhorn fashionistas of social media—continue to utilise shock advocacy tactics. There is both moral purity and ethical clarity in confronting scenes of suffering directly, a strategy that refuses to accept that compassion can be divorced from justice and sees Meatless Mondays and <em>Veganuary</em> as little more than welfarist enterprises that fail to foster any fundamental changes in attitudes and behaviour.&nbsp; By making veganism ‘too easy’ we may misappropriate its necessary righteousness.</p> <p>The problem with this critique is that pragmatism really matters: attitudes and behaviour transform to different beats. Behaviour change relies on more than information. It’s contingent on adjusting circumstances, removing barriers and offering incentives. It isn’t theoretical but practical and experiential. It is Meatless Mondays and healthy living and five hundred likes on Instagram. These things are perhaps the surest way to shift beliefs among less partisan members of the public.</p> <p>Despite the occasional <em>Earthlings</em> conversion story, the truth is that such Damascene moments are exceptional. Behaviour change is more commonly messy and incremental, with attitudinal change evolving in its wake. It is unrealistic to expect that one set of tactics will lead to a swift and total vegan adoption across the general population.</p> <p>A strategy of shock and awe can be seen as contrary to a strategy of incrementalism, but does this mean we should ignore the indecencies of tearing calves from their mothers, or slaughtering sentient, intelligent creatures by the truckload? Plainly not: there are multiple means to the same end, and these means rely heavily on social context and circumstances.</p> <p>In my case I didn’t feel I could leave that blood-soaked workshop at Edge Hill University and sell the vegan message successfully to the unconverted. But I could say ‘try this brownie’ and ‘smell this soap’ and most of all, enjoy the experience without having nightmares.</p> <p>The truth is I felt relieved that there were no carnivores in the room that day. For implicit in the counsel that ‘you may wish to look away’ is the invitation to disconnect. It sounded like a self-defeating premise, and what use is that? I left the event dispirited rather than energised. Horror had overshadowed hope.</p> <p>Rather than shock and awe we need normalisation and encouragement. Incrementalism is better than no change at all, even if it means softening our ideological stance. The careless imposition of imagery that is repulsive risks repelling many of those we want to attract to the vegan cause.</p> <p>There’s no need to turn away from action on the suffering of animals, but images of gothic horror can do more harm than good.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/you-don-t-have-to-be-embarrassed-to-be-vegan">You don’t have to be embarrassed to be vegan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/gary-francione/it-s-time-to-reconsider-meaning-of-animal-welfare">It’s time to reconsider the meaning of ‘animal welfare’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Chris Fittock Environment Culture Activism Sun, 29 Jul 2018 17:12:12 +0000 Chris Fittock 118942 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The rise of resistance and resilience to tear gas https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/anna-feigenbaum/rise-of-resistance-and-resilience-to-tear-gas <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tear gas turns the square, the march and the public assembly into a toxic space.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This text is adapted from “<a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2109-tear-gas">Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of World War I to the Streets of Today</a>” and was first published in&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/resistance-tear-gas/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AnnaFeigenbaum1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A whirling sufi wearing a gas mask during the 2013 protests in Turkey in Gezi Park. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whirling_Sufi_Protester_wearing_gas_mask_in_Gezi_Park.jpg">Wikimedia/Azirlazarus</a>. <a title="Creative Commons" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/en:Creative_Commons">Creative Commons</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en">Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported</a>&nbsp;license.</p> <p>All around the world people invent, adapt and share techniques for resilience and resistance to tear gas. In doing so, they care for each other. They transform this weapon into a collectivizing tool. There is a growing transnational solidarity of tear gas resilience, aided by social media and mobile technologies that help protesters circulate relief remedies, gas mask designs and grenade throwback techniques. Displaying what social movement researcher Gavin Grindon has called “grassroots cultural diplomacy,” these tips are tweeted from Greece to New York, from Palestine to Ferguson, from Egypt to Hong Kong.</p> <p>In places like Bahrain and Palestine, widespread and even daily use of tear gas has made this chemical weapon a part of life. As a way of exhibiting and collectively processing this trauma, people sometimes transform tear gas canisters into other objects. Acts of anger, grief and memorializing emerge as artistic practices. For example, in Bahrain, people designed a throne made out of tear gas canisters to signify their royal family’s role in the suppression of democracy protests.</p> <p>In Palestine, tear gas canisters have been used as Christmas tree ornaments to send a holiday message to the United States about the role of its tear gas and arms manufacturers in the violence of the Occupied Territories. In 2013, images of a Palestinian garden made out of plants potted in empty tear gas shells went viral, picked up by mainstream media outlets as an image of hope and quiet resistance. Yet, as Elias Nawawieh&nbsp;<a href="https://972mag.com/photos-what-the-press-missed-in-bilin-tear-gas-flower-garden/80129/">pointed out</a>&nbsp;in&nbsp;<em>+972 Magazine</em>, absent from the news stories, Twitter photos and Facebook posts was the grave built as the garden’s centerpiece. It bears a translucent photo of Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was killed by the IDF in 2009 after being shot in the chest at close range by a tear gas grenade.</p> <p>In 2013,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/what-turkey-should-remind-us-about-tear-gas/">Occupy Gezi in Turkey</a>&nbsp;became a site of innovation, a place where people designed, adopted and adapted novel modes of resistance and resilience to tear gas. There was Ceyda Sungur, the woman in the red dress, pepper-sprayed at close range and turned into a movement icon. There were dancing ballerinas in whirling, brightly colored skirts that contrasted against the harshness of the full-cover gas masks they wore as they spun around. Penguins wore gas masks to symbolize the media’s failure to cover police violence, after television news stations attempted to block out news of the uprisings by screening a documentary about penguins instead of footage from the protests. Christian Gubar writes that “as both political commodities and stage props, goggles and gas masks were embraced for their eerie theatricality, speaking volumes to the grotesque banality of living under billows of noxious gas.”</p> <p>Rampant tear gas use on protesters and point-blank pepper-spray blasts are as common today as they were in the 1990s and early 2000s, with their use rapidly increasing across the Middle East and Eastern Africa. Like mobile video recording the decade before, the emergence of digital social media has meant that images of police violence against public demonstrators can circulate around the world in seconds. People directly hit with aerosol CS, pepper spray, and other tear gases take photos and videos that travel around Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, spreading stories often before the release of any official news reports. Such images can become movement icons.</p> <p>The 2011 Occupy movement in the United States was marked by a number of these tear-gassed iconic images. First there were the young women penned in plastic while unarmed and peacefully protesting. Images of this action went viral, picked up by social and mainstream media. Then there was retiree Dorli Rainey, who was sprayed directly in the face at Occupy Portland.</p> <p>These objects were as much about material reality as symbolism. Protesters in Gezi borrowed, translated, and reproduced instructions for making a gas mask out of a plastic bottle, and for using Maalox and other household ingredients as remedies for the painful effects of tear gas. Talcid Man appeared after a rumor spread that Talcid (a liquid medicine to relieve stomach inflammation) could help ease the effects of pepper spray. He emerged onsite, distributing the medicine as an embodied mobile care unit, and became a symbol of the movement’s resilience and generosity—depicted in stencils and sketches that circulated far beyond the occupied park.</p> <p><strong>Street medics.</strong></p> <p>In the gas-flooded streets, a variety of shops, sidewalk stands, ground-level flats and even a hotel became makeshift medical field stations, providing remedies and treatments to protesters. At these sites, health workers and those with basic first-aid skills converged. These medical volunteers often have a clearer and more accurate understanding of the real-world impact of “less lethals” than scientists running tests in sterile laboratories. It is here, under the tarpaulins of protest architecture and in the pop-up clinics, amid the chaos these weapons intentionally provoke, that the bruises and bleeding, the choking and vomiting, the inability to breathe, the concussions, and the paralysis are immediately felt.</p> <p>At the site of protest, pain is not a toxicity count or a threshold percentage. “Less lethal” is no longer a technical term but a vision of how much torment a body can take, of how close someone can come to death without dying. Measured in human experience, the medical field stations of protests can make visible the reality of riot control. Their ways of seeing and knowing medical injury can move us beyond the flames and smoke of media screens. They can provide far more accurate and detailed on-the-ground accounts than hospital records can. Their testimony can be mobilized to challenge the clinical trials produced by military-paid scientists.</p> <p><strong>Stopping shipments.</strong></p> <p>The export chains that enable the sales of less lethal weapons are also often targeted by campaigns seeking to intervene in what Amnesty International calls the “trade in torture.” In an act of defiance that ignited the unions in Egypt, customs worker Asma Mohammed, a member of her union’s women’s committee, refused to process a shipment of seven tons of tear gas from Combined Systems Inc. According to the War Resisters League, which honored her with its 2012 Peace Award, Mohammed recalled, “I said ‘No, I refuse—because I don’t want to be the cause of someone’s pain or death.’ So in solidarity with me, or with the cause, my co-workers said, ‘No, we’re not going to work on it either.’”</p> <p>In 2014, Bahrain Watch launched a #stoptheshipment campaign targeting Korean manufacturer Dae Kwang Chemical, which had contracted to supply more than a million canisters of tear gas to Bahrain—a country where more than 40 people have died and thousands more have been injured as a result of tear gas. Campaigners worked with Amnesty South Korea, Korean unions and local campaigns, as well as journalists at agenda-setting publications such as the&nbsp;<em>Financial Times</em>and&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>. These longstanding tactics were combined with sophisticated, contemporary uses of social media, including a catchy, action-based hashtag, timed retweets and a campaign-specific website. They succeeded in pressuring the South Korean government into placing an embargo on tear gas to Bahrain, stopping the Dae Kwang shipment.</p> <p><strong>Engaging in direct action.</strong></p> <p>Another way to resist excessive uses of riot control and protest profiteering is engaging in direct actions that intervene at sites where the transnational training of police forces takes place.</p> <p>In October 2013, the Facing Tear Gas campaign brought together organizations to&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/2014/05/urban-shield-will-make-boston-safer/">protest against Urban Shield</a>, an annual SWAT team training session and security sales expo that promotes the use of military tactics for protest policing. The campaign built a coalition of more than 30 local groups in Oakland, including the Oscar Grant Foundation and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.</p> <p>The next year they came back more organized, more informed and determined to make a difference. They created online petitions, held dedicated coalition-building meetings with council members, adopted a preemptive press strategy, and staged a demonstration outside the expo site that drew hundreds to the streets. Their efforts paid off: The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office announced that Urban Shield would no longer be held at the Marriott, and Mayor Jean Quan said that the City of Oakland would not renew its contract with Urban Shield. This was a small victory in a much larger struggle to change policing policies and practices.</p> <p>A key part of the success of the Stop Urban Shield campaign is sometimes called “going for the low-hanging fruit.” Trying to counter police use of force at the level of government policy or even at the sites of corporate headquarters will likely be slow and require legal action. Expos and SWAT training events held in public, or in spaces that have some public access (like hotel lobbies), are often easier to reach. They offer a convergence site for demonstrations, architecturally and territorially. Likewise, as sites where policing products are sold and displayed, expos offer activists an opportunity to make the secretive world of the arms trade visible. As the wide circulation of Shane Bauer’s 2014&nbsp;<a href="https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/swat-warrior-cops-police-militarization-urban-shield/">video exposé</a>&nbsp;of Urban Shield for&nbsp;<em>Mother Jones</em>&nbsp;evidenced, in today’s journalistic world of fake news, seeing verified information is believing.</p> <p>In addition, social media has changed PR, making image management a two-way process where customers’ influence is bigger than ever before. This transition is expanding the field of image-based activism, as people find key image locations—moments and partnerships—that are ripe for intervention. While this can appear to be auxiliary, targeting theaters or museums sponsored by arms dealers hits PR teams where it hurts. In this case, by linking Urban Shield to ongoing events in Ferguson and to Oakland’s past cases of police brutality, particularly against young black men, the Stop Urban Shield coalition’s multi-ethnic, queer membership made it impossible for the city council to support the expo without further damaging the city’s image.</p> <p>Importantly, it was not just the act of showing up and demonstrating at an arms fair that had this effect: It was making a global struggle local through grassroots mobilization and antiracist critique. Similarly, in explicitly targeting the Marriott, a large international hotel chain popular with families, Stop Urban Shield forced the company to weigh the profits of running this policing event against the risks of tarnishing its image. Getting the Marriott to pull out of Oakland’s Urban Shield is no guarantee that it will stop hosting similar expos elsewhere. However, Stop Urban Shield’s success in Oakland reveals a key pressure point that could become the grounds for a sustained campaign to get for-profit policing out of the Marriott.</p> <p><strong>Resisting from within.</strong></p> <p>In 2013, after I began writing in the media about tear gas, I received an email from a police trainer working in Eastern Europe. “I hope you will continue to read my message after I confess [my job] … I worked in this field for 20 years, and I realized that the high-profile policing (using force against demonstrators) is a dead-end, and I campaign for the communication-based or low profile approach. Now I lead a police training center and hope I can use my influence to spread this idea.” The officer went on to ask for training materials that he might be able to translate for his trainees. Letters like this one serve as a much-needed reminder that other worlds are possible. They remind us that we often have more in common than we think.</p> <p>It is not an easy thing to question the principles and protocols that shape your job and the way it is done. While my focus has been on advocacy from the outside, there are also a number of ways you can help transform how police are trained from the inside. In doing so you are likely to upset others around you, and you will certainly upset all those private consultants and experts who make money off the Saturdays you spend in their classrooms. </p> <p>Yet, by speaking out from within, you will be joining the ranks of many officers who have fought against the way excessive force is taught, enacted, and then covered up and protected within police departments. You will be speaking out against the cycles of trauma that can produce and perpetuate unnecessary uses of force. Change cannot just be about better public relations; it must also come from the bravery of speaking out from your heart and mind against systems you know are broken or corrupt.</p> <p><strong>What now? What next?</strong></p> <p>The increasing deployment of tear gas around the world has led to more canister strikes to the head, more asphyxiation from grenades launched in enclosed spaces, more tear gas offensives coupled with rubber bullets and live ammunition. These violent deployments of chemical weapons continue to leave people dead, disfigured, and with chronic physical and mental health conditions. If the century-long medical history of modern tear gas shows us anything, it is the problem with for-profit science. When science is leveraged for the profit of the few instead of the protection and health of the many, all of society suffers. At the most basic level, people deserve to know more about the chemicals that can be used against them. This is an issue of public health that must be researched independently and disclosed in ways that allows people to clearly understand the effects.</p> <p>Tear gas must also be considered in its material form—as an object designed to torment people, to break their spirits, to cause physical and psychological damage. No amount of corporate public relations or safety guidelines can hide that foundational truth of chemical design. Tear gas is a weapon that polices the atmosphere and pollutes the very air we breathe. It turns the square, the march, the public assembly into a toxic space, taking away what is so often the last communication channel people have left to use. If the right to gather, to speak out, is to mean anything, then we must also have the right to do so in air we can breathe.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/protest/anna-feigenbaum/tear-gas">Tear gas and protest: &#039;there’s a vested interest in escalating force&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/marijn-nieuwenhuis/tear-gas-at-eu-border">Tear gas at the EU’s border</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/julian-sayarer/twitter-and-tear-gas-on-power-and-fragility-of-networked-protest">Twitter and tear gas: on the power and fragility of networked protest</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Anna Feigenbaum Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 27 Jul 2018 01:08:18 +0000 Anna Feigenbaum 118184 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Remembering Dorothy Cotton, freedom educator https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lucas-johnson/remembering-dorothy-cotton-freedom-educator <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need to believe ourselves capable of something greater than the dehumanizing roles our society has given us.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/dorothy-cotton-movement-educator-democracy-freedom/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LucasJohnson.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Dorothy Cotton was the director of education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Martin Luther King years<em>. </em>Credit: Twitter/@natcivilrightsmuseum. All rights reserved.</p> <p>On June 10 2018, the world lost another veteran of the 20th century struggles for freedom and democracy. Dorothy Cotton, director of education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC, when it was led by Martin Luther King Jr., passed away at the age of 88.</p> <p>As an invaluable member of a legendary team of preachers and organizers, she was one of the few women at SCLC to have served in a senior leadership position. Amid the efforts to register black voters in the segregated South, SCLC came to realize that registration was not enough for a population that had been disenfranchised for centuries. Cotton wanted people to understand the mechanisms of a government that had never really represented them or their interests and, ultimately, make that government their own—a process that would involve much more than voting.</p> <p>She devoted herself to this work in the 1960s, ensuring that black people were taught black history and lessons important to economic empowerment, alongside classes on the constitution and ways to pass literacy tests. After the movement years, she went on to become the director of student activities at Cornell University and, among other things, supported students who were organizing in solidarity with the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.</p> <p>I didn’t meet Dorothy until long after she retired from Cornell. In 2012,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/remembering-vincent-harding-enduring-veteran-hope/">Vincent Harding</a>&nbsp;had asked me to join a historic delegation to Palestine that was being organized by the Dorothy Cotton Institute. I was uneasy about joining the delegation—which was mainly veterans of the black freedom struggles of the 1950s and ‘60s—but eventually agreed.</p> <p>It was a tremendous honor to be among such a remarkable group. Led by Cotton and Harding, the delegation was, in part, a testament to her commitment to education. Even before leaving, we read, discussed and shared insights. Since the delegation was composed mostly of African Americans and Jews, we delved into the complicated history of relationships between the two groups in the United States. But that was just one part of the journey we undertook together.</p> <p>I learned an incredible amount on that delegation, and I owe Dorothy a great deal for it. Perhaps one of the most significant lessons was one I didn’t notice I was even learning. Dorothy would use movement to push us forward during the more difficult moments of the delegation. She was modeling for me, and the rest of us, the role of music in the movement. She would sing because we needed it and call us to song because she needed it.</p> <p>I had learned about the important role of music in the movement before—that it gave strength and courage to weary and sometimes frightened marchers. I knew of the power of song, but the demonstrations of my generation had more chants than songs. To experience Dorothy Cotton leading us all in song, in an effort to renew our souls on a hot and exhausting day, is among the greatest blessings of my life.</p> <p>We sang often during the trip. I don’t recall exactly when we began, but there was a notable moment for me in the West Bank, after our group of travelers had been listening all day to the painful stories of the occupation. We had heard of the destruction of homes, the stories of beatings, brutality and unequal treatment under the law. The truth of the occupation of Palestine is difficult for anyone to hear and see, much less a group of people who witnessed and survived similar treatment in the segregated United States.</p> <p>Our bus had stopped in front of the “separation barrier,” which interrupts the ancient route of the Jericho Road. We had gotten off to see the tear gas canisters marked “Made in the U.S.A.” The canisters added the burden of our complicity to the weight of all that we had seen and heard. In my memory, we were quite silent when we returned to the bus, and it was Dorothy Cotton’s singing that broke the silence. “Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumblin down.” </p> <p>It seemed at once an expression of lament and a defiant call to hope. The song represented a strange juxtaposition of time: the story of the ancient Israelites, carried in a song composed by our ancestors while they were enslaved, being sung in a location closer to the original story, but at a time far removed.</p> <p>Palestine in 2012 was also quite far from the movement years of the 1960’s. But the lessons Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark and others involved in SCLC’s Citizen Education Program could be felt in that moment. They understood the importance of vigilance in the struggle ahead. Then, as much as now, in order to transform the world, we have to see ourselves and each other differently. We will need to believe ourselves capable of something more than the dehumanizing roles our society has given us. We have to look beyond the caricatures of ourselves, caricatures that we are so often tempted to become.</p> <p>In 1960, that meant that African Americans needed to free ourselves of the beliefs we internalized about our own inferiority, our own criminality. This was the importance of black history in the citizenship education workshops. The lies told about us for centuries were so pervasive and so penetrating that even if they had stopped 50 years ago, the struggle to free ourselves from them would still be necessary.</p> <p>For all of us in this country, and most especially for white Americans, our task was and still is to free ourselves of the corrosive myth of white supremacy — a myth that has touched every fabric of American life from local economic structures to foreign policy. It is a myth that so distorts one’s sense of self that it has the power to suppress empathy, perhaps the key component of our humanity.</p> <p>We know today, as clear as ever, that this myth is not easily defeated. This was the vigilance for which Dorothy and others prepared us. They knew democracy, equality and freedom would not be secured by the right to vote. To have considered this and prepared for it at a time when people were being killed for such efforts is a testament to the remarkable foresight and tenacity within the movement.</p> <p>Dorothy’s vigilance and commitment to freedom is what inspired her to travel to Palestine while in her 80s. She was unsatisfied with the official narrative of events. Through the pain of what we saw, the difficult conversations we had upon our return and the relationships we risked to tell the truth, she wrestled alongside us. Dorothy demonstrated a consistency of courage, even at a time when she could have rested on her well-deserved laurels. She modeled a life dedicated to the destruction of walls that divide us, and she was anchored by the belief of who we could become.</p> <p>I will remember her and celebrate her life not only because of who she was in the 1960’s—and the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/why-civil-rights-movement-veterans-didnt-fail-us/">sacrifices of her generation</a>&nbsp;that made my life possible—but also because of all she continued to be. She taught us how to be a citizen and how to be more fully human, even until the end.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/where-are-all-leaders">Where are all the leaders?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lucas Johnson Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 12 Jul 2018 20:50:32 +0000 Lucas Johnson 118780 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Migrant Quilt: re-stitching the fabric of community https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/valarie-lee-james/migrant-quilt-re-stitching-fabric-of-community-along-us-mexico-bord <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Memory is the first form of resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ValerieLeeJames.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Part of the Migrant Quilt, photographed at the opening of <em>What the Eye Doesn’t See Doesn’t Move the Heart:&nbsp;Migrant Quilts of the Southern Arizona Borderlands”</em> in Nogales, Arizona. Credit: Valarie Lee James. All rights reserved.</p><p>In the late 1990s in Northern California, we placed a photo of Liz (my late wife) and me, taken by the renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, onto a quilt. Friends and family members gathered around and hand-sewed keepsakes of their lives with Liz into the cloth: bits of jewelry, ribbons, and personal messages.</p> <p>By the time the black and white photograph, created for a national “Be Here for the Cure” AIDS campaign could be seen in magazines and writ large on subway walls, many of the people Leibovitz photographed would be dead: the cute guy, the sparky little kid, the strong transgender woman and the straight teenage girl. Few would make it for the cure.</p> <p>People died by the thousands while the government turned a blind eye. Families mourned, shrouded in secrecy. The closest friends I will ever have grieved for each other even as they, too, prepared to die.</p> <p>America as a whole seemed to shake itself awake only when thousands of AIDS Names Project Quilts were laid end-to-end on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., forming a master quilt strewn with names as far as the eye could manage—a seemingly endless landscape of unspeakable loss and undeniable love. Visitors dropped to their knees, humbled by such terrible beauty.</p> <p>Now in my backyard, another quilt—the Migrant Quilt Project—continues to take shape. Now on show at the Pimeria Alta Museum in the border town of Nogales, Arizona, it is inspired in large part by the AIDS Quilt. The Migrant Quilt panels are traveling across the country and the artist/activist Jody Ipsen (the quilt’s originator) and Peggy Hazard (the project’s curator), along with many volunteer makers, hope for a similar impact on hearts and minds.</p> <p>Women on the border often have a different take on immigration issues: more of a ‘tend and befriend’ approach, a kind of common sense, needle-to-fabric mend. The responses of women to the Migrant Quilt exhibit define the soft heart of what it means to be human. The day we visited, we watched female visitors leaving in tears.</p> <p>“Docents had to go out and buy boxes of tissues” said Ipsen, “you cannot walk away from this without being moved.”</p> <p>&nbsp;The 17 quilts in the project bear the names of people who have died each year crossing the desert in the Tucson Sector since 2000—the year the county medical examiner’s office began documenting the names of the dead, including unidentified remains. Patched together with denim, work shirts, embroidered cloth, and bandanas left behind on the desert floor, the quilts are scrappy in design and raw with truth.</p> <p>Many of the&nbsp;<em>bordados</em>&nbsp;(embroidered&nbsp;cloths) stitched into the Migrant Quilts are inscribed with endearments.&nbsp;<em>Contigo en la Distancia</em>&nbsp;(With You Far Away) or&nbsp;<em>Duerme Amor Mio</em>&nbsp;(Sleep My Love) shock the viewer with familial intimacy. These personal embroideries, sometimes used as&nbsp;<em>servilletas</em>&nbsp;to carry food across the desert, are often blessed then sent along with a traveling family member. The embroideries have come a long way. Now they rest alongside the names of the deceased. &nbsp;</p> <p>Each quilt represents countless lives lost on border ground, a hundred-mile strip of geography spanning two countries. The interstitial border region has morphed into a distinct culture of its own, and the quilts, with their binational contributors, fly its flag.</p> <p>On the US side of the border, volunteers create each piece according to their own inspiration. Worn material migrates through the quilts and melds in the viewer’s eye. Names of the dead rise off the surface in bas-relief like rogue wildflowers pushing up through the desert floor, commanding the same kind of attention as the white crosses we see strung with wire in and around the slats of the border wall.</p> <p>“Quilts have traditionally been made to memorialize loved ones who died,” said Curator Hazard, “and also, to raise consciousness.” In the Nineteenth century, women used quilts not only to raise funds for the anti-slavery movement, but to express their feelings about slavery.</p> <p>Memory is the first form of resistance, and quilt-making—a primary tool of resistance and remembrance—stands the test of time. At QuiltCon 2018, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual convention, the exhibits were honeycombed with activist quilts. The resurgence in “truth textiles” also carries on at the Social Justice Sewing Academy, which empowers youth activists for social change.</p> <p>The humblest materials can communicate what cannot be said in dangerous times, can comfort the family, and can mourn the dead. Quilting, embroidery, and applique—arts of hearth and home—remain a language shared.</p> <p>Two decades ago in Northern California, our fragile but fierce community took turns stitching Liz’s favorite piece of mud cloth onto a quilt. I remember the silence that day as we worked together, united in the province of memory. Craig, Liz’s long-time brother-in-arms, his large brown eyes brimming with tears, leaned over and carefully sewed a cowrie shell onto the fabric. Craig would be the next to die.</p> <p>Now, on our southern border, our neighbors continue to die crossing cultures. The personal is political and the political is spiritual. Rather than ask “How do we build higher walls?” we are best served as people to ask, “How do we meet?” and “How do we mourn?”</p> <p>The root of the word ‘memory’ stems from the word ‘mourn.’ The devotional art of making quilts in the service of others allows us on the US side of the border wall to touch the essence of the Other, to offer witness, and to mourn.</p> <p>The Migrant Quilt Project succeeds where rhetoric fails. Pinning and stitching, working the cloth to make sure the dead are not forgotten, these quilt-makers trust that no one turns a blind eye.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/kj_article/the-migrant-quilt/">Kosmos Journal</a>.</em></p> <p><em>The Migrant Quilts are on exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts, through July 15. After that, they will travel to Michigan and Illinois. See&nbsp;<a href="http://migrantquiltproject.org/">here</a>&nbsp;for the exhibit schedule and more information.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kali-swenson/social-justice-with-knitting">Social justice with knitting</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/virtues-of-many-sided-life">The virtues of a many-sided life</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/how-politicians-and-media-made-us-hate-immigrants">How politicians and the media made us hate immigrants </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation immigration Valarie Lee James Activism Care Culture Tue, 03 Jul 2018 12:20:00 +0000 Valarie Lee James 118604 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Building a different form of power: young people’s voices from California’s Central Valley https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/pacita-rudder/building-different-form-of-power-young-people-s-voices-from-california- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We are proud to be Black and Brown, we are proud to be immigrants and refugees, and we are thriving.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PatriciaRudder1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Members of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/99Rootz/">99Rootz</a> in California’s Central Valley. Credit: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/99Rootz/">99Rootz</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Driving down Route 99 in California mile upon mile of grapes, nuts, lemons, and tomatoes line the land next to the asphalt. Highlighted within this landscape of farmland and truck-filled highways are young people: strong, beautiful, Black and Brown young people full of fire and wisdom, unapologetically organizing amidst big agriculture and small towns. They are organizing for a Central Valley that provides all of its residents with what they need to be whole. At the center of this energy is “<a href="https://www.facebook.com/99Rootz/">99Rootz</a>.” </p> <p>99Rootz is a regional youth and young adult leadership initiative specific to the Central Valley, and was launched in early 2018 by Mobilize the Immigrant Vote and YVote. MIV-YVote (soon to be&nbsp;Power California) harnesses the energy of California’s diverse majority to create a state that is fair, inclusive and just for everyone who calls California home. MIV-YVote builds the power of young, immigrant and refugee voters of color and their families to win policy victories, elect and hold leaders accountable, and meet the aspirations of their communities.</p> <p>As a youth organizing project rooted in social justice, 99Rootz builds leadership pathways and safe spaces for growth and development for young people in the towns that surround Route 99. Working out of two offices in Sanger and Merced, Alicia Olivarez, 99Rootz Strategy Director and Crisantema “Crissy” Gallardo, their Senior Organizer, know firsthand the joys and struggles that young people experience in the region. Alicia and Crissy were born and raised here, left to attend university at Harvard and UC Berkeley respectively, and then returned to their hometowns to help build a movement of young people of color who are transforming their communities. </p> <p>Crissy describes her own upbringing in the Central Valley like this:</p> <blockquote><p>“In Atwater, I always felt like there was never anything to do. Public transportation was pretty much non-existent so getting around to the bigger towns was hard. Monday through Thursday my [farmworker] immigrant parents worked in the fields and on Sundays, their only day off, we would go to mass and then grocery shopping. That was our routine.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>My older siblings got involved with drugs and gangs and law enforcement was constantly at my house. My older sister was murdered when I was sixteen and my older brother was in jail at the time. That moment made me feel like I was the last child that could do something to make my parents proud. They worked really hard and their biggest dream was for one of us to make it to college.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I left for UC Berkeley [and] was fortunate to find a support system composed of womyn of color [who] helped me unlearn all the lies I was taught by the school system in the Central Valley, like if I spoke English well enough I would succeed and if I assimilated everything would be fine. My time at UC Berkeley challenged me to think for myself to find my own identity.” </p></blockquote> <p>&nbsp;Alicia told me a similar story:</p> <blockquote><p>“My neighborhood [in Sanger] was made up of hard-working, largely immigrant, farm and packinghouse workers. This included my family who worked the surrounding fields. My parents could not be around for numerous reasons, including needing to work, so it fell on me as the oldest child to take care of my siblings. I did this as best as a child can take care of other children.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Growing up all I could think about was how badly I wanted out of my reality, which included being accustomed to drive-by shootings, worrying about loved ones with meth addictions, and living in housing infested with roaches and mice. I just felt incredibly alone and hopeless.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Through all of these challenges I learned about my own capacity for resilience and transformation. To resist, I had to learn to cultivate my own hope and a different narrative of our communities and carry this with me in my work with 99Rootz. To resist collectively as a region, we have to plant, nourish, and cultivate our own narratives and hope.”</p></blockquote> <p>The scale of problems in the Central Valley creates a heightened sense of the absence of community safety and wellbeing. Elected officials and law enforcement maintain power by fabricating a performance of safety through excessive criminalization. True safety requires the inclusion of people who are the least engaged in decision making—especially youth and women of color, queer, and disabled folks—while also lifting up their power. </p> <p>99Rootz is shifting the ways in which these communities are viewed and the ways in which they participate in the political spaces of the Central Valley by utilizing a combination of culture and organizing. They are helping residents to create a future where all people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives; power that truly rests with the people.</p> <p>This year, youth organizers at 99Rootz are campaigning for safe schools and communities. The 99Rootz office serves as a cultural hub for young people to experience and create art; a base from which to run phone banking and door knocking campaigns; and a resource for political education and voter registration.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the majority of people in leadership positions in the region hold values that run counter to the needs of the majority of the population who are Black and Brown. As Alicia told me:</p> <blockquote><p>“The Central Valley continues to be a political battleground when it comes to hotly contested seats, conservative congressional leadership, and prominent local criminal justice agencies allied with the racist federal administration.”</p></blockquote> <p>99Rootz works to change this from the ground up by organizing to elect decision-makers who have a genuine knowledge and understanding of the communities in which they work. They are helping to train the next generation of leaders in the values and skills they will need to govern faithfully for all.</p> <p>As part of 99Rootz’ commitment to providing young people with the skills and resources they need to thrive they lead a “Freedom Summer” in partnership with the University of California campuses at Santa Cruz and Merced. In the footsteps of the 1964<a href="https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/freedom-summer"> Freedom Summer</a> where young Black folks travelled to Mississippi to register as many Black people as they could to vote, 25 students from the Central Valley have come back to their hometowns as 99Rootz interns to organize young people in low-income communities and organize voter education and registration drives. </p> <p>They will also help to facilitate 99Rootz Summer Academies for young people of color. The academies include deep training on identity, political education, and campaign planning as well as a culture track through which young people can gain opportunities to create art and attend workshops that acknowledge collective trauma and create the space and trust to heal together.</p> <p>Crissy and Alicia’s vision is expansive, and rooted in love for community.</p> <blockquote><p>“[99Rootz is] a pathway that amplifies the local talent and resources that already exist in our communities,” Says Crissy, “Young people in the Central Valley are powerful. We are proud to be Black and Brown, we are proud to be immigrants and refugees, and we are thriving.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>More freedom centers will open up across the valley and more young people of color are going to be in the forefront fighting for justice. I want 99Rootz to be the vehicle youth use to transform our schools, cities, and region.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>We are going back to the basics, #eachoneteachone, sharing our stories, building our leadership, and taking it to the streets and ballots. The contributions of Hmong refugees, Punjabi immigrants, and Latina farm workers will be acknowledged and represented brightly in community murals, school curriculum, and elected positions. Our Central Valley is full of color, art, and pride. The Central Valley is the HEART of Cali.” </p></blockquote> <p>Alicia continues:</p> <blockquote><p>“I came back to the Valley because, although I was talking about social justice work and wanting to create change, I kept finding myself further and further away from those most impacted. By the time I got to Harvard, literally across the continent in one of the most concentrated institutions for power and privilege, I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Our communities deserve to be healthy by design and free from corporations that seek to profit off our people. My vision is for 99Rootz to help create pathways that are bigger than us, that are unapologetic about where we are from, and that build collective power.” </p></blockquote> <p>The model 99Rootz represents is important because it places power directly in the hands of young people from the Central Valley. They register other young people to vote in their high schools, talk to their peers on the phone, and walk in their own communities talking to their neighbors. </p> <p>What makes this work even more impactful is the integration of art and culture into organizing. 99Rootz recognizes that this movement is not whole until people start connecting to each other in new ways. When those in power want us to be quiet we scream louder. When they want us to be still we dance joyously with all our loved ones. </p> <p>99Rootz is making space for the creativity and joy that comes from art and culture to surround organizing work and provide what people truly need to grow and imagine a different future. They are leading the way and showing us that&nbsp;it is&nbsp;possible to be woke, to dream, and to change the power structures of self and society all at the same time.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/dan-silver/taking-pictures-that-mean-something-everyday-life-in-salford">Taking pictures that mean something: everyday life in Salford</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Five ways to build solidarity across our differences</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Pacita Rudder Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 26 Jun 2018 19:52:55 +0000 Pacita Rudder 118569 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Could NGOs flourish in a future without foreign aid? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/could-ngos-flourish-in-future-without-foreign-aid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Only when myths are revealed as myths can there be a clear-eyed conversation about the best ways forward.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/themythologyofforeignaid.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">“Self-reliance.” Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/taiwanicdf/6479907743">Flickr/Taiwan ICDF.</a> <a href="blank">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.</a></p> <p>The last few months have been a season of myth-busting around NGOs like Oxfam and Save the Children—myths like ‘bad things don’t happen in organizations with good intentions,’ and ‘charities have better management than other types of organization because their staff are so committed.’ </p> <p>Myth-busting is inherently painful, particularly if you believe that your own myths are true. The chair of Save the Children International has resigned and the agency is currently the subject of a formal inquiry by the Charity Commission. At Oxfam GB over <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/oxfam-charity-lay-off-100-people-haiti-sex-scandal-funding-cut-a8357476.html">100 jobs have been lost, donations are down</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/15/oxfam-warns-staff-urgent-savings-16m-haiti-scandal">program cuts are inevitable</a> according to a leaked internal document, while the Haitian government has <a href="https://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2018/06/oxfam-reaction-to-haitian-government-decision-to-withdraw-oxfam-gb-permission-to-work-in-haiti">withdrawn Oxfam-GB’s “right to operate”</a> “<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-oxfam-haiti/haiti-withdraws-oxfam-great-britains-right-to-operate-after-misconduct-scandal-idUSKBN1J92R4">for serious violation of the principle of the dignity of human beings</a>”—the very principle on which Oxfam was founded 75 years ago.</p> <p>It’s difficult to imagine a deeper wound than this, but myth-busting can also be liberating if it creates more opportunities for reflection and transformation: only when myths are revealed as myths can there be a clear-eyed conversation about the best ways forward.</p> <p>That’s what I hope will happen with international charities. In fact it’s already happening as these agencies rush to improve their protection systems and educate their staff about bullying, sexual harassment and the need to nurture a culture of honesty and respect both inside the organization and outside. The question is, could it also happen with other, larger myths that I think are holding the sector back?</p> <p>I see these other myths as a set of inter-locking ‘Russian dolls’ each emerging from the next. The first contains a set of once-popular assumptions about the supposed strength of NGO management systems, governance, accountability and communications, all of which have been tested and (to some extent) found wanting in the current crisis over the handling of alleged sexual harassment and abuse. </p> <p>Oxfam GB’s communications about events in Haiti initially struggled to keep up with a fast-paced story, culminating in a sleep-deprived <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/16/oxfam-boss-mark-goldring-anything-we-say-is-being-manipulated-weve-been-savaged">interview with the Guardian</a> in which chief executive Mark Goldring appeared to minimize the seriousness of what had happened—“what did we do?” he said, “We murdered babies in their cots?” <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1457796/flop-month-oxfam-guide-crisis-mismanagement">PR Week</a>, the flagship publication of the public relations industry, called this response “a paragon of PR cack-handedness” and featured the charity as it’s “flop of the month—the Oxfam guide to crisis <em>mismanagement</em>.” To be fair, however, Oxfam has since responded pretty well, and Goldring (who was not in charge when events in Haiti unfolded) <span><a href="https://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2018/05/oxfam-chief-executive-to-step-down">has announced his intention to step down</a></span> from his position at the end of 2018.</p> <p>In Save the Children’s case, information about the handling of sexual harassment allegations has emerged in dribs and drabs rather than being released in total and up front. It was only after the BBC revealed the details of a leaked internal report on the handling of these allegations that SCF-UK shared it with the public, “ to ensure there is a full picture of the situation at the time and the actions taken since” as <a href="https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/save-the-children-statement-">a press statement issued by the charity on March 7 2018</a> put it. </p> <p>After Save the Children International’s chairman, Sir Alan Parker, <a href="https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/80453782-7232-427d-be6e-64633734bf7e">gave oral evidence to the Parliamentary Committee on International Development’s Inquiry</a> on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in the Aid Sector on May 22, he still wrote <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/international-development/Letter-from-Sir-Alan-Parker.pdf">a supplementary letter</a> to MPs to provide more details on exactly what had happened in answer to their questions. That’s the problem with this kind of drip-feed information strategy: even when you’re innocent it can make you look guilty.</p> <p>Lurking in the background is another, deeper myth that could be seen to act as a rationale for missteps like these: that the ‘ends justify the means.’ </p> <p>In the case of both Oxfam GB and SCF-UK, some information in the agencies’ own internal reports was not made public at the time of the investigations in order to protect the reputation of the organizations, their funding, and their ability to carry out their work—a justifiable decision but one that was to backfire badly. Oxfam only released its 2011 report on Haiti on <a href="https://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2018/02/oxfam-releases-report-into-allegations-of-sexual-misconduct-in-haiti">February 19 2018</a>, eight years after the events in question and ten days after the Times published an expose of these events. </p> <p>As an <a href="https://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2018/02/oxfam-releases-report-into-allegations-of-sexual-misconduct-in-haiti">Oxfam press release put it</a> at the time, “We are making this exceptional publication because we want to be as transparent as possible about the decisions we made during this particular investigation and in recognition of the breach of trust that has been caused,” a sentiment echoed by Goldring in his <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/16/oxfam-boss-mark-goldring-anything-we-say-is-being-manipulated-weve-been-savaged">interview with the Guardian</a>: “I believe it was done in good faith to try to balance being transparent and protecting Oxfam’s work,” he said. But the fact that Oxfam had not told the full truth about what had happened stoked up the negative press coverage and produced a furor that created exactly the damage that Oxfam wanted to avoid. </p> <p>At Save the Children-UK, a confidential, internal report from 2015 into the handling of allegations of sexual harassment against two senior staff members concluded that “There existed a management culture that did not sufficiently adhere to established and published policies and procedures” as <a href="https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/save-the-children-statement-">an SCF-UK press statement from March 2018 put it</a>. Exactly why the agency fell short in this respect is a matter of conjecture, but a number of insiders including Jonathan Glennie (who was SCF-UK’s Policy Director at the time the allegations were made) have speculated that the agency had developed a culture of “macho behavior,” <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">as Glennie describes it</a>, that successfully drove the agency’s growth and influence but may unwittingly have eroded its commitment to care for some of its staff. For its part SCF-UK insists that it “has always sought to protect all employees from inappropriate comments and behavior,” as <a href="https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/new-save-the-children-statement">a press release put it</a> on February 20.</p> <p>One of the men involved in these allegations—Brendan Cox—“was suspended and a disciplinary process commenced. The panel included independent trustees and a QC, and the process was administered by a London law firm. Mr Cox resigned before it could be completed” <a href="https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/save-the-children-statement">as another SCF-UK press release put it on February 18</a>. Cox signed off with an email to colleagues that was later shared with the humanitarian website <a href="https://www.irinnews.org/feature/2018/02/22/former-save-children-staffers-speak-out-abusive-culture-under-justin-forsyth">IRIN News</a>: “apologies to all of you for any times I’ve been unreasonable, overbearing or relentless,” it read, “it was always with the best of intentions.” </p> <p>‘We may have messed things up or got things wrong,’ seems to be the message, ‘but if we did it was only to protect the organization and advance its work.’ Again, Cox seemed to be deploying an ‘end justifies the means’ argument. Yet Save the Children’s founder Eglantyne Jebb reached the opposite conclusion as far back as the 1920s: “so long as we are piling up injustices with our left hand,” she wrote, “we cannot establish justice with our right.” </p> <p>In cases like these the means-end myth may be rooted in noble intentions, but it is risky, and can eventually lead to a full-blown scandal. As <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-second-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">Glennie put it</a> in one of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">two articles for <em>Transformation</em></a>, “the <em>how</em> matters just as much as the <em>what</em>”<em> </em>in determining any charity’s actions and activities. And the only way to avoid the kind of damage suffered by both SCF-UK and Oxfam GB is to do the right things in the right ways in the first place—to be ethical in both ends <em>and </em>means with no exceptions. </p> <p>What is it that gets in the way of implementing this level of ethical integration? I’d suggest the third of my ‘Russian dolls’—the myth of indispensability that can turn international NGOs into hamsters on a wheel of endless growth and competition, constantly tempting them to prioritize their own organizational self-interests. </p> <p>Without us, says this myth, millions of people will die, or never go to school or be able to grow their own food, so please give us your money since that’s what will make the difference. It’s not surprising that this myth lies at the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/phil-vernon/what-s-it-all-about-oxfam">heart of charity fundraising</a>, but it’s also the ultimate insulation against pressures to reform, since none of us wants to be responsible for the unnecessary death or suffering of another human being. The problem is, in most cases it isn’t true. </p> <p>In contrast to the images of passivity and dependence that are retailed by much charity advertising, most people don’t need an industry of outside intermediaries to ‘help’ them realize their dreams—they just need to be to be trusted, listened to and supported to take charge of their own destinies in ways that place <em>their </em>agency at the center of the action, surrounded by the contacts and resources they need to make things happen both individually and collectively. </p> <p>Of course, everyone needs some help to do this properly. In emergencies they might need more than usual and in war zones even more—when people are starving they need food and water, not political correctness—and there are circumstances in which <em>non</em>-local groups can be especially effective because they can offer more connections and protection. </p> <p>But as a general principle it’s hard to argue that bureaucracies funded and governed from thousands of miles away are better-placed to provide support than local institutions embedded in their own communities and subject to indigenous pressures to improve over time. And if Oxfam and Save the Children haven’t been supporting those institutions to grow and develop over the last 75 years then what have they been doing? This is different from launching local franchises of global brands which is already common practice.</p> <p>As I’ve said <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">many times before</a>, there are lots of valuable roles to play for international NGOs in this scenario which are actually healthier and more effective in promoting their long term goals. The problem is that they won’t bring in the money required to maintain these agencies in their current size and shape. That’s the nettle that eventually has to be grasped, but once it is there will be less pressure to surrender to the means/ends myth, the ethical confusion it can create, and the management failings that may result. </p> <p>In other areas of life like our families, communities and social movements this wouldn’t be a problem, since the imperative to step aside is obvious: at some point, those who are older, or who have more power and opportunity, must move into the background so that others can develop independently and flourish, with all the risks and excitements this entails. “The golden rule is to help those we love to escape from us” as the Austrian theologian <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_von_H%C3%BCgel">Friedrich von Hügel</a> <a href="https://archive.org/stream/MN5160ucmf_0/MN5160ucmf_0_djvu.txt">once wrote to his niece</a>.</p> <p>But at the moment, asking organisations like Oxfam and Save the Children to envisage a world outside the foreign aid industry is like asking a fish to imagine a world without the water in which it swims: to 95 per cent of charity CEOs and board members it’s simply inconceivable. Nevertheless, planning for such a future is the first step towards the transformations required for NGOs to flourish in world without the asymmetries and contradictions that bedevil the current system—and which lie buried deep in the heart of that nest of Russian dolls. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/it-s-time-to-take-our-charities-to-cleaners">It’s time to take our charities to the cleaners</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">At what cost? A reflection on the crisis at Save the Children UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation International Aid Save the Children Fund Oxfam NGOs Michael Edwards The role of money Activism Economics Sun, 24 Jun 2018 17:19:23 +0000 Michael Edwards 118565 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fifty years later, we still have a dream https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rosa-pavanelli/fifty-years-later-we-still-have-dream <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the Poor People’s Campaign arrives in Washington DC it’s time to celebrate Public Service Day.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RosaPavanelli.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Ohio Poor People's Campaign 5/29/18, Columbus Ohio. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/becker271/28570189458/in/album-72157696830366554/">Flickr/Becker1999</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>They gather every Monday. Hundreds of low-wage workers, faith leaders, civil rights organizers, trade union members and liberal activists from all over the US have been taking to the streets each week since May 13th2018 to protest&nbsp;inequality, racism, ecological devastation, militarism and all kinds of discrimination.</p> <p class="m-2456473295912727091paragraphscxw101230683">They call themselves the “<a href="https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/">Poor People’s Campaign</a>”, a direct reference to the movement launched by Martin Luther King Jr. a few months before his assassination on 4 April 1968.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m-2456473295912727091paragraphscxw101230683">The heart of King’s campaign was a mule-drawn procession from Marks, Mississippi, at that time the poorest town in the poorest state of the United States, eventually arriving in Washington DC. Today’s Poor People’s Campaign will also&nbsp;culminate in a national action&nbsp;at the US Capitol on 23 June,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.un.org/en/events/publicserviceday/" target="_blank">UN Public Service Day.</a></p> <p class="m-2456473295912727091paragraphscxw101230683">This is not a coincidence. Only real access for all to quality public services like education, health care, childcare services, decent retirement, public transport, efficient justice systems and quality infrastructure will allow the fight for social justice and the reduction of inequalities to progress.</p> <p class="m-2456473295912727091paragraphscxw101230683">Martin Luther King knew this. On the day of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee he was supporting 1,300 sanitation workers who were on strike, convinced that a coalition of activists from trade unions, faith and social justice organizations was the best way to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.</p> <p>Fifty years later, this agenda is more relevant than ever in the US and the rest of the world. Public capital—as opposed to private—has <a href="http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a0c602bf43b5594845abb81/t/5a3850658165f5e58acc60c2/1513640041168/wir2018-summary-english.pdf">shrunk to nearly zero everywhere since 1970</a>. It is less than zero in the US and Britain due to austerity programs and regressive tax systems, along with a political framing that considers public companies as obsolete and public servants as a class of privileged workers who are expensive and inefficient. Not to mention trade unionists, who are seen as dangerous dinosaurs who should be mocked at best, and at worst imprisoned or killed.</p> <p>The consequences are devastating. Income inequality has increased in every region of the world in recent decades as the global top one per cent of earners has captured twice as much of GDP growth as the poorest fifty per cent, as shown by the&nbsp;<a href="http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a0c602bf43b5594845abb81/t/5a3850658165f5e58acc60c2/1513640041168/wir2018-summary-english.pdf" target="_blank">World Inequality report 2018</a>.</p> <p>This phenomenon is especially acute in the United States, where the top one per cent’s share of national wealth rose from 22 per cent in 1980 to 39 per cent in 2014. Most of that increase in inequality was due to the rise of the top 0.1 per cent of wealth owners.</p> <p>The battle to reverse these trends is tough and dangerous, as public sector workers are constantly under attack all over the world. The number of countries which tolerate the arbitrary arrest and detention of workers increased from 44 to 59 in 2017 according to the International Trade Union Confederation's&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ituc-csi.org/ituc-global-rights-index-2018?lang=en" target="_blank">Global Rights Index</a>. About 2.5 billion people in the informal economy, among migrants and those in precarious jobs are excluded from any protection under labor laws.</p> <p>But this is not inevitable. At&nbsp;<a href="http://www.world-psi.org/en" target="_blank">Public Services International</a>&nbsp;(PSI), a Global Union Federation dedicated to promoting quality public services, we are convinced that now, more&nbsp;than ever, working people need strong unions to fight back and secure good jobs with fair salaries and benefits.</p> <p>Just like Martin Luther King 50 years ago we have a dream: that one day&nbsp;workers of all races and backgrounds will have&nbsp;a decent life. "<em>One Day" </em>is also the title of a PSI&nbsp;<a href="http://oneday.world-psi.org/#/" target="_blank">series of films</a>&nbsp;on the world of&nbsp;labor&nbsp;which highlights the extraordinary lives of ordinary public sector workers around the globe.</p> <p>On this Public Service Day, we want to celebrate these workers. But celebration and struggle are not about one day or one moment. They are about building a movement that&nbsp;will&nbsp;last.&nbsp;This will be a long journey, but when social movements and trade unions come together they can win.</p> <p>It is time to shift the narrative. The struggle for universal rights such as a living wage, good working conditions and access to quality public services will never be outdated.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign">The Great Society versus the Poor People’s Campaign</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen">A renewed Poor People’s Campaign revives King’s dream of challenging class divides</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/steven-parfitt/future-of-trade-unions">The future of trade unions</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Trade unions Rosa Pavanelli Activism Economics Fri, 22 Jun 2018 11:56:39 +0000 Rosa Pavanelli 118539 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we can really learn from Gandhi? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Social struggle calls for true transformation, a trading in of old lives for new.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ChrisMooreBackman.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marche_sel.jpg">Yann via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Once again I’m thinking back to the 16th of February 2003. By that time, my own experiments with nonviolence had formed my lukewarm (at best) opinion of the marches and rallies currently in fashion. But February 16th was not a day to let skepticism reign. The Iraq War was imminent and people were taking to the streets. I knew I ought be among them. And, while I cannot claim that I stepped out on that winter morning with every bit of my hard-earned skepticism left at the door, I did step out. With an earnest and open heart, I stepped out. </p> <p>Downtown, I met up with a small group from my Quaker meeting. We wove among many thousands of our fellow San Franciscans, adding our voices to a resounding “no,” collectively and clearly pronounced in the face of the looming re-invasion of Iraq. It was an exhilarating day. It was a day of passion and purpose. Perhaps most dazzling and heartening was the knowledge that our voices were lifted in concert with millions of others the world over.</p> <p>Remember that? We were experiencing a taste of the immense potential of people and of the great underlying solidarity that bound us together. It was a marvelous day. And, it was one of the loneliest days of my life. The profound loneliness I experienced wasn’t simply a case of my skeptic shadow getting the best of me. On the contrary, it was the relaxed grip of my skepticism that opened me to the truth I encountered that day. In the painful isolation I had that singular experience of clearly seeing something for the first time that at some level I had known all along.</p> <p>Amidst the day’s exhilaration it was plain to me that something essential was missing—that there was, in fact, a gaping void at the very heart of it all. Deep down, I knew that this marvelous day was a day of certain failure. I knew that our massive mobilization to stop the war would inevitably and necessarily fade, and it would do so quickly.&nbsp;During the march, my eyes were invariably drawn by particular phrases scrawled on several of the signs and banners. And I couldn’t help but think of the person behind those catchy one-liners: Gandhi.</p> <p>Like every great prophet Gandhi is customarily placed on a pedestal. We revere him as a patron saint of nonviolence, a mahatma—the Sanskrit term of veneration meaning great soul—a larger-than-life figure we can never hope to fully emulate. We hold him at this comfortable distance, deeply impressed and inspired, while remaining free and clear from what he actually taught. Gandhi himself bristled at the thought of being called mahatma, doubting his worthiness of the accolade, and knowing well that such veneration would necessarily distract people from what he was actually doing. Gandhi urged his fellow Indians not to exalt him but to look at the nuts and bolts of nonviolent transformation. </p> <p>Over the last decade, I’ve seen my primary work as that of taking Gandhi down off the pedestal. I’ve studied him closely, including his teachings about Satyagraha, a term coined by him and variously translated as “truth force,” “soul force” or “clinging to truth,” generally used in reference to nonviolent resistance or a specific nonviolent campaign. I am committed to listen to Gandhi as a trusted guide with concrete instructions relating to my here-and-now, day-to-day life. Following February 16, 2003, this quest became particularly focused. I felt compelled to understand both the gaping hole I experienced that day and the nature of its possible remedy. I hoped Gandhi’s life and work would offer guidance. And in due time, I found this guidance in the space&nbsp;of a single paragraph penned by Gandhi at a critical point&nbsp;in his life.</p> <p>On February 27, 1930, two short weeks prior to launching the Salt Satyagraha, a pivotal episode in India’s struggle for independence from the British Empire, Mohandas Gandhi wrote a short article for a national publication. The article was called “When I am Arrested.” While the Salt Satyagraha has been the subject of immense interest to scholars and activists, this article appears to have gone mostly unnoticed. This is understandable, given the drama of the “great march to the sea” and the massive civil disobedience that followed it.</p> <p>The British, in order to maintain their monopoly on the salt industry, had prohibited any unsanctioned production or sale of salt. Gandhi defied British imperialism by leading a 385-kilometre trek to the Dandi seashore and lifting a now-iconic fistful of salt above his head in contravention of the salt laws. It stands as one of the most potent touchstones in the history of nonviolent resistance.&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s hard not to get lost in the drama, power and personality of the Salt Satyagraha, but if we look closely at “When I am Arrested,” we catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the inner workings and design of India’s independence movement. Gandhi published the article to put the masses of India on alert and to give them a final set of instructions. It also offered an impassioned battle cry, culminating with Gandhi’s declaration that this time not a single nonviolent devotee of Indian independence “should find himself free or alive at the end of the effort.”</p> <p>Within this call to action I found the paragraph I believe we activists most need to hear. The paragraph refers to the ashram that was Gandhi’s home, a place where religious devotees lived, raised their food and worshipped together. It was also the starting point of the march to the sea.</p> <blockquote><p><em>"So far as I am concerned, my intention is to start the movement only through the inmates of the Ashram and those who&nbsp;have submitted to its discipline and assimilated the spirit&nbsp;of its methods. Those, therefore, who will offer battle at the&nbsp;very commencement will be unknown to fame. Hitherto the Ashram has been deliberately kept in reserve in order that by a fairly long course of discipline it might acquire stability.&nbsp;I feel, that if the Satyagraha Ashram is to deserve the great confidence that has been reposed in it and the affection lavished upon it by friends, the time has arrived for it to demonstrate the qualities implied in the word satyagraha.&nbsp;I feel that our self-imposed restraints have become subtle indulgences, and the prestige acquired has provided us with privileges and conveniences of which we may be utterly unworthy. These have been thankfully accepted in the hope that some day we would be able to give a good account of ourselves in terms of satyagraha. And if at the end of nearly 15 years of its existence, the Ashram cannot give such a demonstration, it and I should disappear, and it would be well for the nation, the Ashram and me."</em></p></blockquote> <p>What struck me that day in San Francisco, on the eve of war, was that we peace-minded folk were entirely unprepared for the battle at hand. Our so-called “movement” lacked the depth necessary to sustain it. It came as no surprise, then, to see that after the bombs started dropping, we returned, with few exceptions, to our lives—to business, “progressive” though it may have been, as usual. Though committed nonviolent practitioners dappled the crowd that day, the marching thousands were not grounded by the presence of a core group such as that which gave such depth to India’s independence movement or the civil rights movement, which drew heavily on Gandhi’s teaching and example. Try as we might to organize faithful and effective nonviolent resistance, if we proceed as though the battle doesn’t require that kind of depth, discipline and training, our efforts will necessarily continue to come up short. And where does such depth come from?</p> <p>In Gandhi’s article, “When I Am Arrested,” he offers us a valuable clue: 78 people prepared for 15 years. In community life, they underwent the training of spiritual discipline and constructive work of social uplift. Though they were the core of the Salt Satyagraha, those 78 did not carry it out on their own. The great power of that movement was many-layered, involving literally millions of individuals responding to the direction of a superlative leader. But the role of that core of 78 was essential to the Salt Satyagraha’s success and the ultimate success of India’s struggle for independence.</p> <p>If we want to truly benefit from Gandhi’s guidance here, we need to enter into a deep and soulful investigation of this ashram experience, and discover what Gandhi meant when he said that the Salt Satyagraha would only be started by those who had “submitted to its discipline and assimilated the spirit of its methods.” Gandhi calls for true transformation, a trading in of old lives for new. What is remarkable about Gandhi the teacher is not that he introduced novel concepts—he said himself that nonviolence is as “old as the hills”—but that he so deftly systematized the transformative work of building a nonviolent life, and that he did it in a way that can be effectively translated for our time and place.</p> <p>Gandhi’s approach to nonviolence, which was the foundation of his ashram communities, points us to interrelated, mutually supportive spheres of experimentation. Nonviolence scholar Gene Sharp notes three such spheres in Gandhi’s writings: personal transformation, constructive program (work of social uplift and renewal), and political action, prioritized in that order. At the heart of Gandhi’s approach to social change is his understanding that the building blocks of a nonviolent society are the vibrant, productive, nonviolent lives of individual women and men.</p> <p>Effective nonviolent political action does not spring from a vacuum; it grows out of daily living grounded in personal and communal spiritual practice, and in constructive service to one’s immediate and surrounding communities. Nonviolence on the political stage is only as powerful as the personal and&nbsp;community-based nonviolence of those who engage in it. The importance of the ashram experience flows from this understanding.</p> <p>This fundamental aspect of the Gandhian design almost entirely eludes us in our North American context. Here, we most often employ the reverse order of Gandhi’s threefold approach, seeking a political response first, the building up of a constructive alternative second and the stuff of all-out personal reformation third, if at all. This reversal allows North American activists of faith to sidestep some of the most foundational aspects of Gandhi’s nonviolent recipe: namely, radical simplicity, solidarity with the poor and disciplined spiritual practice.</p> <p>Because we do not believe nonviolence requires these of us, we miss the necessity of the ashram experience. No one can build a nonviolent life as an individual. I may be able to practice some measure of piecemeal nonviolence more or less on my own, but if I’m going to pluck the seeds of war from every part of my life that I possibly can, if I am going to renounce and abandon the violence of my first-world way of life, I need to be surrounded by others whose knowledge, wisdom and experience will complement mine, and whose example and company will inspire me to stay the course.</p> <p>The 78 members of Satyagraha Ashram who were the cadre of “foot soldiers” Gandhi chose to be the nucleus of the Salt Satyagraha were doing all of this for one another for a period of nearly 15 years. This prepared them for the high level of self-sacrifice that Gandhi foresaw when he said, “Not a single believer in nonviolence as an article of faith for the purpose of achieving India’s goal should find himself free or alive at the end of the effort.” Until faith communities embrace this level of commitment and clarity of purpose, it is up to those of us who feel called in this direction to seek each other out.</p> <p>We need to hold one another accountable to this magnificent charge. We need to manifest our shared strength and leadership. We need to move together toward the key ingredients in Gandhi’s nonviolent recipe—radical simplicity, solidarity with the poor and disciplined spiritual practice. As we walk that long, disciplined, grace-filled path we and our religious communities will be rightly stretched. And in time, I trust that we will be gradually readied for sustained nonviolent struggle.</p> <p class="image-caption">Syndicated from <a href="http://www.earthlingopinion.files.wordpress.com/">www.earthlingopinion.files.wordpress.com</a>.This article originally appeared in&nbsp;<a href="https://geezmagazine.org/">Geez magazine</a>.&nbsp;Geez is an independent quarterly Canadian magazine dealing with issues of spirituality, social justice, religion, and progressive cultural politics.&nbsp;A version of this article appeared in Friends Journal, April 2006.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mark-engler-paul-engler/how-did-gandhi-win">How did Gandhi win?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/danielle-batist-arun-gandhi/arun-gandhi-grandfather-mahatma-nonviolence-peace">Stopping war comes from each of us: Arun Gandhi on his grandfather Mahatma</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Chris Moore-Backman Transformative nonviolence Activism Love and Spirituality Thu, 21 Jun 2018 17:45:10 +0000 Chris Moore-Backman 118071 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Eight lessons from climate organizing for today’s youth-led movements https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nick-engelfried/eight-lessons-from-climate-organizing-for-today-s-youth-led-movements <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As a young person, there’s nothing less empowering than listening to an older person tell you how real activism was done in the 1960s.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/lessons-youth-activism-climate-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NickEngelfried.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Climate justice activists protest the Dakota Access pipeline outside the White House in February 2017. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenmelkisethian/page1">Flickr/Stephen Melkisethian</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>.</p> <p>On March 24 2018 I stood in the rain in front of City Hall in Bellingham, Washington with some 3,000 people for the local March for Our Lives demonstration. It was one of 800 similar events happening nationwide that day, with about two million people participating coast to coast.</p> <p>The March for Our Lives against gun violence is one example of the wave of massive demonstrations that have swept the country since the Trump administration took office. From the Women’s March, to responses to Trump’s attacks on Muslims and immigrants, to protests against police violence, rallies for healthcare, and uprisings against pipelines, the last two years have been characterized by mass movements unparalleled in the United States in decades. Many, like the March for Our Lives, involve young people in leading roles. As someone who spent most of the past decade as a “youth activist”—in my case, a climate activist—I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.</p> <p>I became an activist while attending Portland Community College at age 17 in 2005. Inspired by a political science professor who discussed social movements in class, I researched projects like the Campus Climate Challenge, a campaign to pressure school administrations to curb campus carbon emissions. I got involved in pushing for recycling at my college.</p> <p>Fast forward a couple years to when Energy Action Coalition organized Power Shift 2007, a gathering of about 5,000 students in Washington, D.C. that included a multi-day organizing conference and a rally at the Capitol. At the time, it was the largest-ever demonstration for climate action in the United States. For many of us, this stands out as the moment the “youth climate movement” became a distinct force in progressive politics.</p> <p>I didn’t make it to Power Shift 2007. But I was in D.C. in 2009 for the next Power Shift, an even larger gathering of some 12,000 youth. Then a senior at Oregon’s Pacific University, I convinced three classmates to fly across the country with me.</p> <p>A lot has changed since those early years of youth climate activism. For one thing, many of us who got involved then are no longer “youth”—I recently turned 30. More importantly, the movement has grown in remarkable, unexpected ways, overlapping with other progressive organizing efforts. Indeed, my sense is that there’s no longer a distinct “youth climate movement” the way there was in 2009. It’s become several movements—for fossil fuel divestment, opposition to pipelines and solidarity with indigenous nations. Another way of looking at it is youth climate activists are just one part of a much larger coalition of progressive movements that simply didn’t exist on this scale 10 years ago.</p> <p>For almost exactly a decade, I identified as a youth climate activist. After graduating from Pacific University in 2009 I volunteered for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, focusing on involving college students in the effort to close Oregon’s only coal-fired power plant. In 2011 I moved to Missoula, Montana and spent four years rallying students and others to oppose coal export and mining projects. These last few years I’ve made a transition to supporting the growth and leadership of a new generation of young activists working on climate change or other issues.</p> <p>Like all large movements, youth climate activism has had its successes and setbacks, its enormously inspiring moments and others when it failed to live up to its ideals. What follows are some reflections on lessons from the movement, necessarily limited by my own experience and position as a white male organizer from a middle-class background. Despite this bias, I hope these reflections may be of use to people involved in today’s fast-growing youth-led movements.</p> <p><strong>1. Trust in students’ abilities.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the best things the youth climate movement did early was stop telling young people they were apathetic—as media figures&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/opinion/10friedman.html">like Thomas Friedman</a>&nbsp;were doing—and start saying they were powerful and inspiring. Events like Power Shift promoted positive messages about the abilities of youth. This inspired many young people, including me, to think we could make a difference and try to do so.</p> <p>Still, some national groups have not fully realized this lesson, limiting their work with youth to voter turnout drives, trainings and large rallies. With some exceptions, large national groups have been more reluctant to trust students’ ability and willingness to engage in tactics like civil disobedience.</p> <p>I first got arrested at a protest when I was 23, at a&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/montana-coal-protesters-argue-necessity-defense/">sit-in I helped coordinate</a>&nbsp;in the Montana State Capitol. I had studied the philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience and concluded that this was a step I was ready to take. I was less sure my slightly younger peers, who possibly lacked this background, would be willing to do the same. Yet, over the next few years, I was pleasantly surprised to see students who’d only recently gotten involved in activism step forward and risk arrest&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/stop-coal-train-tracks/">blocking the paths of coal trains</a>&nbsp;and sitting in at lawmakers’ offices.</p> <p>We tend to underestimate the ability of young people to intuitively grasp the significance of nonviolent direct action as a strategy. Of course, the opportunity to engage in this kind of activism must be presented in a way that feels accessible and meaningful—but when this is done, youth will step up. Have faith in their abilities.</p> <p><strong>2. Follow-up is hugely important.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Building a sustained movement means following up with those who participate to ensure they stay involved. A campaign that failed to do this well was Power Vote in 2008, a national multi-organization effort focused on getting students to pledge to vote ahead of the election. I was the campus lead for Power Vote at Pacific University and only later realized the flaws in how the national campaign was structured. We gathered hundreds of pledge cards with students’ contact information—but this valuable data wasn’t collated in a timely manner that would have allowed it to be used for following-up.</p> <p>Follow-up is important in all campaigns, not just those with students. But it can be especially important for young people who are mostly new to political engagement. Following up and reminding students to fill out their ballots, show up to the next rally, and contact their elected officials helps build habits that will likely keep for years—but it requires mechanisms to ensure their data is preserved and used.</p> <p><strong>3. Teach transferrable skills.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best activism serves two purposes: It accomplishes a campaign objective while helping participants master skills they can put to use in other contexts. This is especially important with young people, who often have little formal activist training but can take what they learn and apply it again and again.</p> <p>Many activist skills—setting up meetings with public officials, testifying at hearings, holding nonviolence trainings—aren’t actually that complicated but can seem vastly mysterious to someone who has never done them before. Once armed with the right knowledge, young people become empowered to transfer skills to new campaigns and situations. Accomplishing this means structuring movements in such a way that youth have leadership roles and get hands-on experience building campaigns from the ground up.</p> <p><strong>4. Be specific about movement goals.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I got involved in climate activism, we talked a lot about “comprehensive climate legislation” and “creating green jobs.” This sounded great, but it was sometimes unclear exactly what these words meant. This came back to bite the movement in 2009-2010, during the fight over national climate legislation that eventually went down in flames.</p> <p>The problem with vague terms like “comprehensive legislation” is they mean many things to many people. As it turned out, to lawmakers—like then-Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Lindsay Graham—they meant a cap-and-trade plan riddled with loopholes and giveaways to polluters. This truly terrible piece of legislation split the climate movement—including youth activists—between those who saw it as a small step forward, and those who believed it was worse than nothing.</p> <p>On the other hand, the campaigns that have done most to strengthen the climate movement have very specific goals tied to clearly defined strategies. These include efforts to stop oil pipelines, close coal plants and divest universities from fossil fuels. These campaigns have accomplished concrete wins while building coalitions that leave the movement stronger—whereas the push for national legislation left climate groups fragmented and demoralized. Fossil fuel divestment is a particularly good example of a student-focused campaign with an easily understood goal and clear framework for building power.</p> <p><strong>5. Partner with frontline communities.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not only is this the right thing to do, but it’s strategic, fun and empowering. Some of the most inspiring moments I can think of from youth climate campaigns involved students interacting with people on the frontlines of extraction and polluting industries. I’ve seen student activists collaborate with farmers impacted by natural gas pipelines, residents of working-class rail line neighborhoods affected by coal trains and indigenous groups fighting oil infrastructure. In each case, the partnerships that developed were (I believe) mutually rewarding for both groups.</p> <p>That said, building effective, lasting partnerships with frontline communities takes work. It’s not just about saying the words “people of color” and “climate justice” in every press release. This kind of work requires commitment to lasting relationships built on good faith and the belief in a shared stake in a better future. It requires learning form the people most affected by pollution so as to challenge fossil fuel industries effectively.</p> <p><strong>6. Partner with older activists.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another of the most empowering experiences youth activists can have is the opportunity to work with no-longer-quite-so-young individuals who have a whole different set of life experiences. For students, it can be heartening to see that their generation isn’t the only one concerned about the status quo. Similarly, non-youth activists tend to find it encouraging to see young people rising to build a movement.</p> <p>This doesn’t mean student and older activist groups should merge. There’s real value in youth-specific organizations that let young people bond and learn from their peers in a familiar setting. Different activist generations also tend to have different organizational cultures, which don’t always mesh well in the meeting room. However, none of this prevents youth and non-youth from collaborating on campaigns, attending each other’s events and building strong alliances. I’ve seen college freshmen and retirees sit down for campaign conversations that were eye-opening for both parties.</p> <p><strong>7. Have hard conversations about equity and inclusion.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the movement’s early days, national youth climate organizations have used a lot of language about racial and economic justice. This positive language hasn’t always been supported by the kind of on-the-ground organizing needed to truly combat environmental injustice and oppressive hierarchies embedded in the movement itself.</p> <p>The mainstream climate movement and environmentalism generally continue to be overwhelmingly white middle-class affairs. But today’s students seem more ready than ever to have tough conversations about dismantling racism and deconstructing environmentalism’s Euro-centric dominant narratives. As a white teenager, I wasn’t asking the kinds of questions that I should have been about these subjects—and I’m continually impressed by how much more aware today’s students, including white students, tend to be.</p> <p>This isn’t to say white students don’t have a lot of hard work to do to address the implications of their privilege—and some will do it clumsily, especially at first. However, while the hard work remains to be done, I see a willingness to begin it that seems more widespread than it was 10 years ago. To do this work effectively, students need support from mentors and organizations that are committed to equity and inclusion as much more than catchphrases or boxes to be checked.</p> <p><strong>8. Youth need mentors, not sages.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a young person, there’s nothing less empowering than listening to an older person tell you how real activism was done in the good old ‘60s (or the ‘90s, ‘00s, etc.). Young people don’t need sages telling them what to do. What they can use are mentors—people who’ve left their 20s behind and have experience and knowledge they’re willing to share, but do so humbly and with the realization that youth also have their own knowledge and skills to share.</p> <p>As a student, I was never particularly motivated by the argument that because the generation before mine screwed up, it was my generation’s job to fix things. I wanted to know, since that older generation was still around, why they couldn’t pitch in and help. I’ve also known many, many older activists who have tried to help in just this way, and taught me things I never could have learned by myself.</p> <p>The “youth climate movement” of today looks very different from the one of 2007. To become more effective it has both narrowed and broadened its focus. The narrowing is a result of it zeroing in on winnable campaigns like divestment and stopping pipelines, while the broadening is due to a growing focus on building bridges with other movements. Done effectively, both of these approaches may succeed in generating the kinds of incremental wins that could cascade into a national wave of climate and progressive victories.</p> <p>I’m deeply humbled by campaigns like the March for Our Lives, which succeeded in building a truly massive youth-led movement in a way climate activists of my generation never quite managed to do. Yet, when 5,000 students came together for the first Power Shift in 2007, few movements were prioritizing youth leadership the way climate organizers were. The story of youth activism these last 10-plus years has been one of gradually building power, learning hard lessons and setting examples of what dedicated organizing looks like. The climate movement made a significant contribution to this process. Without the work of climate and other youth activists over the last decade, some of the larger mass movements of today might not have come into being.</p> <p>What will youth climate activism, and young people’s organizing more generally, look like over the next 10 years? I don’t know, but I look forward to finding out.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-hoggett-rosemary-randall/sustainable-activism-managing-hope-and-despair-in-socia">Sustainable activism: managing hope and despair in social movements</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-davenport/strengthening-our-ecological-imagination">Strengthening our ecological imagination</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/robert-holtom/environmental-movement-blockbuster-in-making">The environmental movement: a blockbuster in the making?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Nick Engelfried Transformative nonviolence Environment Activism Thu, 14 Jun 2018 18:57:35 +0000 Nick Engelfried 117751 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The future of trade unions https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/steven-parfitt/future-of-trade-unions <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Unless democracy is reinstated as the movement’s guiding principle, organized labor will fail in any form.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/StevenParfitt2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Fight for 15 PA, SEIU 32BJ, and other unions representing fast food workers, home care workers, airport and retail workers rallied and marched around a South Philly McDonald's on Labor Day, 2017. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/109799466@N06/36216998973">Flickr/Joe Piette</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.</a></p> <p>British and American unions live in contradictory times. Scarred by 40 years of demoralisation and decline and with a tumbling membership, stringent legal restrictions on their work and fading political influence, they may also now stand on the cusp of a revival. </p> <p>A wave of recent battles on both sides of the Atlantic, notably the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/steven-parfitt/us-teachers-strike-in-historical-perspective">ongoing teachers’ strikes in the US</a> and an unprecedented <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/02/britain-university-strike-pensions">14-day strike by British university staff,</a> might anticipate a coming upsurge in trade union action. Smug corporate types like to dismiss unions as industrial dinosaurs, killing time as they wait for the comet to land and finally bring about their extinction. We might yet get to see the smirks wiped from their faces.</p> <p>The sharpest edge of this contradiction involves workers at the bottom of the occupational pyramid: the least-skilled, lowest-paid, largely female, migrant and non-white precarious layer of the workforce who British and American unions have historically struggled to organize. In the past several decades they have seldom tried.</p> <p>The failure of unions to organize precarious workers has gone hand in hand with a failure of internal democracy. Falling membership in the past 40 years stems in part from union leaders not doing enough to draw on the talents and abilities of their members. An active membership, with real space to debate and change what their union does, is essential if unions are to organise precarious workers and bring about their own revival.</p> <p>Different traditions within the British and American unions have addressed these questions in their own distinct ways. Each has their own take on what unions should and shouldn’t do, and each has their own approach to organizing precarious workers and fostering democracy within the labor movement. As unions teeter between revival and further decline, it’s worth thinking about what these traditions are, where they come from, and which we should support in the years ahead. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The first of these traditions is craft unionism. It was strongest in the unions of the <a href="https://www.tuc.org.uk/our-history">British Trades Union Congress</a> and the <a href="https://aflcio.org/about/history">American Federation of Labor</a> during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and represented the most skilled, privileged and powerful minority of the labour force. More interested in making improvements within existing social arrangements than in transforming them, their bargaining power rested not on numbers but on the fact that the members of craft unions were, thanks to their long apprenticeships and training, not easily replaceable. </p> <p>They were often contemptuous—and sometimes even fearful—of the great mass of workers below them, whom they saw as prone to outbreaks of self-defeating militancy which would jeopardise the gains that ‘respectable’ unions made through negotiation. In general, the craft unions ignored such workers whenever possible. </p> <p>The second, more inclusive tradition is industrial unionism, which found adherents on both sides of the Atlantic in the rise of the mass production industries during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Industrial unionists saw a greater role for unions in the fight for social change. This meant conceiving unions not as a minority of skilled workers but as mass organisations that could mobilise workers in each industry from top to bottom. </p> <p>In the US the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_of_Labor">Knights of Labor</a>, the <a href="https://iww.org.uk/about/history/">Industrial Workers of the World</a> and the mass production unions of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_of_Industrial_Organizations">Congress of Industrial Organizations</a> all succeeded to some extent in building a mass movement. The ‘new’ and general unions in the United Kingdom such as the <a href="http://www.unitetheunion.org/uploaded/documents/The%20Great%20Dock%20Strike%20of%201889%20-%20web%20booklet11-23272.pdf">Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Labourers Union</a> and the <a href="http://www.gmb.org.uk/about/history/birth-of-a-union">National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers</a> did likewise. Not coincidentally, they organised precarious workers (especially women and non-white workers) in far greater numbers than craft unions ever did. </p> <p>The third tradition falls somewhere between unionism and charity. What might be called ‘philanthropic’ unions do not rest, as craft and industrial unions do, on the bargaining power, numbers and militancy of their members. They depend instead on middle- or upper-class support to promote organisation among this or that group of highly exploited workers who, such supporters feel, don’t have the time or the strength to organise on their own. </p> <p>Some of the first major steps in the promotion of women workers’ unions took this form. In 1874, for example, Emma Paterson and a number of other female workers set up the <a href="http://dangerouswomenproject.org/2016/06/20/womens-trade-unionism/">Women’s Provident and Protective League</a>, an organization designed to encourage the creation of womens’ unions. The League survived for several decades on subscriptions from prominent ladies with aristocratic titles. As a result, it was more likely to call for collaboration with sympathetic employers than struggle against those who were unsympathetic.</p> <p>These three traditions all still exist today, and their future development will determine the destiny of British and American unions in the years to come. </p> <p>The craft unions of the nineteenth century may be long gone, but the spirit of craft unionism remains. The horizons of many union leaders have narrowed during the past forty years of retreat even as their strategy to retain existing members—the so-called “service model” based on the provision of fringe benefits more than on demands at the workplace—has failed. Their record in organizing precarious workers, especially in rapidly-growing service industries, has been even worse. Money that could have been spent organising has flowed instead to the Democratic and Labour Parties in the hope that a legislative fix could halt these unions’ long-term decline. They still await political deliverance.</p> <p>In other cases, the philanthropic idea holds sway. In the US for example, the <a href="http://idwfed.org/en/affiliates/north-america/national-domestic-workers-alliance-ndwa">Domestic Workers Alliance</a> works with and on behalf of one such group: the people who work in other people’s homes, often the homes of the rich. The Alliance has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/maureen-purtill/labor-of-love">won badly-needed improvements</a> for domestic workers at a state level in California and elsewhere, working with an employers’ organization called <a href="http://domesticemployers.org/about-us/">Hand in Hand</a> to promote good practice across the industry. </p> <p>Yet the funds that make the Alliance possible depend on the goodwill of well-meaning liberal donors, who might not prove so generous if domestic workers choose more militant forms of protest. There are also signs that the Alliance has <a href="https://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/domestic-workers-at-a-crossroads">prioritised legislative solutions over the organising of domestic workers themselves</a>, and some organizations affiliated with the Alliance, such as <a href="http://www.domesticworkersunited.org/index.php/en/">Domestic Workers United</a>, have called for a different, more worker-led model of organization. </p> <p>The same philanthropic model guides living wage campaigns at UK universities today. Academics, students and union officials have pressured university managers to boost pay for low-wage workers on campus, using tactics from media campaigns to artistic interventions that have often proved effective. As with the Domestic Workers Alliance, however, they tend to work over the heads of the workers who stand to benefit from the campaign, and who must defend those gains from future attacks by university management. Unless that changes so that member-led democracy replaces charity as the guiding principle of the movement, these campaigns and alliances will fail in the longer term.</p> <p>If craft unionism is a dead end and philanthropic unions suffer from a deficit of democracy, then what of industrial unionism? The broad, radical thrust of that tradition has not energised the mainstream of the unions for some time, but its spirit still lives on. </p> <p>To take one example, the <a href="https://fightfor15.org/">Fight for $15 campaign</a> has brought thousands of fast-food workers, service and domestic workers traditionally considered beyond the reach of the American labor movement into the union fold. Its legislative victories in city after city from New York to Seattle prove to previously passive workers that strikes and mobilisations can <em>work</em>. If Fight for $15 can join with other radical movements with a strong working-class flavour such as Black Lives Matter, undocumented migrants’ campaigns, the new fighting feminism and ongoing struggles for LGBTQ rights, it could go from strength to strength. </p> <p>The same spirit animates a growing number of trade unionists in Britain. The <a href="https://www.bfawu.org/mcstrike">Bakers’ Union</a>, for example, has followed the American lead and organized the first strikes at British branches of McDonald’s in 2017 and 2018. Best of all, new unions have taken up the task of organizing precarious workers where the existing ones have failed. </p> <p>The Independent Workers of Great Britain (<a href="https://iwgb.org.uk/">IWGB</a>) and the United Voices of the World (<a href="https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/">UVW</a>) draw on the legacy of the ‘Wobblies,’ the Industrial Workers of the World. Working with food delivery workers at <a href="https://deliveroo.co.uk/">Deliveroo</a> and migrant cleaners and service workers at several London universities, they rely on direct action by an active and engaged membership to force concessions from employers. To promote unity between Spanish-speaking and English-speaking members they began English-Spanish language exchanges. And they have strengthened the skills, capacities and militancy of their members on the picket lines and in the wider community.</p> <p>At institutions from the School of Oriental and African Studies to the London School of Economics, they have waged successful strikes to secure better sick pay and holiday pay, and to end the outsourcing of their jobs. In April 2018 their struggle against outsourcing moved to cleaners, security guards and other workers employed by agencies for the central administration of the University of London. Their struggles have set an example for other trade unionists to follow. </p> <p>That doesn’t necessarily mean that we should abandon established unions and create whole new ones. It <em>does</em> involve a fight for the real control of those unions by their members—a struggle as old as the labour movement itself.</p> <p>These fights go on. The President of the Teamsters, James P. <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/12/teamsters-hoffa-tdu-zuckerman-pope-reform-ups">Hoffa</a>, son of the infamous Jimmy Hoffa—a &nbsp;name associated with the corrupt unionism of <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather">The Godfather</a></em> and <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Waterfront">On the Waterfront</a></em>—was nearly unseated as President in late 2016 by a grassroots coalition called <a href="http://www.tdu.org/">Teamsters for a Democratic Union</a>. A 14-day strike in February and March 2018 has transformed my own union, the <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/03/ucu-university-staff-strike-deal-pensions-union">University and College Union (UCU),</a> whose national leadership faced harsh criticism for its apparent willingness to end the strike on any conceivable terms. UCU leaders can now no longer rely on a rubber stamp from an inert membership, and the possibilities for a campaign by and for casual academic workers have never been greater. </p> <p>The exact form that unions take as organizations is less important than the spirit that guides them. Craft unionism means further decline and irrelevance. Philanthropic unionism means eternal dependence on fickle liberals. Inclusive, industrial unionism remains the only tradition with real democratic potential. It alone has the wide vision needed to organise the millions of precarious workers alongside those with greater leverage and bargaining power. </p> <p>Whether or not that tradition is expressed through new unions or old, the example set by the IWGB, the Fight for $15 and other grassroots movements is the one we should follow if we want to restore dignity to the most exploited and fight most effectively for real social change. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/steven-parfitt/us-teachers-strike-in-historical-perspective">The US teachers strike in historical perspective</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/tom-hunt/building-up-bundle-of-sticks-new-ideas-for-union-organising">Building up the bundle of sticks: new ideas for union organising</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/jenny-andrew/embracing-data-is-key-to-future-of-unions">Embracing data is key to the future of unions</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Trade unions Steven Parfitt Activism Economics Sun, 10 Jun 2018 20:00:00 +0000 Steven Parfitt 118065 at https://www.opendemocracy.net At what cost? A second reflection on the crisis at Save the Children UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-second-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Part two: ‘where next?’ Part one on ‘what went wrong’ can be found <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JonathanGlennie2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Save the Children/Curiosity, Bushmills, Northern Ireland. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC-BY-SA 2.0</a>&nbsp;©&nbsp;<a title="View profile" href="http://www.geograph.ie/profile/2282">Kenneth Allen</a>&nbsp;-&nbsp;<a href="http://www.geograph.ie/photo/3977257">geograph.org.uk/p/3977257</a></p> <p>In <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">the first part of this article</a> I explored the roots of the recent crisis at Save the Children UK (SCF-UK). That the principal characters involved have all now resigned their posts in the wake of this crisis becoming public is testament to the power of staff and supporters who demand so much better from an organisation of Save the Children’s stature.</p> <p>They did some good things, of course, and they left behind an organisation that in the right hands could make a huge difference for children. But no-one can work to their best ability with confused ethics at the top. It becomes a constant talking point and distraction.</p> <p>But from every crisis an opportunity arises, and this is a golden opportunity to do things differently. What might that mean in practice?</p> <p>First, the organisation needs to complete the painful process of investigating the handling of allegations of sexual harassment, which is still the most vivid example of what went wrong. We had at least one investigation when I was there, which obviously didn’t do its job properly because two more are underway. To show that it has changed, the organisation should take the initiative by setting out its own version of what happened in detail, rather than waiting for investigative journalists, parliamentary committees or the Charity Commission to do so.</p> <p>You can’t have change on the cheap, and you can’t build a new future while the past is left unresolved. Talking with present-day staff, I am confident that, with continued pressure, the organisation will succeed in stamping out the likelihood of sexual harassment or any other type of bullying.</p> <p>But it can’t end there. The alleged sexual harassment was only the most obvious example of what was going wrong, an outward sign of a deeper problem. So it’s time to critique the whole framework in which previous leaders seemed to operate, including their version of success in an international charity and their understanding of what it means to work for children’s rights and international solidarity in the 21st century.</p> <p><strong>Lessons for the aid sector.</strong></p> <p>What happened at SCF-UK is an extreme case of what is happening in many charities, where long-held values and beliefs about how societies and organisations should work seem increasingly in tension with the context and incentive frameworks in which they operate.</p> <p>The funding context is complex and difficult, as increasingly charities are encouraged to bid against each other for limited funds, and to compete on the doorstep. The struggle to survive and demonstrate impact tends to harm rather than help attempts to act in the interests of staff and beneficiaries. The temptation to focus on superficial gloss rather than profound challenges is one to which no charity is immune, and most have, on occasion, fallen.</p> <p>Once a bulwark of values, the aid sector is in danger of becoming just another arm of politics and business—so long as a quiet but bold insistence on doing things differently continues to give way to a feeble attempt to copy and follow, to make endless compromises on the altar of growth.</p> <p>The news that <a href="https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/save-the-children-offers-to-suspend-bidding-for-new-dfid-funding">SCF-UK is suspending new proposals for UK Government projects</a> is the final ironic nail in the coffin of the previous era at the top of the organisation. Leaders obsessed with growth at all costs must now realise that even that vacuous objective is undermined when care is not taken of organisational culture and values.</p> <p>That’s why what happened at SCF-UK should stand as a cautionary tale; no longer a model to emulate, it is a case study to be reflected on at length. It is hard to distil such a complicated story into simple lessons for the sector, but let me suggest five maxims for a new generation of international NGO leaders:</p><p> <em>1. Put values first.</em> The ‘<span>what’</span> matters—of course it does; large and powerful international charities really can make a countervailing difference against a trend to look inwards at national interests. But the costs have to be weighed too, so the ‘<span>how’</span> matters just as much. The previous leadership may have been talented, but the real talent, as a wise friend in another INGO pointed out to me, is having success and impact <em>without</em> losing touch with your values and sense of solidarity. The charity sector should be proudly different, rather than chasing the coat-tails of other sectors that are wrongly perceived to be more efficient or effective.</p><p><em>2. Diversify your influences and relationships.</em> Save the Children got the balance wrong between cultivating relationships with the powerful in the North and standing first and foremost with the underdog. <span>What</span> matters. <span>How</span> matters. And <span>Who</span> matters too. Voices from the South need to come to the fore to influence strategy. It’s not that you can’t partner with the private sector or work closely with governments—risks are often worth taking in these areas. But you have to do it thoughtfully, cognisant of the risks involved, and with a clear plan to achieve genuine impact and not just noise, handshakes and big-sounding numbers. A deeper analysis of politics and structures is required if charities are going to regain the trust of serious development professionals and the public at large. That means a concern for systems change and attacking all forms of inequality, and it means building relationships in a humble, listening way.</p><p><em>3. Growth is not a strategy.</em> Being big and powerful is not enough. There needs to be a re-evaluation of the centrality of financial targets in the organisation’s culture. It is possible to grow fast and maintain a focus on impact, staff wellbeing and values, but this is hard. A really bold leader would consider non-growth or even shrinkage as seriously as growth. Leaving behind a smaller but better organisation is a sign of success, not failure. Be ambitious for impact, values and relationships, not growth.</p><p><em>4. Collaborate, don’t just compete and compromise.</em> Development is a marathon as well as a sprint. Long-term relationships are more important than short-term ‘wins;’ solidarity is more important than fleeting results. The sector matters more than particular organisations. Every part of it should be trying to build up all the other parts, not to do them down. This used to be obvious; it should soon be so again. Moving away from the pressure to grow endlessly will <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/mar/13/ngos-need-third-way-collaboration">help rebuild a spirit of collaboration</a>.</p><p><em>5. Trust your staff.</em> The ways of working that became dominant at SCF-UK were increasingly at odds with the instincts and preferences of those who made up the majority of the workforce: top-down directive leadership and too much compromise, too much cosying up to power. That is neither wise nor sustainable. Staff and supporters expect things in charities to be done in a certain way. They understand the need to compromise, but they have a good sense of when and where. And they expect to be listened to. Leaders are foolish when they ignore the wisdom of their colleagues. That is not to say that leaders can’t be bold and visionary; it means that they have to respect their colleagues, the wider movement and the evidence, and not just their own desire to do things differently.</p><p><strong>Personal agency.</strong></p><p>None of these things are easy to get right. All depend on the wisdom of ethical leaders to strike a balance between different tensions and incentives, and to retain a real sense of humility—and I mean leaders at all levels. Experience is important, but one lesson from this crisis is that junior staff can sometimes see things more clearly than old-hands, and can make the difference if they are brave enough to speak out.</p> <p>In the world of work, of politics and campaigning, we often feel that we are part of someone else's created system. But that is only partly true. We are the system too. We are creating it every day with our decisions and through our words and actions. It took me too long to learn this fact. It’s time to do things differently.</p> <p>I believe the staff, and to some extent volunteers and supporters, are the key to SCF-UK’s future. Now that the media has outed the issues, staff and supporters have found their voice. More than ever they must keep pushing to ensure that a renewed and dignified Save the Children emerges, powerful in its support for children’s rights but always reflecting the values it publicly espouses in the way in which it operates: kindness, fairness and respect.</p> <p>If we have learned one thing from this appalling mess, it is that people who care for an organisation cannot just leave it in the hands of trustees and senior leadership. We all need to take responsibility and, if necessary, take a stand. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><span>Statement from openDemocracy</span>.</strong></p> <p>In relation to the handling of allegations of sexual harassment at Save the Children UK, Save the Children-UK’s lawyers have asked us to point out that their client did not act to cover up or ‘silence’ complaints against Justin Forsyth and/or Brendan Cox; has policies in place to protect its workforce; and did not seek to discourage people from speaking out. Furthermore, that when the Justin Forsyth matters were raised with the Chair, he instructed HR to manage the process overseen by a Trustee. The complaints made in relation to Mr Forsyth were resolved at the time on a confidential and informal basis, with the approval of the complainants; and that when management became aware of an alleged incident involving Mr Cox at a Summer party in 2015 SCF-UK took immediate action to investigate the matter, and as part of the investigation Mr Cox was suspended and not allowed back into our client’s office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">At what cost? A reflection on the crisis at Save the Children UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-francis/courage-of-difficult-women">The courage of difficult women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jonathan Glennie The role of money Activism Sun, 03 Jun 2018 20:20:17 +0000 Jonathan Glennie 118202 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is it time for voluntary poverty? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ghazal-tipu/is-it-time-for-voluntary-poverty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Alternative forms of charity could have a deeper impact on the forces that underpin moral and social transformation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GhazalTipu2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Catholic Worker logo. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/albums/72157604288324537">Flickr/Jim Forest</a>. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</p> <p>Revelations of sexual harassment and abuse in the charity and NGO sectors have triggered <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/it-s-time-to-take-our-charities-to-cleaners">deep questions</a> about the nature of voluntary action today. What are the costs of increased size and bureaucracy and the distancing of not-for-profit agencies from grassroots constituencies and concerns? Are there alternative forms of charity that avoid these problems while achieving a different kind of impact on power relations, human relationships and values—the things that really underpin long-term moral and social transformation?</p> <p>For the last six months, I’ve been volunteering with the Catholic Worker movement in London which tries to do just this. While there’s certainly a place for formal charities that are run by paid managers and employees, the Catholic Workers and other groups like them build their activities around an individual and collective commitment to serve the most vulnerable and destitute in society that eschews personal, material gain. With its roots in pacifism and Christian anarchism—which attracts people from all Christian denominations and none—the movement represents a concrete re-imagining of the nature of charity and serves as a counter example to many other contemporary institutions. </p> <p>It was founded by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Worker_Movement">Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the US in 1933</a>, who initially joined forces to found a radical newspaper. When homeless people started enquiring about the ‘houses of hospitality’ that the newspaper described, Day felt compelled to act, and opened the first such house in New York to those who had been made homeless by the Great Depression. Since then, more than 150 other houses have been founded across the United States and Europe, providing food and lodging to homeless people and refugees within a supportive community environment that also acts as a hub for broader strategising and organising.</p> <p>The movement’s way of life is simple but challenging. As the writer and researcher Carol Rakoczy put it in an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">article for Transformation</a>: “For Day there was no dichotomy between the spiritual and the material; both were part of the same reality in which the Gospel text about feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless was a daily joy and challenge. Love was the measure of her life, but Day was very realistic about the cost of this path, which was everything—comfort, reputation, misunderstandings, and the lack of a stable family life with a partner. She often quoted a phrase from the writings of&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fyodor_Dostoyevsky">Fyodor Dostoyevsky</a><strong>:&nbsp;</strong>‘Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing.’”</p> <p>Hence, both concrete action and self-sacrifice lie at the heart of the Catholic Worker movement, and it’s this relationship that distinguishes its work from that of other more formal charities. What makes the movement effective is the simplicity of this call-to-action in which everyone in the house or community is part of the same, shared endeavour. </p> <p>Live-in volunteers commit to what Day called ‘voluntary poverty.’ “We cannot see our brother in need without stripping ourselves,” she wrote in her book<em> <a href="https://www.orbisbooks.com/loaves-and-fishes.html">Loaves and Fishes</a>, “</em>It is the only way we have of showing love. Voluntary poverty is the answer.” By stripping oneself of the desire to make material gains from charitable activity it is possible to foster a personal transformation that allows people to work with others in radically different and more egalitarian ways—not as clients or ‘others’ who are ‘poor.’ </p> <p>But the movement is not just about personal transformation; it also carries a broader political message, and from the 1930’s it has sought to challenge the injustices of the time. Day highlighted the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while several other Catholic Workers were imprisoned for their acts of civil disobedience against the Vietnam War. It’s the linking of these two levels of action together that’s still the essence of the movement today—a different form of individual motivation that supports, and is supported by, a much broader call for social and political change. </p> <p>It’s in this spirit that London Catholic Worker provides meals and accommodation for up to 18 destitute asylum seekers at <a href="http://www.londoncatholicworker.org/gchouse.html">Giuseppe Conlon House</a>, an ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/intentional-communities">intentional community</a>’ in North London. The aim is to provide concrete support for those who have no recourse to public funds, and to resist hostile immigration policies. Every month, live-in volunteers hold a silent vigil outside the Home Office to remember those who have died in fleeing war and persecution.</p> <p>“Because we are able to work for free here—as a community—we can support the people who for political reasons aren’t getting support,” says peace activist <a href="https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/judge-acquits-protesters-who-blocked-road-to-dsei-arms-fair">Nora Ziegler</a> who’s a long-term community member and volunteer at the house. “So, I see our work as resistance to capitalism, to the hostile environment of policy, and I feel very privileged that I have the freedom to do this. I feel like I am free to do the work that is important to me, because I don’t have to worry about finding someone who will pay me for it.”</p> <p>Ziegler tells me that she once attended an event with senior staff at homeless charities. She noted that they weren’t interested in discussing homeless people who had no recourse to public funds. If refugees don’t have approved ‘leave to remain,’ they told her, it means that they’re illegal in the UK, while other staff said they ‘don’t have the funding’ to support such refugees. But if charities aren’t supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society who will? Perhaps that requires thriving models of charity outside the formal charity sector. Many charities rely on government funding, while others have a close relationship with government that affects their political neutrality. </p> <p>Leading homelessness charity <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/05/st-mungos-homeless-charity-helped-target-rough-sleepers-to-deport">St Mungo’s</a>, for example, was recently accused of working with the Home Office to find and arrest homeless people deemed to be staying illegally in the UK. In this context, the Catholic Worker movement is relevant because everybody is deserving of support and no questions are ever asked of them. “We never ask why they are here,” writes Day in <em><a href="https://www.orbisbooks.com/loaves-and-fishes.html">Loaves and Fishes.</a> </em>For me, this approach is the heart of charitable work; recognising the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.</p> <p>What makes Giuseppe Conlon House and other houses of hospitality different to a night shelter is that those who are welcomed—whether refugees or homeless people or anybody else—are not treated as ‘service users’ as in the vernacular of many charities; they are ‘guests.’ They live together with volunteers in an intentional community in which friendships can develop between guests and volunteers. Guests also move out of the house whenever they are ready. </p> <p>“I think for a lot of people who are victims of the immigration system here it just crushes their self-worth, their self-esteem,” Ziegler says, citing the story of an asylum seeker who previously lived at the House. “He was a handful for us—there were many times where we had to ask him to leave at night because he came home very drunk, which was really hard. But I think at the same time, being here was really, really good for him. Not just because of what the volunteers did but also because of the other guests who were looking out for him. And I think he really needed that environment where it felt like people care.”</p> <p>It is this type of community which has helped to create ‘wholeness’ for guests at the <a href="http://thecatholicworkerfarm.org/">Catholic Worker Farm</a> in North West London, which caters for destitute female asylum seekers and their children by providing temporary lodging, meals, counselling and English lessons. As Scott Albrecht told me (who calls himself the ‘kindly abbot’ of the farm), “The most significant thing is the lives of the women. They go from severe confusion and chaos to wholeness and wellbeing. That is the most rewarding and satisfying, like a woman from Afghanistan having her bones literally crushed. She has recovered.” The guests are called ‘sisters’ and over 500 women have been supported at the farm since August 2006.</p> <p>Day implored others to return to the roots of Jesus’ teaching in order to support the most marginalised in society. The same teachings inspire Albrecht today. “I describe ourselves as ‘homo emptor’” he says, “Man the consumer. We’re constantly consuming. I think the Catholic Worker movement is an antidote to that with its teaching of voluntary poverty…The government has austerity measures and the Catholic Worker movement has teachings of dignity and every person is Christ. The movement is an antidote to systemic failures.” </p> <p>Speaking as a charity professional myself, I don’t believe that everyone has to give up their salary in order to be effective. That would be unsustainable, and it could act as a barrier to people with less means who want to get involved in social action.</p> <p>What we really need is a vibrant and dynamic civil society in which charitable institutions are just one part of the equation in forging a just and equitable society, and in which the most vulnerable people who ‘fall through the cracks’ are supported. Indeed, the initial findings of an <a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org/1-year-reports/">inquiry</a> into the future of civil society found that people are losing trust in big institutions, including charities.</p> <p>That’s why voluntary action must exist outside of formal institutions, through self-organised networks like the Catholic Worker movement. Because there are no central headquarters for the movement, houses of hospitality work in agile and dynamic ways that are not hampered by bureaucracy, like the <a href="https://mariaskobtsova.org/">Saint Maria Skobtsova House</a> which was founded in 2016 in response to the Calais 'jungle' and which supports refugee minors.</p> <p>The Catholic Worker model is not utopia. There are still power inequalities between volunteers and guests because volunteers have a right to work and guests do not, just as volunteers choose to live in a house of hospitality and guests may not have a choice at all. However, the choice for volunteers to live in ‘voluntary poverty’ helps to mitigate these inequalities in power. It’s a lesson from which other charities might learn.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ghazal-tipu/flash-mob-iftars-and-ramadan-tent-islamic-organizing-for-social-justice">Flash mob iftars and the Ramadan Tent: Islamic organizing for social justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/it-s-time-to-take-our-charities-to-cleaners">It’s time to take our charities to the cleaners</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ghazal Tipu Transformative nonviolence Activism Wed, 30 May 2018 07:00:00 +0000 Ghazal Tipu 118064 at https://www.opendemocracy.net At what cost? A reflection on the crisis at Save the Children UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Part one: ‘what went wrong?’ Part Two on ‘where next’ can be read <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-second-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JonathanGlennie.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Save the Children-UK Shop, Darley Street, UK. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Save_the_Children_Shop_-_Darley_Street_-_geograph.org.uk_-_656110.jpg">Betty Longbottom/geog.org.uk via Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>When I returned to Save the Children UK (SCF-UK) in 2014 as Director of Policy and Research I joined an organisation that was in many ways unrecognisable to the one that had given me my first job 15 years earlier. Over the years it had grown in size and ambition. In some respects it seemed now to be an organisation at the pinnacle of its powers, but it was also straining under the weight of profound internal contradictions. A brilliant and slick operation with hotlines to all the important people, it was one which had begun to lose its soul.</p> <p>The brave women <a href="https://www.irinnews.org/feature/2018/02/22/former-save-children-staffers-speak-out-abusive-culture-under-justin-forsyth">who have spoken up about alleged sexual harassment</a> in public, or made their case in private, have provoked a crisis that is bound to lead to significant improvements in working practices not only at SCF-UK but across the charity sector. The alleged <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43324754">working culture they have described</a> is one that almost everyone who has worked there can relate to, men as well as women.</p> <p>Like most of the staff, I did not know the alleged full extent of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/20/save-the-children-apologises-to-female-employees-over-ex-boss">allegations against Brendan Cox and Justin Forsyth</a> until I read the stories in the media like everyone else. But <a href="https://twitter.com/daily_politics/status/966655785546661888">an ex-colleague’s memorable description</a> of an atmosphere in which women “had to keep safe” reflects what many women told me in confidence at the time, and the rumours I had heard even before I joined.</p> <p>The handling of the investigation into alleged sexual harassment at SCF-UK has become a story in the newspapers, and rightly so. But most reporting and commentary has stopped there, as if the alleged harassment were an aberration in an institution that was otherwise getting it right. In my view, the macho behaviour, the alleged harassment and bullying, some of which I saw for myself, was a symptom of a deeper malaise, a sign of an organisation losing its way.</p> <p>It’s not easy to talk about this kind of thing. There are feelings of loyalty to individuals, institutions, and the wider cause. There are worries that maybe speaking out will do more damage than keeping schtum. There is self-doubt about one’s own analysis. But as internal and external investigations continue into the allegations it is vital to speak openly and honestly about the past.</p> <p><strong>Value vs values.</strong></p> <p>The circumstances under which some men harass women are depressingly familiar. What requires more explanation is how any organisation lets them get away with it. If an agency knows about sexual harassment but chooses to manage the victims rather than the perpetrators, it is sending a clear message that the value of the men involved is more important than the values most people would assume to be at the heart of a charity. In SCF-UK’s case,<a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43287838"> one complainant allegedly told an internal investigation leaked to the BBC</a> that she was advised not to tell anyone about her case and that both her and Mr Forsyth's reputations were at risk. "They weren't trying to protect me or safeguard any other women. It was just about covering this up as quickly as they could," she said.</p> <p>So this is a story about values, and about what is valued. And the fundamental problem, in my view, was a leadership determined to pursue growth and influence at all costs. These costs included a woman’s right to work in a safe environment. But that wasn’t the only cost. An over-focus on rapid growth can mean staff being overworked and feeling undervalued and unhappy, leading to higher than usual staff turnover. It can mean problems with programme effectiveness.</p> <p>An exaggerated desire for “influence”—meaning closeness to power—can lead to an over-emphasis on easy wins and “results” rather than the fundamentals of structural change. It can lead to ill-thought through partnerships and relationships, including with the private sector. And it can lead you to disregard the sector as a whole, putting the interests of a particular organisation above a broader cause.</p> <p>The fundamental challenge for a new leadership determined to move on from the past is not just to tackle the issue of harassment, although that is the most immediate priority. It is to tackle the fascination with size and influence that can put decent organisations at risk.</p> <p><strong>Management vs staff.</strong></p> <p>People have moaned about management in every organisation I have ever worked for, and as a manager I have definitely been moaned about! But I have never before seen such an obvious and substantial disconnect between the leadership of an organisation and the majority of its staff.</p> <p>Forsyth and Cox, with whom I have worked closely, and whose capabilities and commitment I acknowledge, brought from Number 10 a verve and talent for advocacy and campaigning, and a vision for what an agency like SCF-UK could achieve. To give them their due, they saw that the organisation could be taken to the next level in terms of making a difference in the world.</p> <p>Along with Sir Alan Parker (whom I do not know) and other senior executives, Cox and Forsyth succeeded in building an effective machine characterised by an intense ambition to make a difference and populated by a passionate and talented staff. There were certainly times when I was impressed by their vigour, rigour and strategic thinking, determination to think outside the box, and preparedness to take risks.</p> <p>But the costs were too great, and they either didn’t see them or didn’t care. Their ruthless approach to getting results went hand in glove with a limited concern for the values that attract people to work for charities. I would go so far as to say they disdained them. The examples set, the comments made, the decisions taken, all slowly built a picture of a leadership distant from the majority of their colleagues, and from the sector itself.</p> <p>When Tony Blair was awarded a “global legacy” prize <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/nov/25/save-the-children-furious-charity-global-legacy-tony-blair">it felt wrong to the staff</a>, but those at the top didn’t see it. When <a href="https://howtospendit.ft.com/travel/68381-justin-forsyths-london">Forsyth was featured in the Financial Times’ “How to spend it” section</a> usually reserved for the rich and powerful to describe how they like to spend their money, the coverage was tone-deaf. It was under this leadership that we saw so-called “poverty porn” fundraising adverts on television, pulling on the heartstrings of the public rather than conveying a more positive message about the dignity of people living in poverty.</p> <p>In each of these cases, growth and influence seemed to matter more to the leadership than values. Of course, they were also motivated by noble goals—everyone is. But in their inability to understand dignity, authenticity and humility, and their instinct to buddy up to people in power, they lost their way.</p> <p>I remember my very first meeting in my new organisation in 2014, when a group of colleagues sat around Cox taking notes on his directives rather than engaging in the to and fro of debate that is more usual in the NGO sector. One of the things I find most depressing, looking back on it, is how many young people will have joined the agency and thought that this was the norm for the charity sector; whereas those of us that have worked for a range of charities know it was an exception.</p> <p>At one staff meeting, Forsyth defended his approach against a criticism that it didn’t reflect staff preferences by saying, “Save the Children is not a democracy.” Of course, he was right. But it is an organisation that depends on brilliant people putting in overtime and boundless energy for something they believe in—and those people need to be valued, nurtured and respected.</p> <p>This macho approach to leadership, I learnt, was not unrelated to alleged sexual harassment. When an organisational culture begins to breakdown, management tends to break down too. I don’t believe that Cox or Forsyth were sufficiently well managed. In fact, as star performers when judged in terms of growth and influence they were given a lot of latitude to do as they wished. They were considered so valuable to the organisation that their weaknesses were arguably brushed under the carpet. People who complained were seen as a nuisance, as barriers. According to the SCF-UK’s own internal investigations by the law firm Lewis Silkin and<a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43287838"> reported by the BBC</a>, the agency’s Head of HR received a "less than supportive response" when allegations were made about Forsyth’s behaviour, "which he feared was as a result of Sir Alan Parker and Justin Forsyth being very close."</p><p> <strong>Growth vs dignity.</strong></p> <p>What these leaders never understood, and what the new leadership of SCF-UK must, is that <em>how</em> matters as much as <em>what</em>. This is an unspoken truth in the charity sector. People go to work every day expecting to experience the values that their organisation claims to believe in. When that doesn’t happen, things begin to fall apart.</p> <p>They knew they stood for influence and size, but they didn’t know exactly why. To “reach more children” was the mantra, but that is absurd. If it hadn’t been SCF-UK winning contracts it would have been other organisations, the “competitors.” One massive organisation or ten smaller ones? It doesn’t matter—the same number of children would be “reached,” and they don’t mind which organisations do the reaching.</p> <p>Growth and influence are not goals in themselves, certainly not in charities. If you have lost your moral compass, your growth and influence are built on very shaky foundations. Dominic Nutt, a former head of media, <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/open-letter-kevin-watkins-save-children-ceo-from-your-dominic-nutt/">reports the bizarre objective</a> among senior SCF-UK executives to “take down Oxfam.” What kind of human rights organisation wants to “take down” another important charity? The same one in which a senior executive asked me at a meeting with other NGOs, “It there anyone here we should poach?”</p> <p>Effective international cooperation is about putting the least powerful first—about transferring power. But at SCF-UK I heard NGO partners from the Global South referred to by leaders as “crazies,” and other charities badmouthed openly as the collegial practices of the charity sector were arrogantly ignored. It is not always easy to work in coalition with people from your own country, let alone from other cultures, but respect is a <em>sine qua non</em> of this type of work.</p> <p><strong>Mea Culpa.</strong></p> <p>One final thought. It is easier to criticise others than oneself. What happened at SCF-UK was not my fault, but that does not mean I am above blame. I could have done more to counterbalance the alleged harassment, the ways of working and the overall direction of the organisation. The truth is that all of us could have done things differently, and we all wish we had been bolder earlier.</p> <p>I did criticise and try to influence direction and strategy in management meetings, as did others. And I tried to exemplify a participatory approach in my team, attempting to build confidence and broaden perspectives. I was preparing to resign if Cox wasn’t dealt with—until he beat me to it.</p> <p>But I was not organised and determined enough to use what power I had to insist on change. Perhaps I didn’t stay long enough to make a concerted impact. And ultimately, I wasn’t confident enough to tell Cox and Forsyth to their faces the damage they were doing to the organisation and the sector. That is my biggest regret.</p> <p>History will not judge this moment in SCF-UK’s evolution kindly, but what next for the organization and other NGOs in the sector? That’s the question I’ll be exploring in<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-second-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk"> part two of this article</a> which comes out next week.</p> <p>-----------------------------------------</p> <p><span>Statement from openDemocracy</span>.</p> <p>In relation to the handling of allegations of sexual harassment at Save the Children UK, Save the Children-UK’s lawyers have asked us to point out that their client did not act to cover up or ‘silence’ complaints against Justin Forsyth and/or Brendan Cox; has policies in place to protect its workforce; and did not seek to discourage people from speaking out. Furthermore, that when the Justin Forsyth matters were raised with the Chair, he instructed HR to manage the process overseen by a Trustee. The complaints made in relation to Mr Forsyth were resolved at the time on a confidential and informal basis, with the approval of the complainants; and that when management became aware of an alleged incident involving Mr Cox at a Summer party in 2015 SCF-UK took immediate action to investigate the matter, and as part of the investigation Mr Cox was suspended and not allowed back into the client’s office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-francis/courage-of-difficult-women">The courage of difficult women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/it-s-time-to-take-our-charities-to-cleaners">It’s time to take our charities to the cleaners</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jonathan Glennie The role of money Activism Sun, 27 May 2018 19:58:19 +0000 Jonathan Glennie 118060 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fifty years later, the spirit of the Catonsville Nine lives on https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/frida-berrigan/fifty-years-later-spirit-of-catonsville-nine-lives-on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Those who burned hundreds of draft files to protest the Vietnam War deserve to be honored, remembered and emulated.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="wp-caption-text"><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/catonsville-nine-50-years-later/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FridaBerrigan4.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Frida Berrigan stands in front of the newly unveiled Catonsville Nine historical marker in Catonsville, Maryland with her children. Credit: Waging Nonviolence. All rights reserved.</p> <p>It was a big moment. More than a hundred people watched as a college professor held one end of a heavy vinyl cover, helping an 88-year-old woman, pull it from the top of a tall metal sign. Together, they unveiled a familiar looking historic marker—the kind that draws attention to battlefields drenched in centuries-old blood and the birth places of famous men all over the country.</p> <p>This one, however, was different.</p> <p>It read: “On May 17, 1968, nine Catholic activists raided the selective service office in Catonsville and burned hundreds of draft files to protest the Vietnam war.” It now stands on Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland—about a block from the building that housed the young men’s draft files.</p> <p>The 88-year-old woman was&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=16">Marjorie Melville</a> one of those nine Catholic activists and, along with&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=14">George Mische</a>, one of only two still living. After the unveiling, which took place on May 5, she shared recollections of the action at a nearby church, including a funny story about her husband,&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=17">Thomas Melville</a>, who responded with a rousing and immediate “I’m in,” when invited to join the action. The two had recently married after leaving the Maryknoll order, where they served as a priest and a nun. “I was mad,” she recalled. “He didn’t consult me, but then I thought about it and decided, ‘I’m in too.’”</p> <p>In its few sentences of block letters, the historic marker only mentions “priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan” by name. It doesn’t capture Melville’s motivation to join the Catonsville action and draw attention to U.S. military involvement in Guatemala as another Vietnam. She and Thomas shared their experiences in that Central American country in searing testimony captured in my uncle Daniel Berrigan’s play, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine.”</p> <p>The Melvilles brought&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=18">John Hogan</a>—a former Maryknoll brother who they had served with in Guatemala—into the action.&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=15">Mary Moylan</a>, another one of the nine, had been a nurse in Uganda, while George Mische had worked in the Dominican Republic. They all said that part of their radicalization, part of the journey that led them to Catonsville, was a result of seeing the far-flung damage wrought by U.S. foreign policy.&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=13">David Darst</a>, a Christian brother, and&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=19">Tom Lewis</a>, an artist and recidivist, had both lived in the inner cities and saw a less exotic version of the same brutal dynamic.</p> <p>The hallmark of so much of our political expression is reactive outrage. It was then too. “Hell no, we won’t go,” was a slogan to be chanted by the young men who were drafted. There is so much to be outraged about, and our outrage matters. But the members of the Catonsville Nine were not outraged. And their action was not a response to the massacre du jour, but to the whole of U.S. foreign policy. </p> <p>As John Hogan said at the trial, “I just want people to live. That is all.” And it was not carried out by those most affected by the draft. In fact, every member of the action was personally exempt from military service by their age, gender or profession, as priests and brothers. It was nine people stepping out of comfort and into commission and conscience.</p> <p>My father knew he was but one of nine; he was moved by Mary Moylan and Marjorie Melville and her husband. He learned from David Darst, John Hogan and Tom Lewis—his dear friend and co-conspirator in many actions. He was challenged and inspired by George Mische and his brother Daniel Berrigan. He would be quick to point out that the Catonsville Nine was not just the “Berrigan Brothers.”</p> <p>I don’t have any recollections of the action, since I wasn’t born until six years later. My father also wasn’t one to sit around and tell the peace movement’s “war stories.” But I learned the lasting impact of this one action by listening. Strangers would come up to my father—men of a certain age—while he was pumping gas, buying a newspaper or attending a demonstration to confirm his identity and then share some version of this: “I’m alive today because you destroyed my file. My card was at Catonsville. I was about to be sent to Vietnam. Thank you.” </p> <p>My father would accept their thanks with discomfort and pride. Now, from a greater distance, I can understand the discomfort as part of a veteran’s process of atonement, a life saved from war after so many lives lost in war, and an affirmation of the path—narrow, rocky, grueling and lonely—that he had chosen for himself.</p> <p>And then there were the friends, fellow community members—people as close as family. One was a young mother on Long Island, raising five boys. On May 17, 1968, she was sitting in her kitchen, listening to the radio, busy with some household task. The news announcer reported that nine Catholic antiwar activists were arrested after destroying draft records. She was a devoted Catholic, and this was an action involving two priests, a brother, a former priest, a former nun and four lay people. “I was sitting down, and I stood up. I haven’t sat down since,” she said. She went on to be a Catholic Worker, peace activist and a dear friend. I have heard that story countless times, from her and many others who were similarly catalyzed into activism by the Catonsville Nine.</p> <p>Learning about this one day in May through the prism of the transformations of both strangers and friends has helped me see the draft board raid as living and continuing. It may have been 50 years ago that my father was one of nine who broke the law to prevent a greater crime, but it was only a month and a half ago that my mother, Liz McAlister, was one of seven, acting in that same spirit. As a member of the Kings Bay Plowshares, she&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/kings-bay-plowshares-resisting-nuclear-weapons-racism/">gained access to the Kings Bay Trident Base</a>&nbsp;in Georgia and symbolically disarmed the warheads, marking them as criminal.</p> <p>From the Camden County Detention Facility in Woodbine, Georgia, she sent me a statement to share with those who gathered in Catonsville for the unveiling: “May the disarmament continue.” This was in keeping with the message the Kings Bay Plowshares carried onto the naval base, which&nbsp;<a href="https://www.kingsbayplowshares7.org/action-statement/">read, in part</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“We come in peace on this sorrowful anniversary of the martyrdom of a great prophet Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifty years ago today on April 4, 1968 Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee as a reaction to his efforts to address the ‘giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.’ We come to Kings Bay to answer the call of the prophet Isaiah to ‘beat swords into plowshares’ by disarming the world’s deadliest nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine.”</p></blockquote> <p>For this action, they face more than 20 years in prison. It seems like a very long time.</p> <p>The Catonsville activists were sentenced to two and three year prison terms, which is also a long time. How do we use our time? My uncle, Dan Berrigan wrote in “Portraits of Those I Love” that “on the one hand, I do not want to live in a world without anger; on the other hand, I am not interested in dying just yet. But I don’t want anger to burn uselessly as a waste flame from an oil stack. Living on, nursing my flame I write. It is a way of surviving. It tells me my soul is my own.”</p> <p>Action, community, collective courage—that’s the spirit of the Catonsville action. It is a way of survival. It tells us our souls are our own. So, thank you, Brother David Darst, John Hogan, Thomas Melville, Marjorie Melville, George Mische, Tom Lewis, Mary Moylan. Thank you Uncle Dan. Thank you Dad.</p> <p>And thank you, Kings Bay activists, friends, family: Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, Father Steve Kelly, Patrick O’Neil, Mark Colville, Carmen Trotta. Thank you Mom.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/how-do-you-tell-kids-that-grandma-is-in-jail-for-resisting-nuclear-wea">How do you tell the kids that Grandma is in jail for resisting nuclear weapons?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/making-our-movements-work-for-kids-and-families">Making our movements work for kids and families</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/preparing-for-long-haul-under-trump-administration">Preparing for the long haul under the Trump administration</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation 1968 1968 Frida Berrigan Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 25 May 2018 10:46:07 +0000 Frida Berrigan 117946 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why human rights groups are beginning to support the rights of non-human animals https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jay-shooster/Why-human-rights-groups-are-beginning-to-support-the-rights-of-non-human-animals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Solidarity must extend, not only to all people but also to animals, the earth, and the environment.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jayshooster_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Undercover Investigation at Manitoba Pork Factory Farm. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mercyforanimalscanada/8250115715">Flickr/Mercy For Animals Canada</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>I’ve told this story<a href="https://socialchangenyu.com/harbinger/justice-for-all-including-animal-rights-in-social-justice-activism/">&nbsp;before</a>. It doesn’t have a happy ending—but at least this time it has a hopeful one. &nbsp;</p> <p>The day the men took Sasha away from her mother she was only three weeks old. A few months later they took her to the cage where she spent the rest of her life. This was ‘home:’ a prison of concrete and metal. No sunshine, no space to turn around, and nothing to do. Even though she had just hit puberty they forced her to get pregnant. It went on that way until the end, forced to give birth over and over until her body couldn’t take it anymore.</p> <p>After years of confinement and abuse Sasha was packed into a pen with dozens of others in preparation for slaughter. No more boredom and no more pain, but the worst wasn’t over. One by one, they were pulled out until there was nobody left but Sasha. She ran back and forth, and then in circles, screaming. She struggled to lift the gate of the pen from its hinges but it was no use. She died because she was no longer useful. She died because she was born as a member of the wrong species, because she was a pig, and pigs don’t have rights.</p> <p>But is that true, or even acceptable in an era when conceptions of rights are broadening? I’ve worked with many human rights organizations and admire their goals, but I’ve also felt a profound sense of despair, loneliness, and disappointment at how communities that are so deeply concerned with justice can so thoroughly fail to stand up for the rights of non-human animals.</p> <p>When we see the horrors that human beings inflict on animals in <a href="https://thinkprogress.org/undercover-investigation-finds-shocking-torture-of-chickens-in-slaughterhouse-141d18a8db0f/">slaughterhouses</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDwMeUNcimA">fur farms</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECspj0daAlE">circuses</a> and other settings, how, as decent people, can we not act? That was the question posed to me by a senior <a href="https://www.aclu.org/">ACLU</a> attorney when I sat down to talk with him about animal rights last fall. I had realized that something big was happening in the human rights world: after years of<a href="https://socialchangenyu.com/harbinger/justice-for-all-including-animal-rights-in-social-justice-activism/">&nbsp;neglect</a>&nbsp;and<a href="https://jayforjustice.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/standing-up-to-the-left-on-animal-rights/">&nbsp;hostility</a> the human rights movement was embracing animal rights in earnest.</p> <p>A week after that meeting I learned that the <a href="https://chrgj.org/">Center for Human Rights and Global Justice</a> (CHRGJ) at New York University—one of the premier human rights programs in the world—was taking a stand for animal rights and committing to an all-vegetarian food policy, which was <a href="https://chrgj.org/2018/04/25/chrgj-adopts-vegetarian-food-policy/">announced</a>&nbsp;publicly in April of 2018. The <a href="https://chrgj.org/2018/04/25/chrgj-adopts-vegetarian-food-policy/">policy</a> makes clear that the fundamental values underlying human rights advocacy demand that we have “respect for animals.” And crucially, it recognizes that an institution committed to working towards “a more just and humane world” must take a stand for the animals who are victimized by industrial agriculture.</p> <p>Even more importantly, the policy—which requires the Center to purchase only vegetarian foods for its events—is&nbsp; grounded in an understanding of the interconnectedness of the struggles for human and animal rights—in “respect for animals and the humans impacted by the animal agriculture and processing industries, and out of concern for the environment on which we all depend.”</p> <p><a href="https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/index.cfm?fuseaction=profile.biography&amp;personid=22544">Margaret Satterthwaite</a>, a renowned human rights law professor, attorney and a director of the Center, has recognized that this new policy is reflective of a profound and necessary shift in the human rights movement. As she told me in a recent email:</p> <p>“The human rights community is beginning to recognize that our solidarity must extend to embrace not only all people, but also animals, the earth, and our environment. In moving to a vegetarian policy, CHRGJ is taking an important step to match our actions with our values.”</p> <p>CHGRJ isn’t alone. The <a href="https://ccrjustice.org/">Center for Constitutional Rights</a> (CCR), another of the world’s leading human rights organizations, <a href="https://youtu.be/jThcsTUWPv8?t=976">recently embraced a vegan/vegetarian policy</a> as “a meaningful act of solidarity” with the animal rights movement. The CCR policy further recognizes that an “increasing number of CCR staff members see violence against animals as contrary to a fundamental commitment to justice.”</p> <p>The progressive <a href="https://www.nlg.org/">National Lawyers Guild</a> &nbsp;has adopted a similar position through an&nbsp;initiative&nbsp;spearheaded by women of color in the Guild's Animal Rights Activism Committee (now an independent project).&nbsp;In the wake of the steps taken by other human rights groups, the Guild’s President-Elect, Elena Cohen, told me that: “I am so proud that we have joined in the movement of progressive organizations in adopting a vegan food policy, to make clear that non-human animal oppression is integral to our anti-oppression work and vision for a more just world.” In addition, the <a href="https://reblaw.yale.edu/">Rebellious Lawyering Conference</a> at Yale University—the largest student-run public interest conference in the United States—has been<a href="https://reblaw.yale.edu/sites/default/files/2018_final_reblaw_program_1.pdf">&nbsp;fully vegetarian</a>&nbsp;for several years in a row.</p> <p>Importantly, this support for animal rights is beginning to extend beyond internal food policy to the substantive work of human rights organizations. In April 2018, the CCR supported the <a href="https://www.nonhumanrights.org/">Nonhuman Rights Project’s</a> lawsuit to grant legal rights to chimpanzees by<a href="https://ccrjustice.org/letter-brief-amicus-curiae-support-nonhuman-rights-project-behalf-tommy-kiko-0">&nbsp;filing</a>&nbsp;an “amicus brief” on their behalf in the Court of Appeals of New York. In another example, a recent<a href="https://www.aclu.org/news/lawsuit-challenging-iowas-ag-gag-law-proceeds">&nbsp;statement</a>&nbsp;from ACLU attorney Rita Bettis made clear that one of its recent ‘ag-gag’ cases which challenge laws that criminalize undercover investigations of factory farms is not just about promoting free speech, but about preventing “animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions.”</p> <p>To be clear, this trend is not entirely new. Legendary human rights activists like<a href="http://www.mercyforanimals.org/angela-davis-feminist-civil-rights-activist">&nbsp;Angela Davis</a>,<a href="http://ufw.org/ZNET-Cesar-Ch-vez-and-Comprehensive-Rights/">&nbsp;Cesar Chávez</a>&nbsp; and<a href="https://www.peta.org/living/entertainment/dick-gregory-circuses/">&nbsp;Dick Gregory</a>&nbsp;have championed animal rights for decades, and prominent progressive law professors—including<a href="https://www.nonhumanrights.org/blog/scholarly-support-nonhuman-rights/">&nbsp;Cass Sunstein, Martha Nussbaum, Laurence Tribe,</a> <a href="http://www.dorfonlaw.org/2018/05/specious-speciesism-in-monkey-selfie.html">Michael Dorf, </a><a href="https://hls.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/10852/Stilt/">Kristin Stilt </a>and<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Mind-If-Order-Cheeseburger-Questions/dp/1590563840">&nbsp;Sherry Colb—</a>have all been strong advocates. What is new is that major human rights organizations are taking a stance on this issue through a wave of change in their institutional policies and practices. Crucially, this isn’t just a random hodge-podge of radical organizations. The ACLU, CCR and others are widely-respected organizations in the vanguard of the human rights movement, and bellwethers for social justice advocacy as a whole. </p> <p>The leadership of CHRGJ includes two high-level UN appointees and several world renowned international legal scholars; the Center for Constitutional Rights secured historic Supreme Court victories on behalf of Guantánamo detainees years before other organizations got involved; and the National Lawyers Guild was the<a href="https://www.nlg.org/nlg80/">&nbsp;first</a>&nbsp;racially integrated national bar association. The fact that change is happening in such organizations is a strong indication of a much broader, movement-wide shift towards the embrace of animal rights.</p> <p>Prominent members of other major human rights organizations are also becoming more vocal in their support. For example, Simon Cox, a Legal Officer at the <a href="https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/">Open Society Foundations</a> (one of the world’s largest funders of human rights advocacy and also a donor to openDemocracy), wrote in a recent email that “the idea of human rights is grounded in the notion that sentient creatures deserve respect and that harms to them should only be permitted when justified.” &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://carrcenter.hks.harvard.edu/people/william-f-bill-schulz">William F. “Bill” Schultz</a>, former executive director Amnesty International USA and Senior Fellow at Harvard’s <a href="https://carrcenter.hks.harvard.edu/home">Carr Center for Human Rights Policy</a>,<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-f-schulz/are-animal-rights-human-rights_b_4453593.html">&nbsp;argues</a>&nbsp;that animals deserve at least some legal rights. In October of 2017, he told me about an illuminating recent conversation about animal rights with his fellow board members in a leading US human rights organization:</p> <p>“I say, ‘Screw ‘em,’” bellowed one board member. “Torture, genocide, people—they’re all more important.” &nbsp;And maybe they are. But all the other board members were sympathetic to the notion of rights for animals, knowing that it behooves human rights activists to extend their circle of care and concern to complex creatures outside the narrow confines of convention. He went on to <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=GRUY468Z13QC&amp;pg=PA239&amp;lpg=PA239&amp;dq=%22I+love+forms+beyond+my+own,+and+regret+the+borders+between+us%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=8n2NdnkA-R&amp;sig=phY9cNO-ue3y2-K9rHnI_T1XEqY&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiRkuKrufvaAhViplkKHYtABSwQ6AEIUTAL#v=one">quote the anthropologist Loren Eiseley</a>: “I love forms beyond my own and regret the borders between us.” The extension of rights to animals, he added, is one way to diminish that distance.</p> <p>In fact, that distance is already diminishing, and quickly. I’m grateful to all the human rights organizations and advocates that are taking serious steps to fight the arbitrary discrimination that denies our moral and legal obligations to non-human animals. Thank you for showing me that our commitment to liberty and justice for all really does mean something for <em>all</em> victims of injustice, brutality, and discrimination—human and non-human alike.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gary-l-francione-anna-e-charlton/why-we-must-respect-rights-of-all-sentient-animals">Why we must respect the rights of all sentient animals</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Jay Shooster Activism Care Culture Sun, 13 May 2018 20:08:31 +0000 Jay Shooster 117802 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are we losing our love of life? ‘It must be the money’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rajiv-khanna/are-we-losing-our-love-of-life-it-must-be-money <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Healing our relationship to finance is a pre-condition for building a grassroots-led investment fund that’s focused on wellbeing.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Rajivkhanna.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Pia Infante of The Whitman Institute, Adriana Welsh Herrera of Ñepi Behña, Elvira Sanchez Toscano of ISMUGUA, Milvian Aspuac Con of AFEDES, and Gloria Marina Figueroa Aguilar of DESMI at the <em>Buen Vivir</em> Fund founders circle meeting at Casa Xitla in Mexico City in October 2016. Credit: <a href="http://www.whattookyousolong.org/">http://www.whattookyousolong.org</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <blockquote><p>“Our <em>buen vivir</em> was taken 500 years ago when the Spanish colonized our lands and people.” Milvian Aspuac Con, AFEDES, Guatemala.</p></blockquote> <p>I knew right then I was going to be schooled.Thirty-eight of us, representing 24 organizations from six countries, had gathered in rainy Mexico City to design an investment fund that would re-imagine our economy—and &nbsp;our investment practices—with the concept of <em>buen vivir </em>at the center.</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.whattookyousolong.org/">Buen vivir</a></em> comes from Indigenous movements in Latin America and implies “right living” or life in balance with communities, natural systems and future generations. Our grassroots partners, financial investors, and adviser allies—all &nbsp;leaders in alternative economic practices—had joined the gathering because of relationships built up over time with my organization, <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/">Thousand Currents</a>.&nbsp;They trusted us because we have a <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/what-we-do/">30-plus-year track record</a> of establishing respectful and productive partnerships with grassroots leaders around the world, <em>and </em>with those who have deeper pockets in wealthy countries.</p> <p>But that doesn’t mean we knew how to build an economy that’s centered on love and equality.<em> </em>That was the challenge that emerged from the grassroots, and specifically, how to develop an investment fund that’s run on these same principles and values—in stark contrast to the mainstream of philanthropy, foreign aid, social enterprise and investing.</p> <p>Most impact investment initiatives are centered on persuading investors from the Global North to lend money and ‘expertise.’ The accumulation of privatized wealth is then reflected in the centralization of power and control  in philanthropy and social investing. That’s why we came together to design a fund that would not only provide capital to grassroots groups who had never had access to investment before, but also support donors in the US who are floundering in a broken, fear-ridden financial system.</p> <p>In order to re-imagine finance in this way we asked: What if that economic power could be shifted to communities in the Global South? What if capital could flow in the service of well-being? That’s why I needed to be ‘schooled’ by Milvian Aspuac Con, the leader of an <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/?s=afedes">Indigenous-women led group called AFEDES</a>, a long-term Thousand Currents partner in Guatemala. She went on to share what it means to “recover the deep love for life” after a long history of Spanish colonization.</p> <p>In generations past, she said, her family lived well. Her grandparents produced food so they had enough to eat. Her grandmothers knew how to weave so they had enough clothes to wear, and what they needed for the house. They produced, sold, or exchanged the rest. They had little stress. They had a chance for recreation, to do other things besides work.</p> <p>But in 1980, after the approval of neoliberal and “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution">Green Revolution</a>” policies in Guatemala, many multinational agribusinesses arrived to convince farmers that it wasn’t profitable to produce their own food, and that their land could produce extra crops and extra money instead. This, they said, was the ultimate goal. These companies got rid of trees and other forms of biodiversity in order to focus on cash crops like green beans.</p> <p>As a result, Milvian’s community lost their traditional crops. Industrial agriculture meant that they had to buy seeds and apply for credit from these companies, trapping them in cycles of debt. Her family lost their way of life. In the end, Milvian’s father suffered bankruptcy.</p> <p>“It must be the money,” she said. “My father lost the love of life and went after money. We are recovering from this…slowly.”</p> <p>That feeling of loss—of substituting love for money—is common in contemporary societies, and it also characterizes the ways in which we usually approach the question of mobilizing finance for social change. We wanted to escape from these constrictions and develop a model that brought love and money back into a healthier relationship with one another, but this process proved to be much more challenging than we imagined.</p> <p>Conventional attitudes toward money run deep—who has it, who controls it, and how many strings are attached to how it’s spent. Working through these questions became a year-and-a-half long process of co-designing a radically-different investment vehicle which would come to be called the <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/buen-vivir-fund/"><em>Buen Vivir</em> Fund</a>. What we thought could be resolved in a week took many thousands of hours—<a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/2934-hours-buen-vivir-fund/">2,934 to be exact</a>.</p> <p>That’s because we had to acknowledge that our own relationship to money was grounded in scarcity. Until we transformed that relationship—until we truly acknowledged our fears about money and inequality—we couldn’t build an investment fund that would run on different principles and result in wellbeing instead of profit or top-down control.</p> <p>We also had to re-imagine our relationship with time. Maybe our initial plan and timeline needed more than a week to kick off, we thought, but with the outstanding leadership, initiative, and ideas of the people we had gathered together we could surely complete the co-design process of the Fund within a few months.</p> <p>We assumed that many elements of the Fund’s design could be identified in virtual conversations prior to the gathering, and planned to complete the details of its operations face to face. However, it was only when we came together in person and built more trust and authenticity among us that the most important questions, ideas, and challenges arose.&nbsp;</p> <p>Prior to the gathering we had essentially been assuming a mainstream investment model as a starting point, and then a process of proposing changes to that design. But when the conversation started our grassroots partners pushed us to depart completely from these mainstream models. Instead, they wanted to start with designs that already placed collective wellbeing at the center, like community-led savings and lending circles in their regions.</p> <p>In order to learn the basics of each other’s approach to investment, savings, and enterprise, we realized that we had to deepen the sharing among grassroots partners and financial investors. We also extended the co-design process to more than a year to ensure that adequate time and care could be given to this vital opportunity for a completely different way of thinking about money and social change, one that was firmly centered in <em>buen vivir</em> but also financially feasible and sustainable.</p> <p>Those living in higher-income countries have been conditioned to the commodification of time and the short-termism that’s created by mainstream financial investment practices. I too was frustrated, and our mindsets meant that many of us felt the pressure of time in the design process. Yet as Don Jorge Santiago reminded us, one of the advisers of the Fund who’s based in Chiapas and is a decades-long practitioner of the <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/?s=solidarity+economy">Solidarity Economy</a>: “Are you committed, as this is what it takes when you are creating something entirely new?”</p> <p>Ari Sahagún, another participant, shared how important it was to <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/what-it-means-to-trust-the-process-and-why-we-do-it/">trust the process</a>: “Bringing underrepresented voices into a previously-constructed process that was never designed by or for them simply does not work,” she told us. Hence, we needed to create a new and rigorous process that would uplift the determination, agency and leadership of grassroots communities. We learned that we had to prioritize this new process over expediency or efficiency.</p> <p>Time did pass, and <a href="https://medium.com/@1000Currents/can-we-remove-the-fear-from-our-global-economy-973debb95969">money from the Fund is now flowing</a>. We started with one million dollars in investment capital and US$200,000 in grant capital, distributed between <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/buen-vivir-fund/#BVFprojects">eight visionary projects in five countries</a>—from a Members Assembly that puts ‘on the ground’ expertise on an equal par with those who put up the money, to loans where the investors shoulder the risk (because they can), to borrowers making a solidarity contribution of their choosing back into the fund after their project ends rather than being required to pay any interest.</p> <p>In these and other ways the <em>Buen Vivir</em> Fund is designed for any growth (or more properly, abundance) to be passed forward to the next set of groups. But this isn’t just a matter of technics or operations. As I reflect back on my participation in the design process I can see how my own family’s relationship to money is also changing. My wife is currently in a two-year training program that has resulted in a significant decline in our household income. There has been the usual stress and anxiety in our conversations about wants and needs. And yet, at the point last year when our household income was at its lowest, our annual giving to causes we care about was at its highest.</p> <p>We are continually reconsidering what wellbeing and a ‘good life’ means to us, and we are appreciating the abundance of wealth in our lives in the form of health, love and joy; relationships, community and family; and food and the stunningly beautiful Bay Area that we call home.</p> <p>As it turns out, Milvian was right, and not only about her own experience or the design of the Fund: ‘It’s <em>not</em> just about the money.’ Confronting our fears about scarcity—whether within our own families or the global economy—means focusing not on wealth accumulation for the few but on the <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/buen-vivir-fund/">good life for all</a>. The next challenge is to extend this realization to the mainstream of philanthropy, social investing, and foreign aid that currently runs on the opposite set of principles.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fatima-van-hattum-arianne-shaffer/transforming-philanthropy-it%E2%80%99s-time-to-get-serious">Transforming philanthropy: it’s time to get serious</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/angela-eikenberry/could-giving-circles-rebuild-philanthropy-from-bottom-up">Could giving circles rebuild philanthropy from the bottom up?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/money-in-terms-of-social-change-it%E2%80%99s-both-%E2%80%98beauty-and-beast%E2%80%99">Money: in terms of social change, it’s both ‘beauty and the beast’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Rajiv Khanna The role of money Love and Spirituality Economics Activism Tue, 08 May 2018 20:21:08 +0000 Rajiv Khanna 117728 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can antifa build an effective broad-based anti-fascist movement? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/brian-martin-sue-curry-jansen/can-antifa-build-effective-broad-based-anti-fascist-mov <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Using violence and suppressing free speech is no way to build a just society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/antifa-effective-broad-anti-fascist-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MollyWallace_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Antifa graffiti. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/old_olsen/7875897238">Flickr/Oliver Wunder</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In March, Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist, cancelled his speaking engagements at U.S. universities, saying he was deterred by “antifa,” a loose international network of radical anti-fascist groups that aims to shut down far-right talks and rallies. For antifa members and supporters, Spencer’s capitulation was both&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/17/richard-spencer-college-tour-antifa-alt-right/">vindication of their aggressive tactics</a>&nbsp;and a sign of their success in opposing fascism.</p> <p>These confrontations between far-right activists and antifa groups—on the rise since the election of Donald Trump—are often presented as involving two opposing values: free speech on one side and the danger of allowing fascists to appear in public on the other. What is missing in this framing, however, is an understanding of the dynamics of censorship and of nonviolent action as an alternative.</p> <p>At the forefront of this clash of values is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mhpbooks.com/books/antifa/">Mark Bray’s 2017 book</a>&nbsp;“Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” which provides the most comprehensive justification for antifa tactics available. It has sold briskly and received considerable attention among its target audience of antifa activists.</p> <p>Bray readily acknowledges that “Antifa” was written “on the run” during the early days of the Trump era to meet the demand for information about newly visible anti-fascist activists.</p> <p>The immediate catalyst was the assault on Spencer by a masked man in 2017, which generated a&nbsp;<a href="http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/richard-spencer-punched-in-the-face">popular meme</a>&nbsp;and had many news outlets asking the question, “<a href="http://www.newsweek.com/richard-spencer-punch-nazi-ethicists-547277">Is it okay to punch a Nazi</a>?”</p> <p>Responding in the affirmative, antifa activists believe that the ends (“stopping fascism before it becomes unstoppable”) justify the means: violence. The more thoughtful members of antifa add the qualifier “when necessary.” </p> <p>As Murray, one of Bray’s anonymous U.S. informants puts it, “You fight them by writing letters and making phone calls so you don’t have to fight them with fists. You fight them with fists so you don’t have to fight them with knives. You fight them with knives so you don’t have to fight them with guns. You fight them with guns so you don’t have to fight them with tanks.” Beyond punching Nazis, antifa tactics drawing significant media attention include “no platforming”—or blocking or disrupting speeches—and “doxxing,” which consists of publishing private information about a target on social media to encourage harassment.</p> <p>Despite its genesis as instant history, “Antifa” is a serious book that raises fundamental questions about the viability of liberal tenets of free speech and the role of violence in political protests. Bray, a historian, visiting scholar at Dartmouth College and an Occupy Wall Street organizer, used his radical credentials to gain access to the antifa network, which generally operates in secrecy. He interviewed 61 active or former members of antifa groups from 17 countries. </p> <p>Supportive of the goals of antifa, but open to criticism of the movement, Bray argues that “militant anti-fascism is a reasonable, historically-informed response to the fascist threat that persisted after 1945 and that has become especially menacing in recent years.” The authorial voice he projects is humane and reflective, occasionally punctuated with references to his personal history and activist experiences.</p> <p>The first two chapters are devoted to the history of fascism and anti-fascism, from the 1899 founding of the anti-Dreyfusard League to the early 2000s when antifa groups began to rethink their strategies in light of the rise of new far-right parties in Europe. While historical contextualizing is essential to understanding antifa’s “never again” rationale for preventative violence, Bray packs too many facts into too little space for readers without a deep background in European history to readily absorb and retain, making these crucial early chapters a hard slog. </p> <p>This is unfortunate because the subsequent chapters are accessible and illuminating. Chapter Three addresses the recent emergence, in response to the refugee crisis in Europe, of “pin-stripe Nazis”: nationalists who cover their underlying fascist tendencies with a veneer of respectability. They claim to be protecting democracy against its enemies while providing a cover for racism, Islamophobia and restoration of patriarchal gender regimes.</p> <p>The remaining chapters focus on the theory and politics of antifa at more pragmatic levels: lessons to be drawn from history; no platforming and free speech; strategy, including internal criticism within some antifa groups; the dangers of machismo within antifa; fetishization of violence; feminism and antifa; nonviolent antifa tactics; militant anti-fascism and public opinion; antifa groups functioning as reserve police in some Nazi encounters; popular culture’s relation to antifa (via punk, hipster and hooligan subcultures) and much more. There are two appendices: One offers advice to recruits from veteran antifa activists, while the other provides a bibliography on North American and European works on anti-fascism. Unfortunately, the book lacks an index.</p> <p><strong>The conundrum of no tolerance for intolerance.</strong></p> <p>Bray defends no-platforming, saying one of history’s lessons is that “it doesn’t take that many fascists to make fascism.” Mussolini and Hitler demonstrated that once fascism is legitimized, it can expand rapidly and quickly consolidate its power. Another is that, historically, fascists gained power legally. Therefore, Bray concludes that fascism must be stopped at its source.</p> <p>He contends that most antifa groups do not reject freedom of speech in principle, but they maintain that the struggle against fascism takes precedence. On this point, he quotes Joe, one of his respondents, who says, “The idea that freedom of speech is the most important thing that we can protect can only be held by someone who thinks that life is analogous to a debate hall.” Bray argues that no one actually lives up to the absolutist free speech standard that liberals use to condemn antifa. History, he points out, is full of examples of liberal abridgments of free speech, including some systemic ones, such as wartime press censorship, incitement-to-violence prohibitions, obscenity laws, copyright infringement and incarceration.</p> <p>Bray argues that the liberal Enlightenment ideal of the best, most rational, argument prevailing in a free and open debate does not take into account the irrational and emotional appeal of fascism. Citing appeasement in the 1930s, Bray contends that liberalism has failed to provide a reliable bulwark against fascism. To be sure, free speech is fragile and liberalism’s failures are legion. That is why these positions do require radical interrogation in struggles for social justice. Free expression is, however, a fundamental feature of participatory democracy, whether liberal or socialist.</p> <p>When Richard Spencer announced on Twitter that he was canceling his “college tour” because antifa had escalated its efforts and—in his view—police were not responding adequately, it seemed like a victory for antifa. If so, it was pyrrhic. Antifa’s tactics, which attracted hostile media coverage, did little to advance struggles against racism, patriarchal gender regimes, ableism and the other causes the movement supports. Intentional bureaucratic obstructionism by various university administrators may have done as much to undermine Spencer’s tour as antifa. For example, he decided to quit the tour when only 12 people showed up for his appearance at Michigan State University, which scheduled his talk during spring break when most students were away from campus.</p> <p>Bray faults liberal free speech theory for its failure to live up to an absolutist standard of free speech and for its hypocrisy. Yet, in doing so, he unwittingly encounters the conundrum that has dogged free speech theorists for centuries: what Karl Popper referred to as “the paradox of intolerance” in his 1945 work “The Open Society and Its Enemies.” Any system that legally valorizes tolerance, regardless of its ideology, must—by logical extension—resort to intolerance of the intolerant. Like liberalism, antifa and Bray are also caught in this logical trap. As Bray puts it, “An anti-fascist outlook has no tolerance for ‘intolerance.’” Yet, antifa is founded upon aggressive intolerance of fascists.</p> <p>Presumably Bray means no tolerance for racism, misogyny, homo- and transphobia, etc. Intolerance of intolerance is the socio-logic, if not the formal rationale, for the European Union’s controversial 2007 measure outlawing Holocaust denial. That precedent also points to the possibility of legalistic tactics that antifa could use in some national jurisdictions, although it does not have the machismo appeal of violent confrontation.</p> <p>Democracy has always been aspirational. Free speech is a desired goal, though very unevenly realized in practice. Bray persuasively chronicles some of the many failures of liberal democracy and free speech, and underscores the importance of radical struggles for greater economic and social justice. Antifa’s binary framing of choices—speech or violence—does seem to give Bray pause at times, as it should. He contends that the society that anti-authoritarians seek to create would offer more opportunities for free expression than the liberal status quo. For antifa, that is a society inspired by revolutionary socialism; for Bray, preferably one that is anti-authoritarian and non-hierarchical.</p> <p>Suppression of free speech is a method fascists use to consolidate power and amplify the reach of the irrational emotional appeals of their propaganda. Hitler, for example, quashed opposition, banning trade unions and opposition parties, and established the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which controlled German media and cultivated anti-Semitism and the Aryan myth, most famously through films like “The Eternal Jew” and “Triumph of the Will.” Antifa, by seeking to suppress the speech of fascists, actually mimics their own techniques rather than providing an alternative.</p> <p><strong>Justifying violence on moral, not strategic, grounds.</strong></p> <p>Bray’s history of fascism and anti-fascism gives the most attention to violence on both sides. Fascists in inter-war Italy and Germany used violence and so did their opponents. Bray recounts clash after clash. From the 1940s to the present, he portrays anti-fascism as a continuing attempt to prevent fascists and neo-Nazis from being able to organize in public, with anti-fascists assaulting right-wing protesters and speakers. In some cases, this goes further, with anti-fascists assaulting anyone just wearing fascist garb, or bombing the offices and homes of prominent right-wingers. Bray recounts these events, presenting no reservations about any tactics used.</p> <p>Bray argues that fascists need to be cowed into submission before they gain any sort of profile, arguing that the failure of the left in the 1920s and 1930s was letting fascism grow without sufficient resistance, though his claim is&nbsp;<a href="https://theconversation.com/how-should-we-protest-neo-nazis-lessons-from-german-history-82645">questionable</a>. Most of Bray’s arguments concerning violence are about justifying it. The limitation of this approach is that even if one believes a violent action might be justified, morally or politically, it still may not be the most effective approach.</p> <p>Bray presents violence as the alternative to liberal approaches, which rely on rational discourse and policing. Certainly, liberalism has often failed to deal with right-wing threats. However, there is another alternative: nonviolent action, the strategic use of petitions, rallies, strikes, boycotts, sit-ins and a host of other methods. This alternative has a rich history—including, for example,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/nazis-afraid-clowns/">countering fascists</a>&nbsp;using clowning. Bray can hardly avoid discussing nonviolent action because it is now used widely in contemporary social movements.</p> <p>To his credit, Bray addresses nonviolent action. He spends much of his treatment countering the arguments about fascism presented by Erica Chenoweth, a leading nonviolence scholar and co-author with Maria Stephan of the acclaimed study “<a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">Why Civil Resistance Works</a>.” Bray cites particular cases in his attempt to counter the findings of Chenoweth and Stephan. This is strange because Chenoweth and Stephan do not claim violence is never effective, but rather that a statistical analysis of violent and nonviolent anti-regime campaigns shows that nonviolent movements are more likely to be successful and to lead to freer societies years later.</p> <p>More seriously, Bray does not come to grips with the assumptions underlying nonviolent action. As Chenoweth and Stephan show, and many others have argued, a key reason why nonviolent action is effective is because it enables participation by most sectors of the population, including women, children, elderly and people with disabilities. Anyone can participate in a boycott.</p> <p>A second key reason for the effectiveness of nonviolent action is precisely its avoidance of violence. Many people see violent attacks on peaceful, non-resisting protesters as unfair, even inhumane. As a result, such attacks can recoil against the attackers, generating greater support for the protesters. This effect, called political jiu-jitsu, is reduced or nullified when protesters are themselves violent.</p> <p>Bray is quite right to point out that many campaigns, categorized as primarily nonviolent, used some violence. But this does not mean the violence helped the campaigns. By the logic of political jiu-jitsu, it may have weakened them.</p> <p>Throughout “Antifa,” Bray actually gives examples of when fascist violence was counterproductive for the fascists and examples of when anti-fascist violence was counterproductive for the anti-fascists. For example, in Sweden in the 1990s, “neo-Nazi violence provoked a harsh societal backlash.” Then, in 2000, a Swedish neo-Nazi, Daniel Wretström, “allegedly was killed in a fight with immigrant youth,” and was seen as a martyr for his cause. The neo-Nazis subsequently held an annual march in his memory. However, Bray does not dwell on cases in which violence is counterproductive and does not link them to a backfire process.</p> <p>In terms of nonviolence theory, one of the shortcomings of much anti-fascist campaigning is that the use of violence limits participation. Bray notes the challenges that antifa groups have with excess machismo and the rise of feminist antifa (fantifa) groups in response. He gives no information about the demographics of antifa groups, in particular their age and ability profiles. It is reasonable to assume that most antifa activists involved in physical confrontations are young fit men, the same profile as most military forces and combatants in any armed struggle.</p> <p>“Antifa” succeeds in its primary mission: providing English-language readers with an overview of the antifa network, its purpose, diverse international groupings, ideology and tactics. The book is an informed and revealing, yet one-sided, account of efforts against fascism. What it omits is a sustained discussion of strategy to counter fascism by any means except using force to deter or fight the presence of the far right in public spaces. This one-dimensional approach limits the potential for participation of many sympathetic people. Furthermore, it can even alienate potential supporters who might be won over and involved using less confrontational tactics.</p> <p>Using violence sends a message that the way to oppose those with whom you disagree is to silence their speech. This can legitimate use of the same methods by opponents. Ultimately, suppressing free speech and using violence are not good ways to build the sort of free society Bray desires, because they fail to foster the attitudes and skills necessary for such a society to develop and flourish.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/strategic-naivet-of-antifa">The strategic naiveté of Antifa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/david-standen/is-it-ok-to-punch-nazis-in-face-thats-beside-point">Is it ok to punch Nazis in the face? That&#039;s beside the point</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence">Six principles of nonviolence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sue Curry Jansen Brian Martin Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 03 May 2018 20:07:57 +0000 Brian Martin and Sue Curry Jansen 117545 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The revenge against the commons https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zad-forever/revenge-against-commons <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why France’s biggest police operation since May 1968 is prepared to kill for Macron’s neoliberal nightmare (10k words).</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad1.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The APC pushes the Vraies Rouges barricade. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p>This is a long read by one of the inhabitants of the Zad, about the fortnight rollercoaster of rural riots that has just taken place to evict the liberated territory of the zad. It’s been incredibly intense and hard to find a moment to write, but we did our best. This is simply one viewpoint, there are over 1000 people on the zone at the moment and every one of them could tell a different story. Thank you for all the friends and comrades who helped by sharing their stories, rebel spirits and lemon juice against the tear gas.</p> <blockquote><p>&nbsp;“We must bring into being the world we want to defend. These cracks where people find each other to build a beautiful future are important. This is how the zad is a model.”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/230418/naomi-klein-la-zad-est-un-modele" target="_blank">Naomi Klein</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“What is happening at&nbsp; Notre-Dame-des-Landes illustrates a conflict that concerns the whole world”&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="https://zad.nadir.org/spip.php?article5679" target="_blank">Raoul Vaneigem</a></p></blockquote> <p>The police helicopter hovers above, its bone rattling clattering never seems to stop. At night its long godlike finger of light penetrates our cabins and farm houses. It has been so hard to sleep this last week. Even dreaming, it seems, is a crime on the zad. And that’s the point: these 4000 acres of autonomous territory, this zone to defend, has existed despite the state and capitalism for nearly a decade and no government can allow such a place to flourish. All territories that are inhabited by people who bridge the gap between dream and action have to be crushed before their hope begins to spread. This is why France’s biggest police operation since May 1968, at a cost of 400,000 euros a day, has been trying to evict us with its 2500 gendarmes, armoured vehicles (APCs), bulldozers, rubber bullets, drones, 200 cameras and 11,000 tear gas and stun grenades fired since the operation began at 3.20am on the morning of the 9th of April.</p> <p>The state said that these would be “targeted evictions”, claiming that there were up to 80 ‘radical’ zadists that would be hunted down, and that the rest, the ‘good’ zadists, would have to legalise or face the same fate. The good zadist was a caricature of the gentle ‘neo rural farmer’ returning to the land, the bad, an ultra violent revolutionary, just there to make trouble. Of course this was a fantasy vision to feed the state’s primary strategy, to divide this diverse popular movement that has managed to defeat 3 different French governments and win France’s biggest political victory of a generation.</p> <p>The zad was initially set up as a protest against the building of a new airport for the city of Nantes, following a letter by residents distributed during a climate camp in 2009, which invited people to squat the land and buildings: ‘because’ as they wrote ‘only an inhabited territory can be defended’. Over the years this territory earmarked for a mega infrastructure project, evolved into Europe’s largest laboratory of commoning. Before the French state started to bulldoze our homes, there were 70 different living spaces and 300 inhabitants nestled into this checkerboard landscape of forest, fields and wetlands. Alternative ways of living with each other, fellow species and the world are experimented with 24/7.</p> <p>From making our own bread to running a pirate radio station, planting herbal medicine gardens to making rebel camembert, a rap recording studio to a pasta production workshop, an artisanal brewery to two blacksmiths forges, a communal justice system to a library and even a full scale working lighthouse –&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqrtUkBmv8s&amp;t=3s" target="_blank">the zad has become a new commune for the 21st century</a>. Messy and bemusing, this beautifully imperfect utopia in resistance against an airport and its world has been supported by a radically diverse popular movement, bringing together tens of thousands of anarchists and farmers, unionists and naturalists, environmentalists and students, locals and revolutionaries of every flavour. But everything changed on the 17th of January 2018, when the French prime minister appeared on TV to cancel the airport project and in the same breath say that the zad, the ‘outlaw zone’ would be evicted and law and order returned.</p> <p>I am starting to write 8 days into the attack, it’s Tuesday the 17th of April my diary tells me, but days, dates even hours of the day seem to merge into a muddled bath of adrenaline soaked intensity, so hard to capture with words. We are so tired, bruised and many badly injured. Medics have counted 270 injuries so far. Lots due to the impact of rubber bullets, but most from the sharp metal and plastic shrapnel shot from the stun and concussion grenades whose explosions punctuate the spring symphony of birdsong. Similar grenades killed 21 year old ecological activist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article36425" target="_blank">Remi Fraise</a>&nbsp;during protests against an agro industrial dam in 2014.</p> <p>The zad’s welcome and information centre, still dominated by a huge hand painted map of the zone, has been transformed into a field hospital. Local doctors have come in solidarity working with action medic crews, volunteer acupuncturists and healers of all sorts and the comrades ambulance is parked outside. The police have even delayed ambulances leaving the zone with injured people in them, and when its the gendarmerie that evacuates seriously injured protesters from the area sometimes they have been abandoning them in the street far from the hospital or in one case in front of a psychiatric clinic.</p> <p>The thousands of acts of solidarity have been a life line for us, including sabotaged French consulate parkings in Munich to local pensioners bringing chocolate bars, musicians sending in songs they composed to demonstrations by Zapatistas in Chiapas, banners in front of French embassies everywhere – from Dehli to New York, a giant message carved in the sand of a New Zealand beach and even scuba divers with an underwater banner. Here on the zone three activist field kitchens have come to feed us, architects have written a column deploring the destruction of unique forms of habitat signed by 50,000 people and locals have been offering storage for the safe keeping of our belongings. </p> <p>A true culture of resistance has evolved in parallel with the zad over the years. Not many people are psychologically or physically prepared to fight on the barricades, but thousands are ready to give material support in all its forms and this is the foundation of any struggle that wants to win. It means opening up to those who might be different, those that might not have the same revolutionary analysis as us, those who some put in their box named ‘reformist’, but this is what building a composition is all about, it is how we weave a true ecology of resistance. As a banner reads on one of the squatted farmhouses here, Pas de barricadieres sans cuisiniers “There are no (female) barricaders without (male) cooks.”</p> <p>Today has been one of the calmest since the start of the operation, and it felt like the springtime was really flowering, so we opened all the doors and windows of house letting the spring air push away the toxic fumes of tear gas that still linger on our clothes. It feels like there is a momentary lull. For the first time since the evictions, our collective all ate together, sitting in the sun at a long table surrounded by two dozen friends from across the world come to support us. I hear the buzzing of a bee trying to find nectar and look up into the sky, its not a bee at all, but the police drone, come to film us sharing food, it hovers for hours. In the end this is the greatest crime we have committed on the zad, that of building the commons, sharing worlds together and deserting the pathology of individualism.</p> <p>Two years before the abandonment of the airport project the movement declared in a text entitled The Six Points for the Zad: Because there will be no Airport, that we would, via an entity that emerged from the movement , collectively look after these lands that we were saving from certain death by concrete. A few months before the abandonment the form that this entity took was the Assembly of Usages. Soon after the airport was cancelled, we entered into negotiations with the state (via the prefet. Nicole Klein, who represents the state in the department) following a complicated week of pre-negotiations, where we were forced to open up one of the roads which had had cabins built on it since the&nbsp;<a href="https://zadforever.blog/2012/11/15/rural-rebels-and-useless-airports-la-zad-europes-largest-postcapitalist-land-occupation/">attempted evictions of 2012.&nbsp;</a>It seemed that the flow of traffic through the zone was the state’s way of telling the public that law and order had returned on the zone. (see the text&nbsp;<a href="https://zadforever.blog/2018/03/12/the-zad-will-survive/" target="_blank">Zad Will Survive&nbsp;</a>for a view of this complicated period).</p> <p>A united delegation of 11 people made up from the NGOs, farmers, naturalists and occupiers of the zone attended the negotiations and did not flinch from the demand to set up a collective legal land structure, rather than return these lands to private property and agro-business as usual. In the 1980s a similar legal structure was put in place following the victory of a mass movement against the expansion of a military base on the plateau of the Larzac in Southern France. With this precedent in mind we provided a legally solid document for a global land contract, but it was ignored, no legal grounds were given, the refusal was entirely political. Three days later the evictions began.</p> <p>The battle lines were made clear, it was not about bringing ‘law and order’ back to the zone, but a battle between private property, and those who share worlds of capitalism against the commons. The battle of the zad is a battle for the future, one that we cannot lose.</p> <p><strong>Day 1: Monday 9th April—everything begins in the dark.</strong></p> <p>The telephone rings, it’s 3.20am, it’s still dark outside, a breathless voice says two simple words, “It’s begun!” and hangs up. Everyone knows what to do, some run to offices filled with computers, others to the barricades, some to the pirate radio (Radio Klaxon, which happens to squat the airwaves of Vinci motorway radio, 107,7, the construction company that was going to build and run the airport) others start their medics shift. Hundreds of police vans are taking over the two main roads that pass through the zone.</p> <p>Fighting on one of the lanes manages to stop the cops moving further west. But elsewhere the bulldozers smash their way through some of the most beautiful cabins made of adobe and the wastes of the world that rose out of the the mud in the east of the zone, they destroy the Lama Sacrée with its stunning wooden watch tower, permaculture gardens and green houses are flattened and they rip gashes in the forest. A large mobile anti riot wall is erected by the police in the lane that stretches east to west, a technique that works in cities but in rural riots it’s useless and people spend all morning hassling them from every angle. Despite gas and stun grenades we hold our ground. Journalists are blocked for a while from entering, the police stating that they will provide their own footage (free of copyrights!). The “press group” gives them directions so that they manage to cross the fields and the pictures dominate the morning news.</p> <p>There are over a dozen of us are facing a line of hundreds of robocops at the other end of the field. One of us, masked up and dressed in regulation black kway is holding a golf club. He kneels down and places a golf T in the wet grass. He pulls a golf ball out of a big supermarket bag and serenely places it in the T. He takes a swipe, the ball bounces off the riot shields. He takes out another ball and another and another.</p> <p>In the afternoon the cops and bailiffs arrive at the 100 noms, an off grid small holding with sheep, chickens, veg plots, and beautiful housing including a cabin built by a young deserting architect which resembles a giant knights helmet made with geodesic plates of steel. The occupiers, who have built this place up from nothing over 5 years are given 10 minutes to leave by the bailiff. Several hundred people turn up to resist, many from ‘the camp of the white haired ones’ which has brought together the pensioners and elders, who have called it a camp for “the youth of all ages” and have been one of the backbones of this long struggle. There must be nearly 200 of us, at the 100 noms, this time no one is masked up. A massive block of robocops is coming up the path, some of us climb on the roof of the newly built sheep barn, others form a line of bodies pressed hard against the riot shields, we are peasants and activists, occupiers and visitors, young and old and they beat us, burn our skin with their pepper spray and push us out of the fields.</p> <p>We reply with a joyful hail of mud that covers their visors and shields. The people on the roof are brought down by the specialists climbers and the bulldozer does its job. A few minutes later as one of their huge demolition machines gets stuck in the mud, a friend shouts ironically to the crowd: “come on let’s go and give it hand and push it out!”, Hundreds approach, trails of gas take over the blue sky, dozens of canisters rain down on the wetlands, many falling into the ponds which begin to bubble with their toxic heat. I try to console Manu whose home, a tall skinny wooden cabin with a climbing wall on its side, has just been flattened, my hugs cannot stop his sobs. Our eyes are red with tears of grief and gas.</p> <p>In the logic of the state, the 100 Noms ticked many of their fantasy boxes of those wanting to be legalised, ‘the good zadists’. It was a well functioning small holding, producing meat and vegetables and where the sheep were more legal than its inhabitants. It was a project that had the support of many of the locals. Its destruction lit a spark that brought many of those in the movement who had felt a bit more distant from the zad recently back into the fold of the resistance. Of course its no less disgusting than the flattening of all the other homes and cabins, but the battle here is as much on the symbolic terrain as in the bocage and it seems to be a strategic blunder to destroy the 100 Noms.</p> <p>The live twitter videos from the attack are watched by tens of thousands, news of the evictions spreads and a shock wave ripples through France. Actions begin to erupt in over 100 places, some town halls are occupied, the huge Millau bridge over 1000 km away is blockaded as is the weapon factory that makes the grenades in Western Brittanny.</p> <p>The demolition continues till late, but the barricades grow faster at night, and we count the wounded.</p> <p><strong>Day 2: Tuesday 10th April—between a barricade and a tank.</strong></p> <p>It all begins again before sun rise, the communication system on the zone with its hundreds of walkie talkies, old style truck drivers cb’s and pirate radio station calls us to go and defend the Vraie Rouge collective, which is next to the the zad’s largest vegetable garden and medicinal herb project. We arrive through the fields to find one of the armoured cars pushed up against the barricade, we stand firm the barricade between us and the APC. We prepare paint bombs to try and cover the APC’s windows with. </p> <p>Then the tear gas begins to rain amongst the salad and spinach plants. A friend finds a terrified journalist cowering in one of the cabins, she writes for the right wing Figaro newspaper and is a bit out of place with her red handbag. “What’s that noise??” she asks, trembling, “the stun grenades” he replies. “But why aren’t you counter attacking?” she says, “where are your pétanque balls covered in razor blades?” Our friend laughs despite the gas poisoning his lungs, “we never had such things, it was a right wing media invention, and it’s impossible anyway, no one can weld razor blades onto a pétanque ball!”</p> <p>There is so much gas, we can no longer see beyond our stinging running noses. The police are being pressurised simultaneously from the other side of the road by a large militant crowd with gas masks, make shift shields, stones, slingshots and tennis rackets to return the grenades. They are playing hide and seek from behind the trees. The armoured car begins to push the barricade, some of us climb onto the roof of the two story wooden cabin, others try to retreat without crushing the beautiful vegetable plot. It's over, the end of another collective living space on the zone. Then we hear a roar from the other side of the barricade. Dozens of figures emerge from the forest, molotov cocktails fly, one hits the APC, flames rise from the amour and the wild roar transforms itself into a cry of pure joy. The APC begins to back off as do the police. The Vraie Rouge will live one more day it seems, thanks to diversity of tactics.</p> <p>In 2012 when we managed to stop the first eviction attempts of the zone, this was what gave us an advantage. Over the 50 years that the movement against the airport lasted, it used everything from petitions to hunger strikes, legal challenges to sabotage, riots to citizens ecological inventories of the zone, defensive tree houses to flying rocks, tractor blockades to clown armies. Its secret weapon was the respect we had for each others’ tactics and an incredible ability to try and not condemn each other. Pacifist Pensioners and black bloc worked together in a way that I had never seen before, which made criminalising the movement much more complicated for the government. Movements win when they have the richest most colourful palette of tactics at their disposal and they are ready to use every one of them at the right time and place.</p> <p>In a woodland dip to the east of the zone, the Cheverie, is still resisting. A huge high cabin made from different types of swirling coloured clay – brown, grey, ochre and white – punctuated by mosaics and carved spiders, constructed by hundreds of hands, is about to be crushed. Hundreds of gendarmes surround it, one of them seems to have a machine gun strapped to his back. From the roof someone uses a traffic cone as a megaphone: “we are defending life and the living.” When the cabin is finally brought down a minor miracle occurs, none of the dozens of windows is broken, which will make it much easier to rebuild.</p> <p>At the Fosses Noires, the brewery has been turned into a canteen, but the tear gas is falling on the pots, pans and piles of donated vegetables. After lunch, a second press conference takes place, yesterday the first one had brought dozens of TV cameras and microphones from radios across the country, 8 people from all the composition of the movement faced the cameras, their dignified anger was so powerful, so palpable, many of us shed tears listening.</p> <p>Today there are 30 inhabitants in front of the cameras, it is those that have an agricultural and craft projects running on the zone, the tanner is there as is the cheese maker, the potter and market gardeners, cow herders and leather workers. They explain how over the last weeks of negotiations with the state, they handed over documents to develop a collective project within a legal nonprofit association that had been set up. They show that on this bocage to think ecologically is to realise that all the projects are interdependent, rotating the fields between folk, sharing tools and and everyone helping out on each others' projects when needed. To divide the zad into individual separate units makes no sense.</p> <p>But the words are not as strong as the striking image of Sarah, our young shepherdess who like a modern day madonna holds a dead black lamb on her lap. She explains how her flock was legalised already and that this one died from stress when it was moved from the 100 Noms farm to avoid the evictions. Her grey eyes pierce the camera lenses, “they choose violence, they choose to destroy what we build, they choose to break off the dialogue with us.” Whilem a young farmer, whose milk herd squats fields to the west, raises his trembling voice, “ If there is no collective agriculture then you get what’s already happening in the countryside – individualism: eat up your neighbours farm land, be more and more alone with a bigger and bigger farm,” he takes a deep breath, “the isolation is pushing farmers to commit suicide, we are more and more alone on our farms faced with increasing difficulties. On the zad we hold a vision of farming for all, not just for us.”</p> <p>The zad makes a call for a mass picnic the following day. Vincent. one of the supporting farmers from the region, a member of COPAIN 44, a network of rebel farmers whose tractors have become one of our most iconic and useful tools of resistance, sighs, “the government has broken any possibility of dialogue now, they have forced us to respond with a struggle for power.”</p> <p>Between the tall poles that hold the breweries’ hop plants a long banner is raised, “Nicole Klein radicalised me.”</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">A banner is raised “Nicole Klein radicalised me.” Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p><p><strong>Day 3: Wednesday 11th April—gassing a picnic.</strong></p> <p>We are woken as normal by the explosions of gendarmes' grenades, fighting continues near the D281 road. A small group is trying to stop the police lining up in a field, there aren’t many of us, it feels hopeless, then out of the morning mist comes a tractor, its driver wears a balaclava, in the front bucket – a tonne of stones. He drops them in a pile just where we are standing, puts the tractor in reverse and disappears back into the mist.</p> <p>In the next door field a towering guy wearing a balaclava and dressed in a full monk's habit throws a bucket of water over a handful of robocops – “I baptise you in the name of the zad”, he bellows. A cloud of pepper spray engulfs him, but one the gendarmes slips in the mud and drop his truncheon, at the speed of light the monk grabs it and runs off, wielding his rebel relic in the air. The police megaphone calls out “You must return the state’s property. Return it now!”</p> <p>At lunch time, over a thousand people turn up to share a picnic in the fields. Over thirty tractors have come, some from far, despite the fact that its one of the busiest seasons for the farmers, they encircle the large Rouge et Noir collective vegetable garden, now littered with hundreds of toxic plastic tear gas canisters. “The state crossed the red line when they destroyed the 100 Noms” one of them says.</p> <p>The crowd of all ages walk through the barricades and debris of yesterday’s battle that litter the country lanes. The atmosphere is festive, a samba band with pink masks leads us into the field beside the Lama Sacrée. A long line of black clad police stretches across the spring green pasture. The samba band approach, then all hell lets loose: gas canisters shower down, dozens of stun grenades are thrown into the peaceful crowd, panic ensues, people retreat across the hedgerows.</p> <p>The houses of la Boite Noire, Dalle à Caca, Jesse James and la Gaité fall in the east. Simultaneously they attack la Grée, the large rambling grafitti covered farm at the centre of the zone that has an unconditional welcome policy. There is a car repair workshop, climbing wall and the rap studio and many folk escaping the misery of street life and addictions end up living there together. Farmers’ tractors are surrounding the building, a barricade made from the carcasses of cars, is set alight. But the tear gas is too strong and the tractors are forced to back off.</p> <p>Out of the mist of gas come black lumbering troops, they charge across the fields. The whole zone is split in two by a seemingly endless lines of robocops stretching east to west. The crowd is dispersed, people are coughing up their lungs, they are furious. It began as a picnic, now it’s a war zone again. The gas clouds cling to the pasture, frightened cows huddle together in a corner of a tiny field. The medic post at the Fosses Noires has to move away to the Gourbi, but then the gas catches up with it there too and it moves to La Rolandière just in time before the police arrive to smash one of the zone’s most symbolic sites, the Gourbi.</p> <p>In the very centre of the zad the Gourbi is where the weekly assembly of occupiers is held and Friday’s No-market, a place where excess produce is distributed with no fixed price but by donation only. Initially there was a stone farm house there, inhabited by an old couple who were evicted in 2012 and their home destroyed for the airport project. Then a wooden hut was built in its place, but its ramshackle pallet sides soon needed restoring and so a brand new state of the art cabin-like meeting house was built over 2015. But one night someone sneaked into this beautiful meeting house and set it alight.</p> <p>But Gourbi was to rise from the ashes, and as an ironic response to the governments 2016 local consultation about the airport project, we held an all night building party whilst the results came through (55 per cent for building the new airport). To the sound of a wild one man accordion band doing kitsch covers of Queen and other trashy pop songs, hundreds of people stuffed the clay of the wetlands into a huge geodesic metal dome structure to build our new round meeting house. It was made of steel and mud to resist arson, but today the bulldozer crushed it with a single swipe of its blade. Worlds away in the metropolis, the Minister of Interior, Gérard Collomb, tells parliament “We want to avoid all violence in this country, this is what we are doing at Notre-Dame-des-Landes.”</p> <p>By sunset the government claims to have evicted 13 more living spaces, bringing the total to 29 since Monday. The prime minister refuses to pause the operations, and the medic team share horrific photos of some of the 60 injuries since Monday, including 3 journalists. Meanwhile the cops release their figures: 32 injuries, but it turns out most are from the mis use of their own weapons. Solidarity actions pour in from thousands, including squatters in Iceland, farmers in Lebanon and eco builders in Columbia. In Paris, sex workers send in kinky zad themed S and M photos and students occupy the EHSS elite social science school in solidarity. That afternoon electricity is cut across a large part of the zone and many of our neighbors homes outside of the zad. It is a tactic reminiscent of collective punishment used during military occupations. At night the gentle lulling croak of mating frogs in the marches mixes with the hum of back up electric generators. Four hundred of us meet at the Wardine, in the old concrete cow shed covered in bright murals, we share stories, dogs bark, tempers fray.</p> <p><strong>Day 4: Thursday 12th April—are they ready to kill ?</strong></p> <p>The day begins with some good news on radio klaxon. An affinity group action just shut down the motorway that passes near the zad. Emerging from the bushes they flowed down onto the tarmac armed with tyres, fluorescent jackets and lighters. Within seconds a burning wall blocked the flow of commuters to Nantes. The group disappeared just as quickly as they materialised, melting back into the hedgerows. The more we fight for this land, the more we become the bocage and the harder it is to find us. Every day more and more people converge here, many for the first time in their lives.The art of the barricade continues across the zone, including one topped with an old red boat. Some of our most useful barricades are mobile, in the form of tractors, dozens of COPAIN 44’s machines take over the main cross roads of the zone.</p> <p>Following an attempt by friendly lawyers to prove that the eviction of the 100 noms was illegal, the prefect is forced to appear in court in Nantes, but the case is adjourned. The indefatigable zad press group sends out a new communique entitled, After 3 days of evictions are they ready to kill because they don’t want a collective ? Clashes continues across the bocage as Macron take to the TV screens for a national statement about his policies. A social movement is rising against him, with university occupations, supermarket, rail workers and Air France on strike – he has to respond. The mise-en-scène is bizarre, he sits in a primary school class room. He speaks about the zad for a little over a minute, “republican order must be returned” he says, and “everything that was to be evacuated has already been evacuated”.</p> <p>As he speaks a hundred and fifty concussion grenades are launched in less than half an hour in the Lama Sacrée field, the explosions echo across the bocage, bursting the ear drums of those nearby and raising the anxiety levels of those within hearing distance, which on this flat landscape of the zad, is all of us. The league of Human Rights demands that all parties come back to the table. A call is sent for people to converge on the Zone on Sunday: “ The time has come to find ourselves together, to say that the zad must live, to dress our wounds and re build ourselves.”</p> <p>We walk home to la Rolandière, with its ship shaped library attached to the lighthouse, built where they wanted to build the airport control tower. The sun is setting, 20m high up on the lighthouse’s balcony a lone figure is playing a trumpet, fluid sumptous jazz floats across the forest. It is one of those moments when you remember why you live here.</p> <p>That night under a clear constellation filled sky, the Assembly of Usages meets. We sit on wooden hand made bleechers under Le hangar de l’avenir (The Barn of the future). This cathedral like barn was built by over 80 traditional carpenters in 2016 using mostly hand tools, it is ornamented with snakes and salamanders carved into the oak beams. There are several hundred of us at the assembly, one of the peasants whose tractor is blocking the crossroads reads out a series of texts messages he has received from the préfete who is trying to negotiate with COPAIN 44. “Yesterday the Prime minister said it was war, today the president says its peace, therefore it’s all over.” It’s clear that she’s feeling that the situation has become much more complicated than predicted. A deal is made, move your tractors she writes, and I promise that by 10pm I will announce to Ouest France, the regional news paper, that it is the end of operations by the Gendarmes.</p> <p>The meeting continues, we wait for the article to appear on the newspaper’s web site. I reload my phone endlessly waiting for the site to update. Suddenly it does, but it’s just a story about rock legend Johnny Hallyday, was it all a bluff ? Then it arrives, half an hour late. A cheer rises from the tired voices. At home we try to party a little, at least we might get a lie in tomorrow morning, it seems that it’s over for the time being?</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The Assembly of Usages meets at the Barn of the Future. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p><strong>Day 5: Friday 13th April—utopias with teeth.</strong></p> <p>I’m half awake, there is a rumble of vehicles on the road… At first I think it’s tractors, then I see the lights, blue and flashing, van after van of cops passing. We leap out of bed and run to the top of the lighthouse, the entire road is filled with vans as far as the eye can see. The huge barricade at the crossroads, which the tractors left last night following the préfete’s announcement, is on fire, a plume of black smoke frames the the orange dawn. The familiar pop of tear gas canisters being fired is accompanied by the crunching sounds of barricades being pushed by the APC. Radio Klaxon says they have kettled la Grée and are searching it, the Wardine camping is also encircled and a hundred and fifty cops are heading towards the Rosier. </p> <p>The Lascar barricade, made of several burnt cars, with a huge metal doorway and a trench that is several meters wide, is being defended by nearly 100 of us. The forest is wrapped in toxic mist, ghostly rebel silhouette run from tree to tree, stones are aimed at the robocops with catapults that were made by Andre, an 83 year old who set up a production line for us during the eviction threats of 2016, his team churned out 1000. The cops throw stun grenades blindly from the fields into the forest, one explodes just above my head, caught in the tree it rips the bark into smithereens. Is this what they call the end of operations ?</p> <p>A communiqué from the gendarmerie explains that they are clearing the roads and are not doing any expulsions or knocking down any squats, but that they are looking to arrest people who fired a distress rocket at their helicopter. At la Grée they take away two people but not for that charge. The gas pushes everyone back from the Lascar’s barricade and the grinders come out to cut the metal gateway into pieces. Despite the rising clouds of tear gas, people on the roof of the brand new Ambazada, a building that will host folk from intergalactic struggles, manage to sing some of our re purposed folk songs, recount the history of the struggle of the zad.</p> <p>Then a moment of joy, one of the armoured cars attacking the Lascar tips into a ditch and has to be pulled out by the other one. The mud of this wetlands has always been our ally, its wetness our friend. When they retreat a banner is put up, “Cheap APC driving license available here.” Our other accomplice is humour of course, even in what feels like a war zone, with tarmac scorched, broken glass and rubble everywhere, being able to laugh feeds our rage. The police retreat again and the barricade grows back out of its ruins, bigger and stronger than ever. We notice that where the APC fell into the ditch is now a huge deep hole at exactly the place where the drain for the Ambazada was going to be dug, no need for digging, just put the plants in it to make our grey water reed bed. That’s what you call radical permaculture, least effort for maximum gain.</p> <p>At midday the préfete begins her Press conference in Nantes. She confirms last nights message – evictions are over – and in a dramatic gesture, flourishes a page of A4 paper towards the cameras. “It’s a simplified form” she tells the press, “so that those who wish can declare their projects as quickly as possible…The deadline is the 23rd of April” she continues “ all we are asking is that they declare their names, what agricultural project they wish to develop and to tell us what plot of land they wish to work on, so that the state can process them.” She also confirms that it was Macron who was running the operation not the prime minister or interior minister, it was he who decided to stop the expulsions. “I am holding out my hand” she says, and asks for negotiations to re start on Monday, “I am giving the zadists a last chance.” Sitting next to her General Lizurey in charge of the Gendarme’s operations says that the number of zadists on the zone has increased from 250 to 700.</p> <p>I walk through the Rohanne forest to The Barn of the Future, I breathe in the forest air, the sweet pine, the musty damp smell of mushrooms. The barn has returned to its normal use as a saw mill and carpentry workshop for the zad. It is the base of the Abracadabois collective that looks after the forests and hedgerows, harvesting fire wood and building timber and setting up skill shares to learn carpentry, forest biology, wood carving, chain saw use and learning about other ways of inhabiting forests inspired by indigenous practices from past and present. The saw mill is planking the logs, twenty carpenters are busy preparing frames for a new building, a new assembly and no-market hall for the Gourbi, that we aim to put up on Sunday during the mass action.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Carpenters prepare the new building for the action. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p>This morning I was enveloped in tear gas and now I’m watching some of the same barricaders without their gas masks making a barn using the techniques that have been used for millennia. It is somehow healing to watch the attentive work. It is this capacity to fight and build, to block capitalism and to construct other forms of life which gives the zad its strength. It is also another reason the state wants to destroy us, they can deal with nice clean alternative eco projects, easy to buy off and recuperate into new forms of green capitalism. But when those who have a systemic critique are also providing material examples of other ways of being, it becomes dangerous. The resistance and creativity, the no and the yes, are the twin strands of DNA of this territory, split one from the other and the zad dies. It becomes another ecovillage or Transition Town, alternatives without teeth.</p> <p>Yet a second helicopter is flying above the barn, this time with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and the minister of interior inside, they are getting a private birds eye tour of the zad. They have come to congratulate the troops for their hard work. As he shakes hands with the gendarmes Phillippe tells the press that “the state will not accept any reconstruction or reoccupation.” He is referring to the action planned on Sunday, “Any place that tries such an action will exclude itself from any possible regularisation…. and will thus put themselves under judicial proceedings.” Once again the threat of sorting the good zadists from the bad. The carpenters work late into the night.</p> <p><strong>Day 6: Saturday 14th April—we won’t forget our scars.</strong></p> <p>Bang, another wake up call, the APCs and dozens of vans pass by at the speed of a TGV train, bulldoze the barricades away on the D81 road again, and continue South, probably to Nantes where striking workers are holding a demonstration followed by one against the eviction of the zad.</p> <p>Barricades are cleared at the Lama Fachée at the same time, and a strange new gas is spotted, dark yellow. It makes people throw up, sows mental confusion and a loss of all spatial and temporal senses. Behind one of the barricades, a trio of action medics are keeping an eye on the adjoining woodland where grenades are exploding, “ It’s been war wounds here,” they explain “skin and nerves hit by shrapnel, open gashes, eardrums damaged, necrosis and bone fractures.” Some folk have over 70 pieces of shrapnel in their limbs, it takes hours every day to pull them out and clean them, some have gone 3cms deep into the skin. Many of the new comers on the zone throw themselves into picking up the thousands of gas canisters that litter the fields, placing them in big bags for everyone to see in the “camp of the white haired ones.” Each canister costs 110 euros.</p> <p>The demonstration in Nantes is big, 10,000 people. The 1000 riot police on duty attack it and gas people drinking on the café terraces.</p> <p>The sun set is dark red this evening. The wood working tools and machines are cleared aside, the Barn of the Future becomes a meeting hall again for the Assembly of Usages. The fresh smell of saw dust perfumes the discussions about whether we should go to back to the negotiations on Monday. The response is no, not yet.</p> <p><strong>Day 7: Sunday 15th April—the human millipede realises a dream.</strong></p> <p>It’s the big day, thousands of people from all over the country are converging on the zone for the day of mass action. The troops have cut off a third of the zad, they line the lanes for kilometers, cutting off access to any of the part of the zone where homes had been destroyed last week. This includes the Gourbi where we hoped to bring the new building too. All road access to the zad are blocked off by the gendarmes, they tell people to go home because they won’t be able to reach the demonstration. But more than ten thousand of them disobey, park their cars and coaches in the nearby villages and trek for over an hour across the bocage. The details of the new building are still being finished, as the crowds arrive, such as a large ‘fuck you’ finger and the face of a fox that are being carved.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">The fuck you finger carved for the new Gourbi. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>Through the pirate radio, text messages and word of mouth, we tell people to converge on Bellevue, the big farm in the west and wait for a decision about what we will do. 50 of us meet in a field in an emergency meeting, the farmers don’t want to risk their tractors, we don’t want to have a gesture that feels too symbolic, once again the collective intelligence comes to the fore and we come up with a plan B. The building will be erected as close to the front as possible without forcing the police line, there are too many families here to risk being gassed.Simultaneously we will ask people to unearth the staffs and sticks that had been planted in the ground in October 2016 when the government told us they were coming to evict. It was a ritual disguised as a demonstration, 40,000 people answered the call, planted their stick into the ground and made a pledge to return to get them if the government came back to evict the zone for the airport. The ritual magic worked, that time the government stood down. But now they were back with a vengeance and the moment has come.</p> <p>Whilst people pulled the deeply charged sticks out of the clay, others on lane behind carried the huge wooden frames, planks and beams of the new building to the field between between the Wardine and the Ambazada. It takes a few hours to put the carpentry back together and raise the structure up, meanwhile thousands of people push their sticks back into the ground creating a huge circular pallisade around it. In the next door field the police start to tear gas and stun grenaded hundreds of people, some had been reading poems to the cops many held their hands in the air in a gesture of peace. Families hold their ground next to masked up barricaders.</p><p> Meanwhile, a handful of people decide as a kind of game, to take the campanille, the tower like addition of the new building, through the forest to the east. </p> <p>A crowd of hundreds follows, we cross the road next to the cops who charge but are forced back by the mass of bodies, we try to get as near to the Gourbi as possible. The wind is on our side and blows the teargas back into the cops lines. But the playful act of defiance ends when its clear that we can’t get anywhere near the Gourbi, the police lines are too thick. However, the pleasure of running through forests and fields carrying part of a wooden building is clearly addictive. A few hours later, once the sun has gone down and the cops have left, a new plot is hatched. Why don’t we move the whole building, one and a half tonnes of it, 3kms across the fields, in the dark – to the Gourbi !</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad6.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The new Gourbi arrives at its destination. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>Despite the general state of tiredness that fills our bodies, we manage a huge heave, 150 of us lift up the structure. A mass of rubber booted feet walk in unison, it feels like a strange chimera shuffling across the bocage, half human half millipede. One of the carpenters directs the operation via megaphone, “a bit to the left ! slow down ! watch that tree branch !” Lit by the beams of dozens of head torches the building seems to float above the prairies, we are plunged into a space between fabulous dream and a scene from an epic film. Someone sits on the very top of the building pushing up the electricity and phone cables so we can pass under them. This is what we call the magic of the zad, the belief that anything is possible when we do it together.</p><p>We half expect to see the police helicopter, to feel its spotlight pierce the night, but nothing. The closer we get to the Gourbi the louder the chants: “on est plus chaud, plus chaud, plus chaud que le lumbago” (we are much hotter, much hotter than lumbago). When we arrive, fireworks shoot up into the darkness, a bright red distress flare illuminates the scene. We set the building next to the pilled up ruins of the dome. We light a bonfire, Gourbi has risen again. Whilst we were moving our house, Macron was being interviewed live on TV, sitting in a black and gold marble hall the Eiffel tower as monumental backdrop. He declares that airport had been abandoned as part of the “ecological priorities of the government” and that therefore our anger is no longer legitimate. Rather than an alternative society, the zad was “a project of chaos… illegally occupying public lands” he tells the nation.</p> <p>“We have restored republican order” he declares, at least four times. We must sign individual forms before the 23rd of April or “everything that should be evicted will be evicted” he says. Macron ends with a ridiculous analogy: the zad is as if someone came into your living room to propose an alternative and squatted your sofa. Ridiculous and wrong, none of the land here belongs to private individuals, it all still belongs to multinational airport builders Vinci and the state. But his statement was a new ultimatum, a declaration of total war against all collective forms of life. We return home to the news, but it cannot blunt the memories of this improbable night.</p> <p><strong>Day 8: Monday 16th April—we will always re-surge, return, reclaim.</strong></p> <p>There are a half a dozen bodies perched like birds on the rafters of the new Gourbi, one plays a drum, a couple kiss, the green prairies below burst with yellow dandelions. We hear the rumble of APCs, it’s obvious they are coming straight here. The glint of riot visors shimmer in the sunlight, a column is moving towards us. A few flash bangs later and those on the roof are brought down by police climbers. The pillars of the building are cut by a chainsaw and the APC drives into it. Like the skeleton of a dying beast it crumbles to the ground. The police leave under a hail of stones, people sort out the broken beams. “Bastards !” a friend points to a stump of cut timber, “they sawed off the big fuck you finger and took it back to the barracks as a trophy !” </p><p>The Gendarmerie release their drone footage of the destruction on social networks. They need to show some success in their operation, they too are getting tired of this infernal cycle of destruction and reconstruction. A communication from a group called “Gendarmes and Citizens” denounces the fact that they are feeling “bogged down” and like “cannon fodder” faced with “rural guerrillas”. They deplore the “political paralysis” of the government who are on the one hand communicating with a “warlike tone” but are not following it up with effective orders on the ground. “Why are we not being given orders to arrest everyone in the squats?” they complain. So far there have been suprisingly few arrests, we wonder if they will just come back later, raid our homes, pick us off one by one, when things are quieter?</p> <p>There is a new moon above tonight’s Assembly of Usages. Unsurprisingly the debates are heated, we have to decide to re start negotiations or not. The question has never been negotiate or fight, we always knew that we had to do both, but after so many days of attacks it’s not easy to accept to go back to the table. In the end we decide that we can meet the préfete, not to negotiate the base issues, but make demands for the continuation of talks, one of which is take the troops off the zone. “You don’t negotiate with a gun to your head”, one of the locals says, but we know that if we refuse to meet, Macron’s machine could return and destroy everything that is left, risking lives and in the end depriving us of this territory where we found each other. </p><p>An older friend of mine, someone who experienced the uprisings of ’68, writes to me. His letter just says, “the zad will never end, it will simply change shape.” And he is right. This attachment we have to this territory where we have been able shake our dependence to the economy and the state, is something that brings us together, however disparate our political perspectives. Our love for this huge playground which inspires us to organise together, this deep desire for the wetlands that lubricates our imaginings, these are not abstractions but feelings that are deeply anchored to our experience of this bocage and all our experiments that emerge from it. It is a place that compels us to recompose, to renew, to have the courage to put our political ideas into question, to always push ourselves further than what we thought was possible, to open ourselves up beyond a radical ghetto or walled off utopia.</p> <p>Despite our barricades and the diversity of disobedience, if the state really wants to eradicate the whole of the zad, they can. Everyone would have lost their homes, workshops, fields, tools and we would probably find ourselves banned from returning to the region (a common judicial punishment in France). Scattered across the country without a place that enables us to grow roots together, we would loose all our strength. We know that changing shape is painful, but like a chameleon changes colours, we need to find a way protect this laboratory and camouflage its revolutionary potentialities from the eyes of the state. If we want to stay we need to find a compromise whilst refusing to let go of the commons.</p> <p><strong>Day 14: Sunday 22nd April—the art of changing shape.</strong></p> <p>It’s a week later. Over breakfast, Paul tells me about last night’s adventures. “It felt like we were robbing a bank. So organised, dressed in black, head lamps, maps, scouts etc. Except all we were doing was evacuating the bee hives from the destroyed homes and gardens, getting them off site.” he smiles “we had to carry them full of bees across the hedgerows behind police lines.”</p> <p>The days have calmed down. Less cops on the zone, more bird song than explosions. The cycle of barricade growing and then being smashed slows down, partly because on the main roads the police bring in huge skips to take the materials away. In the smaller lanes barricades remain.</p> <p>The restart of the negotiations on Wednesday went badly, nothing shifted, despite the presence of ex TV personality Nicolas Hulot, now Minister of Ecological Transition, in charge of the zad case since Marcron’s election. He is flown in specially to Nantes in the presidential jet. Following the meeting with us, he gives a press conference in the palatial hall of the Prefecture. The government’s hard line is held, the rights of property and the market reign, there will be no global or collective contract for the land, we have to give individual names and land plots by the 23rd or face evictions. In a rhetorical floury he ends, “ecology is not anarchy.”</p> <p>Not surprising for a man whose ‘ecology’ involves owning six cars, signing permits for oil exploration and supporting the nuclear dump at Bure. Hulot is simply the ‘eco’ mask for Macron’s “make the planet great again” form of authoritarian neoliberal green capitalism. But his statement shows Hulot’s absolute ignorance of the history of both ecological and anarchist thought. Many of the first theoreticians of ecological thinking, were anarchists. Élisée Reclus, world famous geographer and poet, whose beautiful idea that humans are simply “nature becoming aware of herself,” fought on the barricades of the 1871 Paris Commune. 19th century geographer Peter Kropotkin, spent many years in jail and exile for his politics, but was renowned in scientific circles as an early champion of the idea that evolution is not all a competitive war of “red tooth and claw” but instead involves a cooperation, what he termed Mutual Aid. From the 1950s onwards, US political philosopher Murray Bookchin (now best known for the influence he has on the Kurds to build a stateless form of Municipal Confederalism, taking place in the autonomous territory of Rojova – Northern Syria) brought ecology and anarchy together.</p> <p>At the heart of his Social Ecology is the idea that humans dominate and destroy nature because we dominate ourselves. To avert ecological collapse we had to get rid of all hierarchies – man over woman, old over young, white over black, rich over poor. According to Bookchin, our greatest lesson to gain from the natural world was that we had let go of the idea of difference, and reclaim the concept held by many small scale organic societies, of unity in diversity. Diversity being the basic force of all bio-systems. He envisioned a world that would be neither communist nor capitalist, but what he called “Communalist”. “The effort to restore the ecological principle of unity in diversity,”&nbsp; he wrote, “has become a social effort in its own right – a revolutionary effort that must rearrange sensibility in order to rearrange the real world.” For him the question of society, to reframe Rosa Luxembourg’s: “Socialism or barbarism” – was: “Anarchism or extinction.”</p> <p>When we truly inhabit an eco system it becomes obvious that life has no control centre, no heirachy, no chiefs or bosses, no governments or presidents. Every form of life is a self organising form of commons – deeply connected and interdependent, always changing, always embedded and entangled – from the cells in your fingers to worms in your the garden, from the trees in the forest of Rohanne to the bacteria in your gut. As biologist and cultural theorist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.boell.de/en/2013/02/01/enlivenment-towards-fundamental-shift-concepts-nature-culture-and-politics" target="_blank">Andreas Weber&nbsp;</a>says, all life forms “are continuously mediating relationships among each other – relationships that have a material side, but also always embody meaning, a sense of living and the notion of belonging to a place.” The more we observe the living world in all its complexity the more we are able to understand how to become commoners, how to truly inhabit a place and see that the separation between the individual and the whole is a fiction.</p> <p>“In the ecological commons” writes Weber “a multitude of different individuals and diverse species stand in various relationships to one another – competition and cooperation, partnership and predatory hostility, productivity and destruction. All those relations, however, follow one higher principle: Only behaviour that allows for the productivity of the whole ecosystem over the long term and that does not interrupt its capacities of self-production, will survive and expand. The individual is able to realise itself only if the whole can realise itself. Ecological freedom obeys this basic necessity.”</p> <p>And so to be really free is not to be an individual able to operate free from constraints, but to be tied to beneficial relationships with people and habitats, relationships that feed you materially and psychologically. Without a tie to your food – you starve, without the tie to lovers – you sadden. We are free because we are linked. Freedom is not breaking our chains but turning them into living roots and veins that connect, share, flow together and enable us to change and evolve in common.</p> <p>Since the abandonment of the Airport, changing together on the zad has been a very painful process. On the zad often it is a fight between those of us who try to read the terrain and invent something new that is messy and hybrid yet fits the situation we are in and those of us who want to keep a pure radical position, more based on uprooted ideas and ideology than the complexity of the present moment, the here and now, the forces we hold and don’t. In 1968 Bookchin asked “When will we begin to learn from what is being born instead of what is dying?” It is a question still just as relevant today on the zad. Things have been moving so fast. After Hulot’s ultimatum, a ministerial announcement suggests that the Prime minister and minister of interior are on a war footing, they are prepared to go for it, evict the whole zone on Monday’s deadline, the 23rd.</p> <p>During the re start of negotiations on Wednesday a technical meeting between our delegation and the bureaucrats, who look at the case from a purely land and agriculture question, had been set for two days later, Friday 20th. Once again we are on a knife edge, this could be the last moment of negotiation before a full scale attack, an attack that most of us who live on the zone know we can’t win against, however big our barricades.</p> <p>The Assembly of Usages makes a huge strategic gamble, it's a paradigm shift in tactics. We decide to hand in the forms at the Friday meeting, but in a modified way, to show that yes we can fit the state’s square boxes of individual projects if they want, but that on the bocage nothing can be separated out, everything is interdependent. Whilst at the same time making a call out for people to come and be ready to defend on the territory from Monday onwards if the state attacks. It's the logic of hacking, take what’s there, re-purpose it, change its use.</p> <p>Then one of the most unexpected types of zad magic takes place, an office of form filing is set up in the zad’s library, and for 24 hours the building becomes a disturbed ants nest, dozens and dozens of people are running around carrying white pages of paper, writing on computers, having meetings together, looking at maps of the zone, making phone calls. Comrades with great legal and administrative knowledge help out and and by Friday afternoon, just as the meeting at the Prefecture begins a huge black bound file of 40 different projects is produced, each with a name and plots of lands earmarked, but no single name attached to a single plot.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad7.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A map of the common projects of the zad. March 2018. Credit:&nbsp;collectif carto zad. All rights reserved.</p> <p>A colourful cartography of the commons of the zad (above) illustrates the interdependent and cooperative nature of the projects, be they a school of shepherding or the library, orchards or the sports group, mechanics garage or a snail farm, sunflower oil production or bringing up children together. Of the 70 living spaces on the zone, 63 are covered by the forms, only 7 decide not to take this bet of a barricade of paper. Of course paper barricades are not half as fun as ones on the streets, but this time they just might be the ones that save zad from becoming just another orgasm of history, another free commune which shone briefly but ended in bloodshed, another martyred experiment in freedom sacrificed for the sake of a pure revolution. </p> <p>The zad always tried to go beyond the idea of a TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone), in favour of building a PAP ( Permanent Autonmous Zone), this desire is embedded in the solid buildings, the long term agricultural plans, the vineyards planted for wine in 5 years time. We can’t just let go of all the ties we built here, with the locals, surrounding farmers, pensioners, workers in the city, wanderers of all sorts, Nantes students and the youth, the owls, the black squirming salamanders, the knarly oaks trees, the mud. We must hold onto all these deep friendships and networks of struggle that we have shared with such intensity over the last decade.</p> <p>The state bureaucrats were confused, some enchanted, the préfete seemed relieved. Leaving the meeting our delegation tells the press that “we have responded to the injunctions of the state because we want to stop the escalation of tension and at last find the time for dialogue and construction,” warning that “ if we take away one element of the collective, it cannot work. It’s up to the state now to negotiate.”</p> <p>As I finally finish this text, the helicopter returns, anxiety rises again in my chest. It spends a long time swooping over the zone, observing this rebel bocage that it wants to reclaim back. Perhaps it is preparing for a final revenge against the commons, who knows, all we know is that during this last fortnight we have fought with every weapon we thought possible including the unexpected. Now we wait to see if the bet worked out…</p> <p>P.S. On the 26th of April three days after we posted this blog, the Prime Minister made a statement about the zad: announcing a truce in evictions until at least the 14th of May, to allow time for the regularisation of the occupants who filed forms. According to the Minister of the Interior, “Everything moves calmly and in serenity, as always,” that hasn’t stopped them piling in with the tear gas this morning to clear barricades. The bet seems to have given us some breathing space, even though they remain with the logic of sorting the ‘good’ who have chosen the ‘right path’ and the bad ‘illegals’, something we continue to reject.</p> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://zadforever.blog/2018/04/24/the-revenge-against-the-commons/">Zad Forever</a> with many more powerful photos of the events described.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/thomas-miller/findhorn-inner-listening-outer-action">Findhorn: inner listening, outer action</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Sacred activism: the story of Tamera</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/martin-winiecki/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing">Sacred activism: a movement for global healing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Can Europe make it? Transformation France openmovements Intentional communities Zad Forever Activism Thu, 03 May 2018 05:00:00 +0000 Zad Forever 117642 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The US teachers strike in historical perspective https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/steven-parfitt/us-teachers-strike-in-historical-perspective <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Previous waves of unrest offer clues to the possible regeneration of the American labor movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/StevenParfitt.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Teachers with the Chicago Teachers Union picket outside of the Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago, Illinois, on Monday, September 10, 2012. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/50864803@N03/16503056070/">Flickr/TMT photos</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. </p> <p>In the US, a teachers’ strike is spreading from one red state to another. It began in West Virginia when 34,000 teachers walked out on February 22 2018. They stayed out until March 7, against the advice of their own union leaders, until they received a deal that they could live with from the state government. They were soon joined by tens of thousands of teachers in Oklahoma, who struck from April 2 to April 12, and then their colleagues in Arizona followed them on <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/04/arizona-teachers-strike-unions-charter-schools">April 26</a>. </p> <p>Now there are rumbles of teachers’ strikes in the blue and purple states of Illinois and New Jersey, and in states elsewhere. NBC News reports a “<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/red-state-teacher-rebellion-hits-oklahoma-grows-arizona-n861851">Red-state Teacher Rebellion</a>.” There is no telling whether the rebellion will spread to more states and occupations. </p> <p>The teachers’ strikes come at a difficult time for American unions. Their total membership has <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm">fallen</a> from 17.7 million people in 1983 to 14.8 million in 2017, and the proportion of union members in the workforce has fallen even more dramatically, from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 10.7 percent in 2017. Unions continue to fund the Democratic Party, but their investment has seen few legislative gains. This is a story of failure, softened only by the occasional victory. </p> <p>Yet the teachers’ strikes may offer American unions a road back to health. Historians have long known that unions seldom grow at a slow, steady pace. They tend instead to push forward in a series of leaps, in a kind of chain reaction where a strike in one industry inspires strikes in others. The growth of unions in one part of the country leads to the growth of unions in other parts, and to use the British historian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/oct/01/eric-hobsbawm">Eric Hobsbawm’s</a> term, the labor movement recruits “in lumps” as striking workers join unions <em>en masse</em>. The American labor activist Kim Moody, in his recent book <em><a href="https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1106-on-new-terrain">On New Terrain,</a></em> describes this process as a “labor upsurge.” Could the strike by teachers in West Virginia be the spark for just such an upsurge in 2018?</p> <p>To answer this question it’s useful to look back to previous waves of strikes in the US like the <a href="http://isj.org.uk/1934-year-of-the-fightback/">rising of 1934</a>, when striking workers laid the groundwork for the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_of_Industrial_Organizations">Congress of Industrial Organizations,</a> or the mass strikes in coal, steel, the railroads and other industries during or immediately after the First World War, or the militancy of auto and other workers in the 1970s. </p> <p>We could also look to more recent <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2012/12/one-two-many-chicago-teachers-strikes-2">strikes in 2012</a> by the Chicago Teachers’ Union, the near-ousting in 2016 of President James P. Hoffa of the powerful Teamsters Union by the <a href="http://www.tdu.org/">Teamsters for a Democratic Union</a> (a rank-and-file movement), and the victories of <a href="https://fightfor15.org/">Fight for $15</a> in the last two years. But I would go <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/02/trump-fascism-gilded-age-knights-of-labor">even further back</a> to understand what an upsurge could mean for today’s American labor movement, to the ‘Great Upheaval’ of 1885/87. What happened then?</p> <p>American workers in the 1880s lived, as we do today, in the aftermath of a global financial crisis: in their case, the ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1873">Panic</a>’ of 1873. The ensuing depression wiped out many American unions. As today, the survivors faced a highly unequal society and a political system beholden to big money. In this historical picture, the infamous financier <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Gould">Jay Gould</a> substitutes for the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_family">Koch Brothers</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie">Andrew Carnegie</a> stands in for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates">Bill Gates</a>.</p> <p>Wages stagnated in nominal terms, at least for the rest of the 1870s and into the 1880s. Immigrants faced widespread discrimination, and Chinese immigrants were even excluded from the United States altogether from 1882 onwards. Black Americans endured the end of Reconstruction and the imposition of Jim Crow. American women faced exclusion from much public space and, when they worked for a wage, they faced a gender pay gap larger than that of today. Grievance piled on grievance.</p> <p>However, union organizing started to expand again at the start of the 1880s, when economic conditions improved. A working-class movement, the Knights of Labor, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00236568408584743?journalCode=clah20">rose from 10,000 to 70,000 members between 1878 and 1884</a>. Telegraph operators, glass workers and railroad workers waged bitter strikes, sometimes successfully, and the final spark was lit in 1885 by workers on the Wabash railroad and the Southwestern rail system. Both railroads were owned by Gould. </p> <p>In strikes during March and August, railroad workers twice forced him to reinstate strikers, grant overtime pay, reverse wage reductions, and tolerate their representatives, the Knights of Labor. Few strikes had ever succeeded against such a powerful adversary, and their victory over Gould gave workers in other places and industries the confidence necessary to down tools themselves. The Great Upheaval had begun.</p> <p>This is the stage that some commentators think we’ve also reached today: on the cusp of a strike wave, this time sparked by the teachers of West Virginia. In the 1880s version of a labor upsurge, the strikes on Gould’s railroads opened the floodgates to industrial action. In 1886, <a href="http://libcom.org/history/strike-jeremy-brecher">499,489 American workers engaged in 1,411 recorded strikes at 9,891 establishments</a>. This was more than double the number of strikers in 1885 and far higher than the <a href="http://libcom.org/history/strike-jeremy-brecher">129,521 strikers recorded in 1881.</a> </p> <p>Membership in the Knights of Labor <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Knights-of-Labor">rose to nearly a million in 1886</a>, including tens of thousands of black and women workers. In the same year, the movement for the eight-hour working day pushed forward the cycle of strikes, boycotts, and protests. It reached its height in May 1886, when tens of thousands of workers across the country struck simultaneously for eight hours.</p> <p>Workers pressed their case at the ballot box as well as in the workplace. Local labor parties sprang up to contest elections at local, state and federal levels. The radical economist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George">Henry George</a> ran for the mayoralty of New York on the United Labor Party ticket in 1886. He came a respectable second to the Democrat, Abram Hewitt, and beat the Republican candidate into third place—one <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/roosevelt_theodore.shtml">Theodore Roosevelt</a>.</p> <p>Across the United States, workers elected labor mayors, state legislators and even congressmen in Washington DC. The two-party system briefly faced challenges that have seldom been seen since. In this strange time, Eleanor Marx, the daughter of Karl Marx, and her husband Edward Aveling <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/eleanor-marx/works/wcia.htm">could argue</a> that “the example of the American working men will be followed before long on the European side of the Atlantic. An English or, if you will, a British Labour Party will be formed, foe alike to Liberal and Conservative.”</p> <p>We are certainly not at&nbsp;<em>that</em>&nbsp;stage yet. The <a href="https://go.berniesanders.com/page/content/join-us/">campaign of Bernie Sanders</a> in 2016, which saw a self-proclaimed socialist come agonizingly close to the Democratic Party presidential nomination, may have given new strength to the American left. A widely-cited Harvard University poll in 2016 may have found that most younger Americans now <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/get-rid-of-capitalism-millennials-are-ready-to-talk-about-it">prefer socialism</a>—whatever they think it means—to capitalism. But an electorally successful labor party is not likely to emerge in the next few years. If it does, it will take more time and require enormous energy on the part of the left, forces within the unions, and a wide cross-section of American workers.</p> <p>Yet we should not discount the possibility of a labor upsurge in the meantime. The grievances that are leading teachers to strike in state after state are shared by millions of public and private workers across the country. Like teachers, these workers have less and less to lose by industrial action, and falling unemployment means that finding replacements for them becomes more difficult. International events might further fan the flames that the teachers have set alight. Strikes by Amazon workers in <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-spain/spains-amazon-workers-call-two-day-strike-over-wages-rights-idUSKCN1GP13L">Spain</a>, for example, could spread to the <a href="https://theconversation.com/modern-capitalism-has-opened-a-major-new-front-for-strike-action-logistics-89616">great logistics clusters</a> of the United States and set off a chain reaction across the American heartland—much as the railroad workers did in 1885.</p> <p>There is, of course, a cautionary side to this tale. The Great Upheaval of 1885-87 ended in defeat for the unions and for the new labor parties. When railroad workers struck again in 1886, after Gould reneged on his promises, they lost. In May 1886, anarchists at Chicago’s Haymarket Square were accused of throwing a bomb at police. The events that followed set off America’s first ‘<a href="http://www.chicagohistoryresources.org/hadc/intro.html">Red Scare,</a>’ and the labor movement became one of its main victims. The Knights of Labor shed hundreds of thousands of members. The labor parties soon disappeared or were absorbed into the Democrats and Republicans. The labor upsurge of 1885/86 became the headlong retreat of 1886/87. Historians now see the Great Upheaval of 1885-7 as a great step forward, followed by an even greater step back.</p> <p>There are things we can all do to ensure that the rebellion of 2018 does not end in the same way. You can join the strike wave. You can show your face and your solidarity at the nearest picket line, or the nearest pro-strike protest. You can donate to strike funds, tweet support, sign petitions, and get involved in any movement that supports the strikers and tries to unite the different strikes under the same banner of political change. Each time you do these things, it becomes more likely that future historians will refer to the Great Rebellion of 2018 as a landmark in the renewal of American unions, and not as another episode in their long-term decline.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ernest-anemone/badass-teachers-and-future-of-american-democracy">Badass teachers and the future of American democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alex-nicoll/intimidation-new-normal">Intimidation: the new normal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Trade unions Steven Parfitt Transformative nonviolence Activism Economics Tue, 01 May 2018 19:12:48 +0000 Steven Parfitt 117556 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It’s a fact—welcoming works https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-j-dax/it-s-fact-welcoming-works <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New Mexico has reduced the number of deportations far below the level of other US states.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MichaelDax.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Jorge Taborda, holding back tears, hugs Maribel Lucero after a press conference and mass on Saturday, June 17, 2017 at the Holy Cross Retreat Center. Taborda is being housed at the retreat center after his wife was detained and deported back to Colombia.&nbsp;Credit: <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/its-working-fewer-deportations-where-sanctuary-policies-are-in-place-20180411?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180413&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180413+CID_50f5c2f2793543158c0ee3652bc94f44&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=this%20ar">Josh Bachman/Sun-News via YES! Magazine</a>. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</p> <p>A year after the Santa Fe City Council adopted in February 2017 a resolution strengthening its welcoming and non-discrimination policies toward immigrants, the federal government launched a series of audits demanding verification from local small businesses that their employees were eligible to work in the country. In response to this blitz, advocates and city officials held a press conference in early March calling out an attempt to disrupt business, wreak havoc, and create a culture of fear and panic.</p> <p>“Today, children will wake up at home wondering if there will be a knock on their door; parents will go to work wondering if there will be a knock at the door of their place of employment; families will wonder if they’ll have one more meal together,” said then-Mayor Javier Gonzales, who, following President Trump’s election, became an outspoken proponent of cities enacting sanctuary and non-discrimination policies. “That is not what our country has ever been about, but it is what this administration is trying to do by dividing our communities. All of us in our community know that one of the best values Santa Fe incorporates every day is the value of welcoming people.”</p> <p>And that value of welcoming is not just compassionate talk. There is proof that sanctuary policies are working, keeping residents safer than in places that collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement tactics.</p> <p>According to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/08/ice-arrests-went-up-in-2017-with-biggest-increases-in-florida-northern-texas-oklahoma/">a new study from Pew Research Center</a>, nationwide deportations made by ICE in 2017 increased 30 percent from the previous year. But these increases are not distributed evenly. In regions where city and state governments worked hand in hand with ICE, deportations have increased more than 75 percent. In regions where sanctuary policies are more prevalent, increases have remained relatively low.</p> <p>Along with California, New Mexico has emerged as one of the most welcoming states for undocumented immigrants. And it’s not just the capital, Santa Fe. Across the state, immigrant rights groups and faith communities are working alongside local governments in innovative ways to resist the Trump administration’s deportation efforts. Not only have these efforts succeeded, but they have provided a blueprint for other towns, cities, and states to emulate.</p> <p>Santa Fe adopted its first sanctuary resolution in 1999. It was a reaction to the new Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which threatened undocumented immigrants with lengthy bans. This first resolution was largely symbolic—a declaration of the city’s values, stating only that the city would not use its own resources to aid federal immigration officials.</p> <p>Nearly two decades later, following Trump’s election and xenophobic rhetoric, city leaders and immigrant communities were activated once again.</p> <p>Mayor Gonzales appeared on CNN, Fox News, NPR, and other news outlets just a week after the election explaining why Santa Fe would continue its welcoming policies toward immigrants and would resist any large-scale deportation efforts.</p> <p><em>Somos un Pueblo Unido</em>, a state-wide immigrant rights organization based in Santa Fe, held a meeting for its members a week following the election to provide a space for people both to express their fears and brainstorm ways of strengthening policies to better protect them. “What’s great is that when you are membership-based, the solutions are so deeply rooted in the realities of lived experiences,” says Marcela Diaz, Somos’ executive director. She has been with the organization for 20 years and helped the city with the 1999 resolution.</p> <p>Over the next three months, Somos un Pueblo Unido worked with city council members, the ACLU of New Mexico, and other stakeholders to create a&nbsp;<a href="http://files.constantcontact.com/b6dfe469001/1b734d6e-e8e4-41ec-971c-bcc1576a5829.pdf?ver=">legally defensible document&nbsp;</a>that would provide meaningful protection for immigrant families. The new policies bar city employees from inquiring about or disclosing information about residents’ immigration status, deny federal immigration agents access to non-public areas of city property, direct staff to improve language access on all government documents and programs, and mandate outreach to employers and community members to educate people on their civil rights and the city’s new policies.</p> <p>While these are considered sanctuary policies, over the course of the drafting process, the word “sanctuary” was removed from the resolution. There is no legal definition of sanctuary, and advocates reasoned that the word could become a lightning rod for the Trump administration.</p> <p>Even so, when the council unanimously adopted the welcoming, non-discrimination resolution in February 2017, the room exploded in cheers and applause. Everyone seemed to feel the weight of the occasion. “As a native Santa Fean, I’m proud to be on the right side of history,” said city councilor Renee Villarreal.</p> <p>Unlike the resolution from 1999, this one wasn’t merely a statement of values, but a prescription of policies for the city to implement.</p> <p>As people celebrated, Diaz said, she was thinking about what lay ahead: “Our work begins now.”</p> <p>Over the past year the new policies have been put in place. There’s still work to be done, Diaz said, especially in the realm of language access, but has not received any complaints from members about the city not living up to its stated values.</p> <p>Additionally, Villarreal said the city will start to coordinate with the county, school district, and local community college to ensure each entity is working together in a complementary fashion.</p> <p>The city and groups like Somos hold know-your-rights workshops. Significantly, many of these trainings are peer-to-peer and allow the kind of firsthand information sharing that attorneys cannot always provide.</p> <p>“We do a lot of peer-to-peer because it’s just different,” said Diaz. “The difference is that there are some organizations and some attorneys—and rightly so—that say ‘stay calm, don’t run.’ We know people that have run and have gotten away, so it’s weird for us to say don’t run.”</p> <p>Somos does work with attorneys and groups like the ACLU to offer legal advice. But because a lot of important information comes from other members as they encounter ICE and Border Patrol, peer-to-peer is often most effective. As Diaz explained, “We’re not telling you to run—we’re just saying these are the consequences.”</p> <p>Because there is no playbook for the crackdown on undocumented immigrants currently taking place, Somos un Pueblo Unido has had to be nimble and adapt to shifting ICE tactics. Through its member network, the organization can quickly disseminate information efficiently when ICE agents enter a community.</p> <p>When ICE began launching audits back in February, Somos and other organizations throughout the state were forced to act quickly. Two days after the press conference where Gonzales decried ICE’s disruptive actions, Somos co-sponsored a know-your-rights workshop with the city, the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association, and the Hispanic and Green Chambers of Commerce. The workshop was specifically designed for employers to learn what they are legally required to disclose during an I-9 audit and how they could best protect their employees. Despite just a couple days’ notice, more than 50 businesses showed up.</p> <p>“We’re playing whack-a-mole,” said Diaz, referring to the fast-paced, random nature at which they are encountering new threats. “But that’s what sanctuary for us is—helping people understanding what’s going on and sharing resources. All of the answers are not necessarily going to be there. We have to be nimble, we have to figure out how to attack each tactic as it comes.”</p> <p>Villarreal is also encouraged by the proactive way in which Santa Fe has faced these new threats head on. “It’s a sign of the activism in New Mexico,” she says. “That we have very strong immigrant rights organizations that work well with governments is a large reason why we’ve been successful.</p> <p>Not all governments, however. Santa Fe’s immigrant community knows to avoid the state probation office and opt to deal with any legal business at the county jail. Why? Even though Santa Fe County does not cooperate with ICE, the state of New Mexico under Republican Gov. Susana Martinez does.</p> <p>To be clear, members of Somos un Pueblo Unido are in the thick of a battle against the federal government. For these people, wins can seem temporary, while losses last longer and are felt more acutely. They come in the form of people being deported and families being torn apart. Despite the difficulty in feeling successful, though, New Mexico has proved to be a national leader in resisting deportation.</p> <p>According to Pew’s analysis of data provided by ICE, 143,470 people were arrested during 2017, compared to 110,104 in 2016. (Trump’s first year in office pales in comparison to the 297,898 arrests during President Obama’s first year.)</p> <p>ICE compiles its data based on 24 different regions that largely follow state boundaries. In 2017, Miami (which includes all of Florida), Dallas (which includes the northern half of Texas and Oklahoma) and St. Paul (which includes Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Nebraska) saw the biggest jump in arrests made by ICE with increases of 76 percent, 71 percent, and 67 percent, respectively.</p> <p>San Antonio (central-southern Texas), Houston (southeastern Texas) and San Francisco (Northern California, Hawaii and Guam) saw the lowest increases at 1 percent, 5 percent, and 9 percent, respectively. But those numbers can be misleading. In raw numbers, the Houston region saw the second highest number of deportations, and San Antonio ranked fifth.</p> <p>On the other hand, ICE’s El Paso region, which includes west Texas and all of New Mexico, saw a modest growth in the numbers of arrests at 12 percent. But in raw numbers, the region remains the third lowest of all ICE regions with only 1,892 arrests last year.&nbsp;That still ranks above Baltimore (1,666 arrests) and Buffalo, New York, (1,494 arrests), which both saw larger increases last year of 34 percent and 27 percent, respectively.</p> <p>Considering that New Mexico is a border state, its ability to minimize the number of residents deported stands out.</p> <p>An&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ilrc.org/local-enforcement-map">analysis conducted by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center&nbsp;</a>provides useful context. Mapping every county across the country, ILRC created a 0-7 scale to determine the extent to which counties do or do not work with ICE with 0 representing the highest level of cooperation and 7 representing the lowest level of cooperation.</p> <p>Counties with a rating of 0 either work closely with ICE or have entered formal agreements under which local law enforcement officers are essentially deputized as federal immigration agents. On the other side of the scale, counties with a rating of 6 or 7, like Santa Fe, have comprehensive “sanctuary” protections in place to block local resources from being used to aid ICE.</p> <p>According to ILRC, California laws passed last year turned every county in California into a 6 or 7. Oregon and Vermont also stand out with pro-immigrant policies prevalent across each state. New Mexico is the only other state where most counties have policies that favor protecting immigrants. Of the state’s 33 counties, 22 rank as a 4 or higher.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ilrc.org/sites/default/files/resources/rise_of_sanctuary-lg-20180201.pdf">In a similar report</a>, ILRC also looked at how county-level policies changed after Trump took office. In New Mexico, every county that ranked as a 4 or higher strengthened their policies over the past year. The same is true of every California county, along with many in Oregon. On the reverse side, counties in ICE-collaborative regions like Miami, St. Paul, and Buffalo largely decreased protections for immigrants, likely contributing the increased arrest rates.</p> <p>While sanctuary policies can be credited for part of New Mexico’s success, the state has also built a supportive culture around its immigrant communities. Nowhere is this more true than its second largest city, Las Cruces, which sits just 40 miles north of the Mexico border.</p> <p>In response to raids in February 2017, NM CAFé (an acronym for Comunidades en Acción y de Fé), a faith-based community organization and affiliate of the PICO National Network, led a protest in downtown Las Cruces, blocking parts of Main Street for 45 minutes. The group was joined by local faith leaders, and the next day a group of eight state senators and local representatives signed a letter to Gov. Martinez calling on her to bar ICE from entering sensitive areas like schools, churches, hospitals, and courthouses to calm the sense of anxiety running through the community.</p> <p>“We wanted to push back against this narrative that ICE just gets to come in our communities and kidnap people from their homes,” said Johana Bencomo, a community organizer with CAFé. “We wanted to make sure it was something the community knew about.”</p> <p>In many communities, civil disobedience could be divisive. But in Las Cruces, it seems to be energizing. Anxiety persists, acknowledged Bencomo, but “it hasn’t paralyzed people. If anything, it’s woken up many other people.”</p> <p>Late last year, the city of Las Cruces adopted its own non-discrimination resolution.</p> <p>CAFé also organized its members to pressure the state’s two senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, to vote against a Dreamers bill that included $25 billion in border security funds. In February, Udall and Heinrich joined California’s Sen. Kamala Harris as the only dissenting votes. In addition to its policy work, CAFé embraces organizing strategies similar to Somos’, such as holding know-your-rights workshops and teaching employers and employees what to expect from I-9 audits.</p> <p>CAFé has also created a rapid response network that allows people to alert organizers when immigration raids are taking place. Staff and volunteers serve as operators, and once claims are verified, the organization can send email or text message blasts.</p> <p>And when all else fails, CAFé turns to Father Tom Smith, director of the Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla, just south of Las Cruces.</p> <p>In May 2017, Father Smith took in Jorge Taborda as his first sanctuary case, although Smith prefers the term “Francisican hospitality.” Taborda arrived with his 16-year-old son, who is a U.S. citizen, after his wife was deported to Colombia. And since October, Smith has taken in a second person, Lorena Rivera.</p> <p>&nbsp;“We are called by the gospel and the scriptures to welcome the aliens, to care for those in need,” Smith explained.</p> <p>With room enough for only four people, Smith acknowledges that he alone cannot make a difference on a large scale. And while ICE has agreed not to enter sensitive areas like churches, if federal agents come with a search warrant, he cannot stop them. He said that his work is intended to “raise consciousness.” He allows media access to both Taborda and Rivera and also brings in school groups to learn from their experiences. “They listen to their stories, and it helps change their opinion because they’re hearing it directly from that person,” Smith said.</p> <p>“Father Tom has been a godsend to our community,” Bencomo said. “He has shown the kind of boldness and courage our community members need.”</p> <p>“We are building a really strong counter-narrative that is only enhancing Las Cruces’s culture,” Bencomo affirmed.</p> <p>Despite the work being done by New Mexico communities to keep their residents safe, the Trump administration is determined.</p> <p>The Justice Department is suing California over its new laws that bar private employers as well as state and local jails from cooperating voluntarily with federal immigration officials. The federal government maintains it has complete authority over immigration issues.</p> <p>In Texas, the state legislature passed a law banning sanctuary cities. An injunction had been granted, but a federal appeals court ruled in March that the law could take effect. The court battle will continue.</p> <p>Meanwhile, construction of Trump’s border wall is set to begin in New Mexico as well as parts of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authorized the federal government to pay for potential deployment of up to 4,000 National Guard troops for the border mission through September. Arizona and Texas have committed hundreds of troops so far. Many fear that the further militarization of the border will serve only to cast immigrants in a negative light.</p> <p>With the national landscape more fraught than ever, immigrant rights groups in New Mexico are busy.</p> <p>Somos un Pueblo Unido has helped facilitate meetings to bring community members together with the law enforcement community and recently conducted a training for 90 Farmington police officers on the benefits of not checking immigration status, which they have ceased doing. Somos was also involved in McKinley County’s decision to cease its cooperation with ICE, and it helped dissuade Luna County, west of Las Cruces, from entering into a deputizing agreement with the agency. In Albuquerque, the election of a progressive mayor has meant a non-discrimination resolution in the state’s largest city is making its way through the city council.</p> <p>The thought of continuing at this pace for another three years of a Trump term is daunting, but Diaz is encouraged by the experiences of the past year. “What it takes is giving people the space to stand up for themselves.”</p> <p>Bencomo agreed. “I believe in the power of an organized community,” she said. “I hope we can keep building power so that we can continue to protect more families.”</p><p><em>This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/its-working-fewer-deportations-where-sanctuary-policies-are-in-place-20180411?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180413&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180413+CID_50f5c2f2793543158c0ee3652bc94f44&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=this%20ar"><strong>YES! Magazine</strong></a> under the title “A Year Later, Fewer Deportations in Cities That Adopted ‘Welcoming’ Policies.”</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rachel-steinhardt/welcome-to-america">Welcome to America?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/how-politicians-and-media-made-us-hate-immigrants">How politicians and the media made us hate immigrants </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Michael J. Dax Activism Thu, 26 Apr 2018 20:52:49 +0000 Michael J. Dax 117460 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sacred activism: a movement for global healing https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/martin-winiecki/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our natural sense of interdependence has been replaced by an addictive focus on personal short-term profit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Leila Dregger_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Participants in the&nbsp;<em>Defend the Sacred</em>&nbsp;gathering on Odeceixe beach in Portugal, August 12 2017. Credit: Copyright Tamera Institute/Yuval Kovo. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Humanity is at the pinnacle of a historic death cult. Late last year, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a dramatic “<a href="http://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/">warning to humanity</a>” over biodiversity loss due to overconsumption of resources. They agreed that if we continue “business as usual,” we’ll shortly approach a point where it will be too late to shift our apocalyptic trajectory; worldwide ecosystem collapse will be inevitable.</p> <p>In its compulsion for unending growth, capitalism has developed a vampiric mechanism of planetary proportions, sucking the lifeblood out of the Earth’s body. In its addiction to mining, oil drilling, deforestation, the exploitation of billions of lives and the mental enslavement of humanity, today’s global economic system precisely embodies&nbsp;<a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/seeing-wetiko-on-capitalism-mind-viruses-and-antidotes-for-a-world-in-transition/" target="_blank"><em>Wetiko</em>, an Algonquin word for “cannibalism</a>” that illustrates the insanity we’ve fallen prey to. Wetiko is the psycho-spiritual “disease of the white man” which makes amnesiacs of us—our natural sense of basic interdependence with other beings is obliterated and replaced with an addictive focus on personal short-term profit.</p> <p>Through an insidious history of colonization, genocide, and imperialism, the Wetiko virus has gradually infected (nearly) all of humanity, brainwashing us into a mode of thought that proclaims that “the Earth is a dead exploitable resource,” “animals and plants have no soul,” “life is a game of competition and fight,” “love always ends in disaster,” “either we kill our enemies or they will kill us,” “we will be punished for our mistakes” and so on. </p> <p>Under the spell of this subconscious conditioning, we are sleepwalking towards an abyss, lacking the psychological and spiritual capacities needed to make sense of and respond to the crisis we’re facing. With our collective survival on the line, we need a wholly different vision of ourselves and our relation to the living world that’s able to awaken our primordial love for life and our desire to serve it without reservation. Only with a unifying narrative that addresses the human disconnection at the root of our global crisis will the many social, political and ecological movements converge into a relevant power for global system change.</p> <p><strong>The seeds of Standing Rock.</strong></p> <p>What is sacred? It might seem cynical to speak about something “sacred” after millennia of unspeakable atrocities committed in its name. Yet, living in a civilization that has defiled virtually everything, emptied this world of meaning and processed it into commodities, our longing for the sacred might, after all, be the crucial guide out of our dead end.</p> <p>When about 30 members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe confronted the fossil fuel industry and the U.S. government, setting up a camp at their burial ground which was to be bulldozed for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, they did so to “defend the sacred.” Ladonna Bravebull Allard, founder of the Sacred Stone Camp affirms, “We stood up because we had no other choice. Water is life. If there’s no water, we will die.”</p> <p>Such “sacred activism” comes as a deep re-membering:&nbsp;<em>We are of this Earth. There is no salvation outside of it.</em>Patriarchal religions told of some out-of-Earth entity making covenants with exceptional people and asking us to renounce this world. Yet the original covenant of all people is&nbsp;<em>with the Earth</em>&nbsp;and is therefore of an Earthly, sensual nature. Activism doesn’t become “sacred” merely because it works “on behalf of” something sacred; but by recognizing, honoring, embodying and celebrating the inherent sacredness of all that lives—which isn’t anywhere beyond this world, but right here. </p> <p>Sacred activism challenges us to make a choice at every moment, to decide for life, for solidarity and for trust despite the temptation of an overwhelming field of fear, greed and hatred. It was this clear orientation that fueled the resistance at Standing Rock – and drew in people from all directions to join it. Representatives of over 300 Indigenous cultures, black bloc anarchists, environmentalists, spiritual seekers and over 2500 army veterans banded together beyond their usual ideological divisions, because they were united by something more fundamental than ideologies – a shared spiritual center.</p> <p>Standing Rock inspired similar resistances globally. Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota People, writes in February 2018, “People all over the world are now beginning to understand that [water] is a living spirit: it can heal when you pray with it and die if you do not respect it. (…) Standing Rock has marked the beginning of an international movement that will continue to work peacefully, purposefully, and tirelessly for the protection of water along all areas of poisonous oil pipelines and across all of Mother Earth.”</p> <p>Around the world, movements are arising towards decentralizing power, culture and economies, leaving the mega-systems of nation states and globalized corporations behind and building a society based on autonomous regions in which people can reclaim their sovereignty while caring for each other and the Earth again. There are remarkable movements in the Global South, such as the Indigenous Zapatista movement in Mexico, the Rojava revolution in the Kurdish zones of northern Syria, the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil, peace communities, such as San José de Apartadó in Colombia and many more. In the Global North, we see a revival of socialist ideals and the emergence of municipalism.</p> <p>It’s worth noting that this revolution is feminine in essence. Women are the heart of many of these movements. From Rojava to Chiapas, from Standing Rock to Barcelona, we’re seeing the resurgence of feminine power fostering community, self-determination, healing and care for the Earth, shaking the foundations of patriarchal dominance.</p> <p>How can this revolutionary impulse succeed? Trump defeated the Standing Rock movement, Erdogan is cracking down on Rojava and Colombian peace communities are severely threatened by paramilitaries. Running up against a globalized trillion-dollar economic, political and military system, every group and place resisting will face the same destiny as long as they remain on merely the local, regional or even national levels. The victory over capitalist globalization can, logically, only be global. In other words, either we form an unbreakable global alliance or we’re bound to fail. Yet, in this struggle, failure is not an option.</p> <p><strong>A starting point for a global alliance?</strong></p> <p>As I see it, a global alliance bringing together the many movements in the North and South, and mobilizing the many millions wanting radical change, could emerge around the following five shared thematic areas:</p> <p>1) Fierce nonviolent resistance against the fossil fuel industry</p> <p>Stopping the fossil fuel industry before it’s too late is the first demand for our collective survival. As people stood up against the pipeline at Standing Rock, people must come together and stand up everywhere to both impede new fossil fuel projects and shut down existing ones. At the same time, let’s increase the pressure on municipalities, countries, companies and banks to divest from fossil fuels and end subsidies. </p> <p>The divestment movement reached a historic milestone in the first days of 2018 when New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced his city would divest from fossil fuels and sue leading oil companies over climate change. Activist and author Naomi Klein, who assisted the announcement, comments that “What felt politically impossible yesterday suddenly seems possible.”</p> <p>2) Transition to decentralized, clean energy and large-scale ecosystem restoration</p> <p>Let’s establish regenerative energy systems based on the inexhaustible sources of sun and wind. We must ensure the transition will be decentralized, instead of staying stuck in the corporate framework. Let’s organize to create a decentralized infrastructure for energy-autonomous cities and regions.</p> <p>Additionally, let’s rehabilitate ecosystems worldwide, as desertification, droughts, wildfires and misery aren’t only the results of carbon emissions but also of the destruction of ecosystems and natural water cycles. By creating systems of local rainwater retention, we no longer only need to adapt to climate change, we can actually restore and rebalance our destabilized climate.</p> <p>There are powerful examples to follow, such as India’s “Water Gandhi” Rajendra Singh and his NGO&nbsp;<a href="http://tarunbharatsangh.in/">Tarun Bharat Sangh</a>&nbsp;that mobilized villagers in Rajasthan to restore thousands of square kilometers of degraded land, through which they’ve revived several rivers, rebalanced rainfall, ended extreme weather events and secured an abundant self-sufficient water and food supply for about 100,000 people in less than 25 years. Following a&nbsp;<a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">New&nbsp;</a><a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">Water&nbsp;</a><a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">Paradigm</a>, let’s organize in communities united around watersheds for natural and decentralized water management wherever we live. “<a href="https://www.rainforclimate.com/">Rain for Climate</a>,” a movement initiated by the Slovakian hydrologist Michal Kravčík, offers a corresponding global action plan.</p> <p>3) Ethics of universal solidarity</p> <p>To truly heal this planet, we need the power of community, which is much more than simply a political coalition. Whenever people come together around a shared goal and practice solidarity, they connect with a power greater than the sum of their individual efforts. Thus, they’re unified and driven by meaning, trust and possibility, able to overcome any obstacle.</p> <p>We must recognize the crucial role of community, not just as an accidental side effect of camps or occupations, but as a vital aspect of post-capitalist society and so consciously engage in building and maintaining it. Thereby, politics becomes a matter of social design, because the divisions we’re suffering in our movements, most of the time, result from a lack of trust and solidarity among human beings. </p> <p>We all carry a wound that expresses itself as fear or anger, attack or retreat in one situation or the other. So far, this wound has mostly been more powerful than people’s will for change. Systems of domination have prevailed by exploiting this human weakness, sowing discord among activists and setting them against each other.</p> <p>A planetary community of sacred activists relies on living, breathing trust among its members. It will grow in power to the extent that we cultivate universal solidarity, truthful communication and mutual support. Instead of propagating moralistic heroism, let’s create places of encounter and new forms of coexistence that will allow us to heal our wounds and rebuild trust.</p> <p>4) A common focus on an emerging vision for humanity</p> <p>The world seems ready for radical change. The majority of the population in the West no longer supports the dominant economic and political system and is turning away from it in what journalist Chris Hedges calls the “invisible revolution.” Recent years have seen massive outbreaks of public anger and longing for a different society. Yet, little has changed. According to the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, we’re stuck in a state which most recognize as beyond insane, simply because no one can see a credible alternative.</p> <p>The necessary global shift begins by radically reimagining our civilization. If we have an authentic vision for a nonviolent and regenerative way of life, a culture of solidarity and trust, we’ll be able to midwife the global transition. This isn’t anything we can make up; a true vision is something fundamentally different from a constructed idea, wishful fantasy or ideology.</p> <p>As we abandon the mainstream mentality of dominant culture, we also overcome the drought of creativity which blocks people from imagining an alternative. We recognize that our spirit is deeply creative and that we always carry vision—this is why we’re alive. When a vision touches our heart and we allow it to guide our life, we’re driven by our deepest purpose and have enormous energies at our disposal. Yet we carry vision not only individually but also collectively. </p> <p>As Ladonna Bravebull Allard of Standing Rock puts it, “The shared vision for humanity exists, whether we see it or not.” Our task is to become receptive for it, to see it, make it visible and activate it, using all means of communication, so that our collective imagination will no longer be driven by dreams of downfall, but elevated by the possibility of worldwide healing and unification.</p> <p>5) A different principle of power</p> <p>The fight between capitalism and those defending life is a power struggle. We need to seize power, but we need a different kind of power than the one usually deployed by revolutionaries. We have no chance of trying to overcome a globalized system of violence by constructing a counter-force through mass mobilization and fight alone. Many attempts to overthrow the dominant systems didn’t originate from power, but powerlessness, because activists let themselves be corrupted by the fear and hatred those systems propagated.</p> <p>Native American activist Winona LaDuke writes, “Part of the mythology that they’ve been teaching you is that you have no power. Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul. (…) Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.”</p> <p>Despite terrible injuries, all life still automatically strives towards healing, regeneration and convergence, as this is necessary for its continuity. In nature, we find universal patterns at work, which operate according to what sociologist and futurist Dieter Duhm calls the “sacred matrix.” He writes:</p> <p>“The sacred matrix is the cosmic pattern which forms the basis for the organization of life. It steers the information and energies necessary for the evolution and maintenance of life. When the individual connects with this guidance, channels for healing open up. When humanity organizes itself in accordance with the sacred matrix, channels for global healing powers open up.”<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Beyond all alienation and division, there’s something all beings have in common, something we all deeply love. This something carries no name and is beyond description, but it is what people of all ages have experienced as “sacred.” When the veil of separation falls, we face the animated, eternal and truly sacred character of existence. </p> <p>When people enter into this resonance, they experience healing, regeneration and convergence and often find themselves under great protection. Studying and learning to live according to the principles of sacred power will allow our movements to succeed in ways that previously looked impossible. The key to this power doesn’t primarily lie in external activities and strategies, but in a conscious shift of the whole way we live, think, speak and act – from the matrix of fear and violence to the sacred matrix.</p> <p><strong>Utopia or oblivion?</strong></p> <p>Ultimately, our success will result from unprecedented collaboration between the different organs of the emerging global alliance. A key part of this is to establish experimental centers that concretely model post-capitalist societies on a small scale, developing social and ecological structures that invite in and no longer systematically block off the healing powers of life. Such centers (at Tamera, we call these “<a href="https://www.tamera.org/healing-biotopes-plan/">Healing Biotopes</a>”) as well as still-existing Indigenous communities could provide all those wanting to step out of the current system with the necessary knowledge to create functioning communities of trust and cooperation.</p> <p>More and more places could break out of the dominant system, creating autonomous regions, and so give rise to a new system based on a local sovereignty rooted in global interdependence. While social movements slow down the pace of destruction through their resistance, they could also restore ecosystems and implement the infrastructure for post-capitalism. </p> <p>Inventors could contribute new technologies to an ever-increasing number of regenerative communities and regions, donors could support them financially, journalists could provide the necessary public attention and allied progressive governments could create “free zones” for them to operate in. Guided by a shared global vision, an ever-increasing number of people would help birth a new era. Once a global alternative becomes realistic for a critical number of people, we would have created the conditions for the dominant system to implode and give way to a new one.</p> <p>This is no longer only a dream. As dystopian scenarios become imminent, “utopia” remains as the only realistic way out. We mustn’t forget that it has always been through existential necessity, vision, community and surrender to spirit that people have made the apparently impossible possible. Let’s come together to build a world where creativity, cooperation and mutual support become the foundations of a sacred way of life.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/news/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing/">Kosmos Journal</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Sacred activism: the story of Tamera</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/culture-shift-redirecting-humanity-s-path-to-flourishing-future">Culture shift: redirecting humanity’s path to a flourishing future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-catastrophe-only-cure-for-weakness-of-radical-politics">Is catastrophe the only cure for the weakness of radical politics? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Martin Winiecki Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Love and Spirituality Tue, 24 Apr 2018 20:06:42 +0000 Martin Winiecki 117458 at https://www.opendemocracy.net