Activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/12876/all cached version 17/01/2019 11:06:13 en When crafts become activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tracy-l-barnett/when-crafts-become-activism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new generation of craftivists are channeling homespun energy into social justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TracyBarnett1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Craftivist Collective Mini Protest Banner, Brick Lane, London. Credit: Craftivist Collective. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Sarah Corbett never dreamed a cross-stitched teddy bear could change her life and how she approached her career. But looking back, she realizes that that’s when it all started.</p> <p>Corbett, a professional campaigner for causes and charities, was preparing to board a train from London to Glasgow to give yet another workshop on training people as activists.</p> <p>But she was exhausted, stressed, and burning out. With a five-hour journey ahead of her, she couldn’t work because it made her travel sick. Feeling a hankering to do something creative, she picked up the tiny cross-stitch kit. As she took her seat and began to work, she immediately noticed something.</p> <p>“Separating the threads, you have to go slowly so that it doesn’t tangle, and it made me aware of how tight my shoulders were, and that’s something I hadn’t checked in with myself about,” she says. “As activists, my colleagues never checked in with each other - ‘Are you OK?’ You just do lots of campaigning, because that’s what you’re passionate about.”</p> <p>People began to ask her what she was doing. “I immediately thought to myself, ‘Oh, if I was cross-stitching a Gandhi quote, we could have a conversation about that.’ But the fact that a stranger was asking me what I was doing, it made me think how powerful it was that I wasn’t giving eye contact, I wasn’t shouting at them with megaphones, and they were asking me.”</p> <p>That made Corbett realize that there might be better ways to engage with activist communities. She had just moved to London, but was having a hard time fitting in.</p> <p>“A lot of them were very extroverted, very loud, very transactional, sometimes quite demonizing - or treating people like robots or just doing stalls or petitions,” she says.</p> <p>By contrast, the repetitive action of cross-stitching made her aware of how tense she was. The process was comforting and gave her space to ask herself whether she was really being an effective activist, or was she just doing lots of things to feel effective?</p> <p>What Corbett discovered for herself on her train trip is known as “craftivism,” a term popularized by North Carolina activist Betsy Greer. With Greer’s blessing, Corbett spun it into her unique “gentle protest” approach, and a decade later has turned that epiphany into a high-impact career, the international&nbsp;Craftivist Collective&nbsp;and a whole lot of creative social change. Corbett’s book,&nbsp;<em>How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest&nbsp;</em>(Random House, 2018), was just released in the U.S. and will be presented at&nbsp;<a href="https://schedule.sxsw.com/2019/speakers/2004951">SXSW in Austin, Texas, in March</a>&nbsp;2019.</p> <p>Greer, for her part, has been surprised and delighted to see how the concept has spread across the globe. “For a while, you could track the word back to me,” she says. “Eventually I got an email from Africa. I was getting emails from people in places I’d never been that were way outside my demographic.”</p> <p>Greer learned to knit from her grandmother before knitting was cool. She studied craft as a sociology student, and wrote her dissertation on knitting, DIY culture, and community development. That led to her first book,&nbsp;<em>Knitting for Good: A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch</em>&nbsp;(Roost Books, 2008).</p> <p>In her research on crafting and activism, Greer began to realize that this was nothing new. She has traced craft as a form of resistance to&nbsp;<a href="https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/09/history-of-quilting-arpilleras-made-by-chilean-women-to-protest-pinochet.html">tapestries of the disappeared&nbsp;</a>under Pinochet’s regime in Chile, and diapers and headscarves made by Argentina’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/may/19/argentina-human-rights">Mothers of Plaza de Mayo</a>. Even the legendary abolitionist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BpXYnZhg4h_/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&amp;igshid=bmascxfgm7us">Sojourner Truth&nbsp;</a>engaged in knitting and needlework as a form of resistance.</p> <p>Greer comes from a military family, so the war in Afghanistan affected her personally, with a cousin and a friend who served there. In the mid-2000s, she began a needlework series based on anti-war graffiti from around the world. Taking anonymous images - a bomb as a head on a human body, the Statue of Liberty holding a missile instead of a torch - and working them in cross-stitch, she illustrated the effects and toll of war: “How it embeds itself in our daily vocabulary in the news, in conversation, in our worries, even though in many cases, we are spared the actual gravity of war at our doorstep,” she wrote in an email.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TracyBarnett2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Participants at a Craftivist Collective workshop in Bristol. Credit: Craftivist Collective. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Working on those pieces, she found, was a great way to explore her feelings about war. She created the series, she says, “to show that people all around the world are against war, but very few people actually make the decision to go to war.”</p> <p>In the U.K., Corbett was taking the concept in new directions. In 2016, she and a small group from the Craftivist Collective teamed up with ShareAction, a movement for responsible investment, to organize a living-wage campaign aimed at the British retail giant Marks and Spencer. They used gift handkerchiefs with bespoke embroidered messages for the company’s board members and investors, then followed up by carefully cultivating relationships with them. The campaign eventually resulted in&nbsp;<a href="https://blueandgreentomorrow.com/society/ms-wages-increase-living-wage/">pay increases</a>&nbsp;for the company’s 50,000 workers.</p> <p>Other campaigns involved embroidered messages on&nbsp;<a href="https://craftivist-collective.com/blog/2013/04/project-mini-protest-banner/">small protest banners</a>&nbsp;to be hung at eye level in public places and on&nbsp;<a href="https://craftivist-collective.com/A-Heart-For-Your-Sleeve-fortheloveof">embroidered hearts</a>&nbsp;worn on sleeves. Last year, the Craftivist Collective created a campaign to support Fashion Revolution, a global movement launched after the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 garment workers. Makers dropped tiny, handwritten scrolls into the pockets of clothing sold by retailers who engage in unfair trade practices. The scrolls had messages such as, “Our clothes can never be truly beautiful if they hide the ugliness of worker exploitation.”</p> <p>The idea, Corbett says, was to encourage them to be curious about who made their clothes, without making them feel judged, and give them options so they could join the movement, as well. The campaign resulted in global media on the homepage of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42181743">BBC News</a>, a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/22/the-eco-guide-to-the-new-mindful-activism">double-page spread in&nbsp;<em>The Guardian</em></a>&nbsp;and rare coverage in fashion magazines because of Corbett’s “gentle protest” approach to activism.</p> <p>The line between craftivism and artivism - the use of art in activism - is a fine one.</p> <p>Greer says she intentionally chose craft as a way to reclaim a practice that has been historically demeaned and undervalued for thousands of years. Additionally, she says, she uses craft as a way to encourage people to be creative precisely because it’s not art.</p> <p>“There can be a lower barrier to entry because due to its utilitarian roots it doesn’t have to be beautiful as culturally defined, and it doesn’t have to go up on a wall - but it can! - so there can be less pressure mentally to be good,” she says.</p> <p>Elizabeth Vega, who has been using art to empower and inform since the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri, prefers to give the work the stature she feels it deserves—so she calls it artivism.</p> <p>“It stems from the place that art and craft is something we all have within us,” Vega says, who has degrees in sociology and counseling psychology. “It’s a way to make sense of things and a way to have cultural intersections but also to process.”</p> <p>She remembers the moment when she began to realize the power that art could have within the fight against racism in St. Louis. Her social justice group had set up a story wall to help people process the death of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old Black man who was shot by a White police officer in 2014, setting off the Black Lives Matter movement.</p> <p>“There was a mother and daughter who came to see the memorial. And as they walked away, you could tell they were really feeling it. They were walking kind of separately. And I noticed the 13-year-old, and I said to her, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ and this child fell into my arms and wept like I was a member of her own family.”</p> <p>Vega encouraged the two to create something that they could put on the memorial, and they collaborated and came up with a beautiful image: the words “hands up” with two hearts, the word “unfair” and a tear.</p> <p>“And I think that’s the role it has,” Vega says. “Sometimes before we even have language, we have images, we have things that are visual. And so holding space with art materials gives people an opportunity to process, so that by end of it they do have words, and they have a greater understanding of it.”</p> <p>But besides the inner work, the act of creating together can have an even greater impact socially, Vega says.</p> <p>“The beauty of art and craftivism and this kind of resistance work is that oftentimes we are fighting against things - we’re constantly fighting against oppression, against racism, against sexism - but the art reminds us of what we’re fighting for,” she says. “And that’s connection, and beauty, and humanity, and the ability to create and dream and collaborate.”</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/when-crafts-become-activism-a-more-beautiful-movement-20181218">YES! Magazine</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/kali-swenson/social-justice-with-knitting">Social justice with knitting</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/valarie-lee-james/migrant-quilt-re-stitching-fabric-of-community-along-us-mexico-bord">The Migrant Quilt: re-stitching the fabric of community</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/virtues-of-many-sided-life">The virtues of a many-sided life</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 Tracy L. Barnett Activism Culture Thu, 10 Jan 2019 20:23:40 +0000 Tracy L. Barnett 121253 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are we prepared to pay the price for farmworker justice? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/olivia-heffernan/are-we-prepared-to-pay-price-for-farmworker-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“We need an awakening of consciousness for everyone to understand how important we are as workers of the land.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/OliviaHeffernan.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Migrant workers picking cabbages in Ohio, 2010. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobjagendorf/5123728839">Flickr/Bob Jagendorf</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p>Wearing a flannel shirt, <em>Wrangler</em> jeans and worn-in beige boots, Juan Antonio Zuniga has the look of a farmer but not the entitlements that come with owning an actual farm. Fleeing violence in El Salvador, Zuniga came to the US in 1991 and has been a farmworker in New York ever since. Today, he lives and works on a farm in Mattituck, Long Island, where he picks grains and grows vegetables. According to the <a href="http://nfwm.org/resources/low-wages/">National Farmworker Ministry</a>, the annual average income of crop workers is between $10,000 and $12,499 for individuals and $15,000 to $17,499 for a family, an offensively noticeable difference from the $5 billion-plus that<a href="https://www.nyfb.org/about/about-ny-ag"> New York’s agricultural industry brought in last year.</a></p> <p>“We are seen as an industry that does not need services,” Zuniga told attendees of a conference on Food Justice and Labor in the Hudson Valley in November 2018, “People think fieldwork provides for itself. Without us, there would be no vegetables, fruit, grains or wine. Farmworkers are the foundation of production. But we are hidden. We don’t exist. Farmworkers do not have a voice or a vote.”</p> <p>Like Zuniga, Librada Paz also began life in the US as a farmworker, but now works as a farm labor advocate for <a href="http://ruralmigrantministry.org/">The Rural Migrant &amp; Ministry</a>, a New York nonprofit that seeks to create a just and equitable environment for rural and migrant workers in the state. Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Paz and her family came to the US when she was 15. When I met her in Midtown Manhattan, she cried as she remembered her first years as an apple picker in upstate New York.</p> <p>“When you come here, your only option is farm working because it is the job no one else wants to do. There’s nothing here to protect you. It doesn’t matter who you are, your immigration status or the color of your skin. If you are a farmworker, you do not have basic rights,” Paz told me. While picking apples on a small farm in Orleans County, New York, Paz lived in a one-room home with eight other men and women. “Each night we would switch who got to sleep on the mattress. Living in those crowded places really affected me. Everywhere I went men were molesting me, but I couldn’t complain because I feared they would not believe me. Even if I screamed no one would hear me.”&nbsp;</p> <p>A recipient of the 2012 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for her farmworker activism, Paz leads ‘know your rights’ trainings for farmworkers across New York State, and over her 30 years as a farmworker and activist in the US she has witnessed everything from farm owners who routinely fired their workers after each season, to farmworkers who lost their jobs because they asked for a sick day or got injured on the job. A few years after migrating to the US her own father fell from an old, unsteady ladder while picking apples. Paz remembers him with a broken arm but afraid to seek medical help or stop working. Eventually he was fired and forced to work at an egg factory in Maine. He never received injury or workers’ compensation.</p> <p>Legislation to address these problems is essential, but on its own it won’t be enough to protect and enhance farmworker justice. What’s also needed is a reconceptualization among consumers and activists of what it takes to create and sustain ‘good farms’ – whether corporate or local. Improved wages and working conditions, lowering pollution from chemical fertilizers, increasing seed diversity, and protecting animal welfare all translate into a willingness to pay higher prices that can help to secure a more robust set of labor protections and rights. Agricultural workers make an indispensable contribution to the US economy, and they should be treated with dignity and respect. As Zuniga told the Hudson Valley conference, “We need an awakening of consciousness for everyone to understand how important we are as workers of the land.”</p> <p>Paz says that a key problem are the loopholes in US labor laws that exempt farmworkers from the same labor protections that every other worker is afforded. “We’re only asking for basic rights, to protect us from abuse, from violence, from sickness and so much more. We’re not asking for much,” she told me.</p> <p>This January, the New York State Senate has the opportunity to address this problem when the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (FFLPA), a 20-year old piece of legislation, will be reintroduced to the State Senate Floor. The legislation proposes amendments to New York Labor and Public Health Laws that would grant farmworkers the rights to bargain collectively, and to receive overtime pay, a day of rest, access to unemployment and disability benefits, and insurance if they are injured during the course of employment. It would also prohibit employers from paying certain farmworkers less than the minimum wage, and expand labor sanitary codes to all farm and food processing camps.</p> <p>While it has been proposed in each new Senate session since 2010, the FFLPA has yet to receive the required votes from New York Senators for it to pass. However, with a newly Democratic-controlled Senate for the first time since 2009, there is renewed hope for the 100,000 farmworkers of New York.</p> <p>Among many other things, the FFPLA attempts to resolve a contradiction between the Constitution of New York, which states that<a href="https://www.dos.ny.gov/info/constitution/article_1_bill_of_rights.html"> all employees have the right to organize and bargain collectively</a>, and the New York’s Labor Relations Act, which exempts farmworkers from this specific provision of the Constitution. To date, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/sep/14/california-overtime-farm-workers-union">California</a> is the only state in the US that has granted agricultural workers the right to overtime pay. As Renan Salgado, Senior Human Trafficking Expert for the New York Worker Justice Center, told me in an interview:</p> <blockquote><p>“Agriculture and slavery have always gone hand in hand in the US. It began with indentured servitude and since 1942 the flavor has been Mexican. The blue print is simple: you bring foreigners, whether through force, coercion, enticement or manipulation and once they are here, you criminalize their status and put them in agriculture to sustain our most profitable industry.”</p></blockquote> <p>Even with political support to pass legislation and policy changes to address these structural issues, we still need to build much greater personal awareness of the realities of farm work in order to create a long-term constituency for change. Through ten years and hundreds of interviews, Margaret Gray, the author of <em><a href="https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520276697/labor-and-the-locavore">Labor and the Locavore,</a></em> found that most depictions of local farms obfuscate the reality of agricultural labor. Activism for farmworker justice has been focused on large corporate farms as exploitative industries, while small local producers have been seen as archetypes of the ‘salt of the earth,’ featured and admired by progressive writers like <a href="https://michaelpollan.com/books/">Michael Pollan</a> and in publications such as <em>Edible</em>, <em>Kinfolk</em> or <em>Hudson Valley Magazine</em>.</p> <p>In these glossy magazine spreads, instead of photos of workers’ living in dilapidated trailers or working with duct-taped hands, New Yorkers see images of rugged farm owners proudly dangling their unwashed carrots from the roots to the tips. Such images are romantic and aesthetically pleasing, but they condition consumers at farmers’ markets and organic restaurants in New York City into believing that small local farms upstate are unquestionably humane, hardworking and just.</p> <p>“We need to consider what’s local about an international undocumented workforce,” Gray told me, “There’s an inherent contradiction in us allocating praise and wholesomeness to land and farmers. I think consumers are identifying benefits of local that are not being passed on to workers just in the basic sense of recognizing them, their humanity, and need for improved rights and working conditions.”</p> <p>By dichotomizing corporate and local farms and assuming that ‘local’ means ‘moral,’ food justice activists can miss the fact that whether organic fresh kale is shipped to a supermarket warehouse or an upscale ‘farm to table’ restaurant in the West Village is irrelevant to the treatment of farmworkers—they are still exempt from the protections that all other hourly workers are granted.</p> <p>“I think we should rethink that dichotomy,” Gray added, “and imagine how a farm system premised on improving labor rights and labor conditions might benefit everyone in New York…as opposed to just buy local, buy organic, and buy sustainable, buy <em>labor friendly</em> should be added to a roster of marketing efforts.”&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/nur-lalji/how-florida-farmworkers-won-fairer-pay-from-america%27s-biggest-food-companie">How Florida farm-workers won fairer pay from America&#039;s biggest food companies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/danica-jorden/red-sky-at-morning-no-recourse-for-migrant-farmworkers-during-and-af">Red sky at morning: no recourse for migrant farmworkers during and after hurricane florence</a> </div> <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> </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 Olivia Heffernan Activism Culture Economics Tue, 08 Jan 2019 20:23:25 +0000 Olivia Heffernan 121234 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An anarchist guide to Christmas https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ruth-kinna/anarchist-guide-to-christmas <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the night before Christmas, we’ll all be about.&nbsp;While the people are sleeping, we’ll realise our clout.&nbsp;We’ll expropriate goods from the stores, ‘cos that’s fair.&nbsp;And distribute them widely, to those who need care.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/RuthKinna Christmas.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Can we reclaim Christmas for the masses? Credit: Grace Wilson/STRIKE! magazine."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/RuthKinna Christmas.jpg" alt="Can we reclaim Christmas for the masses? Credit: Grace Wilson/STRIKE! magazine." title="Can we reclaim Christmas for the masses? Credit: Grace Wilson/STRIKE! magazine." width="460" height="398" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Can we reclaim Christmas for the masses? Credit: Grace Wilson/STRIKE! magazine.</span></span></span></p><p>It’s no surprise to discover that anarchist theorist Pyotr Kropotkin was interested in Christmas. In Russian culture, St. Nicholas (Николай Чудотворец) was revered as a defender of the oppressed, the weak and the disadvantaged. Kropotkin shared the sentiments. </p><p>But there was also a family link. As everyone knows, Kropotkin could trace his ancestry to the ancient Rurik dynasty that ruled Russia before the upstart Romanovs and which, from the first century CE, controlled the trade routes between Moscow and the Byzantine Empire. Nicholas’s branch of the family had been sent out to patrol the Black Sea. But Nicholas was a spiritual man and sought an escape from the piracy and brigandage for which his Russian Viking family was famed. So he settled under a new name in the southern lands of the Empire, now Greece, and decided to use the wealth that he had amassed from his life of crime to alleviate the sufferings of the poor.</p><p>Unpublished archival sources recently discovered in Moscow reveal that Kropotkin was fascinated by this family tie and the striking physical similarity between himself and the figure of Father Christmas, popularised by the publication of ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (better known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’) in 1823. </p><p>Kropotkin was not quite so portly as Klaus, but with a cushion stuffed up his tunic, he felt he could pass. His friend Elisée Reclus advised him to drop the fur trim on the outfit. That was a good idea as it would also allow him to wear a bit more black with the red. He’d decided to follow Elisée’s advice on the reindeer, too, and to use a hand driven sleigh. Kropotkin wasn’t normally given to dressing up. But exploiting the resemblance to spread the anarchist message was excellent propaganda by the deed. </p><p>Anticipating ‘V’, Kropotkin thought that we could all pose as Santa Claus. On the edge of one page Kropotkin writes: "Infiltrate the stores, give away the toys!"</p><p>Faint remnants on the back of a postcard read:</p><p class="blockquote-new">On the night before Christmas, we’ll all be about<br />While the people are sleeping, we’ll realise our clout<br />We’ll expropriate goods from the stores, ‘cos that’s fair<br />And distribute them widely, to those who need care.</p><p>His project notes also reveal some valuable insights into his ideas about the anarchistic features of Christmas and his thinking about the ways in which Victorian Christmas rituals might be adapted.</p><p>"We all know", he wrote, "that the big stores – John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges – are beginning to exploit the sales potential of Christmas, establishing magic caves, grottos and fantastic fairylands to lure our children and pressurise us to buy gifts that we do not want and cannot afford". </p><p>"If you are one of us", he continued, "you will realise that the magic of Christmas depends on Father Christmas’s system of production, not the stores’ attempts to seduce you to consume useless luxuries". Kropotkin described the sprawling workshops at the North Pole, where elves worked all year, happily because they knew that they were producing for other peoples’ pleasure. Noting that these workshops were strictly not-for profit, craft-based and run on communal lines, Kropotkin treated them as prototypes for the factories of the future (outlined in Fields, Factories and Workshops). </p><p>Some people, he felt, thought that Father Christmas’s dream to see that everyone received gifts on Christmas day, was quixotic. But it could be realised. Indeed, the extension of the workshops – which were quite expensive to run in the Arctic – would facilitate generalised production for need and the transformation of occasional gift-giving into regular sharing. "We need to tell the people", Kropotkin wrote, "that community workshops can be set up anywhere and that we can pool our resources to make sure that everybody has their needs met"!</p><p>One of the issues that most bothered Kropotkin about Christmas was the way in which the inspirational role that Nicholas’s had played in conjuring Christmas myths had confused the ethics of Christmas. Nicholas was wrongly represented as a charitable, benevolent man: saintly because he was beneficent. Absorbed in the figure of Father Christmas, Nicholas’s motivations for giving had become further skewed by the Victorian’s fixation with children. </p><p>Kropotkin didn’t really understand the links, but felt that it reflected an attempt to moralise childhood through a concept of purity that was symbolised in the birth of Jesus. Naturally he couldn’t imagine the creation of the Big Brother Santa Claus who knows when children are asleep and awake and comes to town apparently knowing which have dared to cry or pout. </p><p>But sooner or later, he warned, this idea of purity would be used to distinguish naughty from nice children and only those in the latter group would be rewarded with presents.</p><p>Whatever the case, it was important both to recover the principle of Nicholas’ compassion from this confusing mumbo-jumbo and the folkloric origins of Santa Claus. Nicholas gave because he was pained by his awareness of other peoples’ hardship. Though he wasn’t an assassin (as far as Kropotkin knew), he shared the same ethics as Sofia Petrovskaya. And while it was obviously important to worry about the well-being of children, the anarchist principle was to take account of everyone’s suffering. </p><p>Similarly, the practice of giving was mistakenly thought to require the implementation of a centrally-directed plan, overseen by an omniscient administrator. This was quite wrong: Father Christmas came from the imagination of the people (just consider the range of local names that Nicholas had accrued – Sinterklaas, Tomte, de Kerstman). And the spreading of good cheer – through festivity – was organised from the bottom up. </p><p>Buried in Christmas, Kropotkin argued, was the solidaristic principle of mutual aid.</p><p>Kropotkin appreciated the significance of the ritual and the real value that individuals and communities attached to carnivals, acts of remembrance and commemoration. He no more wanted to abolish Christmas than he wished to see it republicanised through some wrong-headed bureaucratic re-ordering of the calendar. </p><p>It was important, nonetheless, to detach the ethic that Christmas supported from the singularity of its celebration. Having a party was just that: extending the principle of mutual aid and compassion into everyday life was something else. In capitalist society, Christmas provided a space for special good behaviours. While it might be possible to be a Christian once a year, anarchism was for life.</p><p>Kropotkin realised his propaganda would have the best chance of success if he could show how the anarchist message was also embedded in mainstream culture. His notes reveal that he looked particularly to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to find a vehicle for his ideas. The book was widely credited with cementing ideas of love, merriment and goodwill in Christmas. Kropotkin found the genius of the book in its structure. What else was the story of Scrooge’s encounter with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future than a prefigurative account of change? </p><p>By seeing his present through his past, Scrooge was given the chance to alter his miserly ways and re-shape both his future and the future of the Cratchit family. Even if it was only remembered once a year, Kropotkin thought, Dickens’s book lent anarchists a perfect vehicle to teach this lesson: by altering what we do today, by modelling our behaviours on Nicholas, we can help construct a future which is Christmas!</p><p class="image-caption"><strong>This article was originally published by <a href="http://strikemag.org/anarchist-guide-christmas/" target="_blank">STRIKE! magazine</a>&nbsp;in 2014.</strong></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/andrea-abi-karam-taylor-miles/berlin%E2%80%99s-system-error-free-shop">Berlin’s ‘system error’ free shop</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/shannan-stoll/seven-practical-ideas-for-compassionate-communities">Seven practical ideas for compassionate communities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-byrnes/how-to-win-friends-and-influence-new-economy">How to win friends and influence the new economy </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Transformation Transformation Anarchism Christmas Mutual Aid Ruth Kinna Economics Activism Thu, 20 Dec 2018 13:10:13 +0000 Ruth Kinna 88989 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Gandhi’s ideas continue to thrive, even in the post-truth era https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tom-shillam/why-gandhi-s-ideas-continue-to-thrive-even-in-post-truth-era <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="wp-caption-text">Faced by a global dearth of alternative ideas, it’s no wonder we are turning again to the Mahatma for inspiration.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="wp-caption-text"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/gandhi-is-still-relevant-and-can-inspire-a-new-form-of-politics-today-106565"><em>This article was first published by</em>&nbsp;The Conversation</a>.</em></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TomShillam.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Gandhi spinning in the 1920s. Credit: Wikimedia. Public Domain.</p> <p>Seventy years after Gandhi’s assassination on the streets of New Delhi, Ramachandra Guha’s new book, “Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-48,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/196463/gandhi-the-years-that-changed-the-world-1914-1948-by-ramachandra-guha/9780385532310/">reopens a familiar debate</a>&nbsp;around his legacy. What was Gandhi’s message? What were his politics? What can we learn from him today? And is he still relevant?</p> <p>Guha, presenting the second half of a biography that began with his 2013 book,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/09/gandhi-before-india-ramachandra-guha-review">Gandhi Before India</a>, offers a straightforward but detailed narrative in which “the Mahatma” negotiates a principled path between the warring political trends of the age. Historian of empire,&nbsp;<a href="https://literaryreview.co.uk/the-making-of-mahatma">Bernard Porter</a>, welcomed Guha’s work and its subtle defence of a “gentler, more tolerant and consensual forms of politics” that is now, in the age of Donald Trump, Brexit and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, on the decline in the West and elsewhere.</p> <p>Others are more biting. Fellow Gandhi scholar&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/oct/04/gandhi-1914-1948-ramachandra-guha-review">Faisal Devji</a>&nbsp;charges Guha with neutralizing the Mahatma’s radicalism. Meanwhile, author&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/22/gandhi-for-the-post-truth-age">Pankaj Mishra</a>, reexamining Gandhi’s writings in a “post-truth age” of “furious revisionism,” uncovers a “relentlessly counter-intuitive thought” left untapped by Guha’s tales of a “bland do-gooder.”</p> <p><strong>Resurrection.</strong></p> <p>All these accounts, however, seek to resurrect Gandhi&nbsp;<a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/arguing-for-india-what-gandhis-ideas-mean-today">as a political mentor for today</a>. Modern politics – and its new formula of Twitter hashtags, populist sloganeering and strongman dictators – may seem an unlikely place for the teachings of Gandhi to offer fresh inspiration. But just such a thing also happened during the Cold War, when politics faced some very similar problems.</p> <p>Gandhi is sometimes imagined sitting beside a spinning wheel pouring scorn on science and modernity. Indeed, when asked by a reporter what he thought of “Western civilisation”, he famously replied:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/21/opinion/meanwhile-gandhi-for-one-would-have-found-it-funny.html">“I think it would be a good idea.”</a></p> <p>But his politics were more complex than this. Gandhi read the works of Western political thinkers including John Ruskin and Leo Tolstoy. India was being sucked into a global economy based on the exploitation and automation of labour. Industrial capitalism – and its partner, imperialism – only cemented uneven power relations and alienated one Indian from the next. He believed what was needed, instead, was a social and economic life based around local production for local needs, something that would also foster greater cultural enjoyment.</p> <p>But is the current post-truth age still able to make use of this simple, authentic message?</p> <p>A look into early 1950s Indian history provides some clues. When India achieved independence in August 1947 – with Jawaharlal Nehru as its first prime minister – Gandhi, it is supposed, remained as a spiritual and moral, rather than political, guide. His vision of a “village India” died in 1948 with his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/mahatma-gandhi-economic-beliefs-that-are-still-relevant/story/283518.html">assassin Nathuram Godse’s bullet</a>. And as Cold War ideological competition ramped up between communism and capitalism, rapid and&nbsp;<a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/144998/cold-war-world-new-history-redefines-conflict-true-extent-enduring-costs">centralized economic growth seemed inevitable</a>.</p> <p>Some intellectuals, however, returned to the Mahatma’s ideas in this new and hostile climate. In 1950, the CIA covertly funded the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theawl.com/2015/08/literary-magazines-for-socialists-funded-by-the-cia-ranked/">formation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom</a>&nbsp;(CCF), an organization which brought together liberal and leftist intellectuals from around the world to discuss the threat posed by Soviet collectivism to free cultural expression.</p> <p>In sponsoring conferences and magazines in which these intellectuals could articulate their views, the CIA hoped it could channel their anti-authoritarianism to a useful Cold War end. But this did not work out. CCF branches often acted as&nbsp;<a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/136622/congress-cultural-freedoms-ultimate-failure">repositories for radical aspirations</a>&nbsp;which could find no other home.</p> <p>The Indian Committee for Cultural Freedom (ICCF), formed in 1951, was a&nbsp;<a href="https://thewire.in/history/cia-sponsored-indian-magazines-engaged-indias-best-writers">striking example</a>. Freedom First, its maiden publication, eschewed cultural criticism for discussions of domestic politics. The CCF’s push for the formation of a new journal, Quest, which reversed this was in vain, with one writer taking the opportunity to rail against a Westernized Indian “ruling class” whose interest in state-led development was bound to create “a situation reminiscent of the looking-glass world” – in other words,&nbsp;<a href="http://freedomfirst.in/quest/quest-archives.aspx">to impose Western ideologies onto India</a>.</p> <p><strong>A stateless society.</strong></p> <p>These writers – often former freedom fighters who had gone to prison for their travails – wanted a new egalitarian politics they sometimes termed “direct democracy.” Views on how this should be approached varied, and as the decade wore on, some took to advocating for a pro-capitalist, if also welfare state-friendly, program.</p> <p>Others, though, found in Gandhi a source of optimism. In 1951,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/remembering-vinoba-bhave/">Vinoba Bhave</a>&nbsp;and other social reformers committed to Gandhi’s “sarvodaya” – progress of all – concept, founded the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thequint.com/videos/news-videos/remembering-vinoba-bhave-father-of-bhoodan">“Bhoodan Movement.”</a>&nbsp;This was aimed at encouraging landowners to redistribute land without violence and rapidly reduce inequality in agrarian India.</p> <p>This fascinated the ICCF. Marathi trade unionist and columnist, Prabhakar Padhye, named Bhoodan one of several reform movements capable of constituting “a new social force in the life of the country.” The ICCF’s annual conference welcomed the movement, with speakers calling for a “Gandhian” politics which made&nbsp;<a href="http://freedomfirst.in/archives/archives.aspx">“cooperation, rather than competition, the rule of life.”</a></p> <p>Soon, key ICCF writer, Minoo Masani,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.unz.com/print/Encounter-1954dec-00008/">reported</a>&nbsp;on a tour undertaken around the Indian state of Bihar with fellow member Jayaprakash Narayan. Speaking with crowds of peasants and rural poor, Narayan bracketed together totalitarianism and the welfare state as inherently coercive. What the pair supported was “Gandhism” – or a more spontaneous and participatory politics which “like anarchism or communism, visualizes ultimately a stateless society”.</p> <p>The point is that these intellectuals were drawing on Gandhi in defiance of an oppressive global political climate and its relentless classification of different ideas and visions as good or bad, communist or anti-communist, modernist or traditional.</p> <p>In its vacuous rhetoric and sleazy sloganeering, the early Cold War era was like today. And then, as now, Gandhi’s ideas were of renewed interest. As we now face a global dearth of alternative political ideas, perhaps it’s no wonder we are turning again to the Mahatma for inspiration.</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/mark-engler-paul-engler/how-did-gandhi-win">How did Gandhi win?</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 Tom Shillam Transformative nonviolence Economics Activism Tue, 18 Dec 2018 19:35:44 +0000 Tom Shillam 120990 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the activist who brought Monopoly Man to life https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/meet-activist-who-brought-monopoly-man-to-life <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Behind the fake mustache and provocative message is a dedicated activist for economic justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/meet-the-activist-who-brought-the-monopoly-man-meme-to-life/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Sarah Freeeman-Woolpert.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Monopoly Man lurking just above the shoulder of Google CEO Sundar Pichai at the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington DC on December 11 2018. Credit: Twitter/Ian Madrigal.</p> <p>On Tuesday morning, when Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee about his company’s data collection practices, there was a familiar mustachioed face in the crowd. To most people, this person — also wearing a monocle and toting a bag of cash — is none other than the famous board game character most commonly known as Monopoly Man. But behind the fake mustache and provocative message about capitalist greed is a dedicated activist for economic justice.</p> <p>Ian Madrigal, who uses they/them pronouns, gained internet fame when they first dressed up as Monopoly Man during an&nbsp;<a href="http://time.com/money/4969855/monopoly-man-equifax-hearing/">October 2017 Senate Banking Committee hearing</a>&nbsp;with the CEO of credit reporting agency Equifax, following its massive data breach. Their creative stunts — which have taken on powerful figures from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — are effective, in part, because they understand how to strategically draw the worlds of politics, art and activism together. With a background in music and improv — plus a law degree from UCLA — Madrigal’s Monopoly Man has inspired activists around the country, as well as people on both sides of the aisle.</p> <p><strong>Why was the hearing with Google’s CEO an important place for Monopoly Man to make an appearance?</strong></p> <p>My appearance as Monopoly Man aims to highlight the need for regulation and antitrust action to rein in Google’s monopoly in many areas of tech. I’m also hoping to call attention to the controversy raging over Google’s development of&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/11/29/google-china-censored-search/">Project Dragonfly</a>, a censored search engine that would endanger dissidents and human rights defenders in China, as well as internal battles over sexual harassment, racial discrimination and pay inequity. All of these various controversies show that Google and other tech giants cannot be allowed to self-regulate. We need comprehensive legislation and agency oversight that we have in many areas of business outside of tech.</p> <p><strong>You have done a number of creative stunts during Congressional hearings, from playing the audio of children crying in detention centers to dressing up as a Russian troll. How do you prepare for these actions and what makes them so successful?</strong></p> <p>I usually just come up with a random idea and bounce ideas off of friends to get their reactions. I order something to use as a costume on Amazon Prime, which I think of as using one billionaire to fight other billionaires. And when I go to the hearings, I have to ask a friend to hold a spot in line for me because waiting there in a costume for five hours would give them way too much lead time to figure out what to do with me.</p> <p>For me, one of the singular successes of the first Monopoly Man action was not just the attention it got, but the fact that every single article — from the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/10/04/monopoly-man-trolls-former-equifax-ceo-richard-smith-at-senate-hearing/"><em>Washington Post</em></a>&nbsp;to the most clickbaitey news site — talked about the reason I was there, which was to oppose Equifax’s use of forced arbitration and specifically to oppose a bill that was pending in the Senate. Everyone who was writing and tweeting about it mentioned the bill. So you have to be really conscious when you’re using these antics. You don’t just want to be funny — you want to make your message clear.</p> <p><strong>You have been doing creative activism for a long time. How did you first get started?</strong></p> <p>I’ve basically been raising hell since I was a child. I’ve naturally been a troublemaker challenging authority. When I first got active in politics, one of the first things I learned about was corporations and sweatshops and slave labor happening abroad. When I was 14, I went to the Disney Store at the mall and printed little slips of paper that said, “This clothing item was made in a sweatshop.” I slipped it into the pockets of the clothes and staged a protest outside. Within about five minutes I got kicked out of the mall. So those were my roots.</p> <p><strong>How did your family and community react to your activism early on?</strong></p> <p>Honestly, I don’t even think anyone knew about it. I did a lot of things at that age without my parents knowing. My parents are actually Republicans. So they would not have been particularly supportive of that. They’re where a lot of my insight comes from. There are a lot of hand-wringing articles about how progressives don’t understand Trump voters and I’m like, “No, I grew up with them. I know them very well.”</p> <p>I grew up in a very odd place in southern California between Los Angeles County and Orange County. Our town slogan is: “Towns change, values don’t.” But the weird contradiction is that this buttoned-up suburb is next to one of most diverse places in the country. There were no [openly gay] kids at my school of 3,000 people — even though we were close to Long Beach, which is a hub of the gay community. So I had no idea how I fit in.</p> <p><strong>You eventually ended up going to law school. How has that fit in your work as an activist?</strong></p> <p>I always worked for some kind of cause. As I was organizing with people, anytime we would achieve a victory it would be overturned in the court system or there would be a law passed that undid it. So it became clearer to me that if I wanted to make long-lasting change, I needed to understand how these systems work and be able to infiltrate them to some extent. So I actually went to law school with the intention of just suing all these corporations. I thought if part of the problem is people trying to sue them and just running out of money, I could avoid that problem by becoming the lawyer. Now I see that was a very naïve way of thinking about litigation. I just wanted to be a pain in the ass for corporate America for the rest of my life. It turns out I took a slightly different tack. Instead of suing them, I’m just harassing them in Congress.</p> <p>But my legal training has been really helpful. It’s good to understand how laws actually work once you pass them, but I think what people in the Washington, D.C. policy realm are missing is the artistic and cultural push of knowing how those ideas resonate with people. You have to know your audience, and the audience is the American people who are very removed from life here in D.C. I’m a musician and I’ve also worked in film, so I have those different perspectives I can fuse together for theatrics and art and creativity. It’s always been my natural approach to be a jack of all trades.</p> <p><strong>What role has social media played in shaping your activism and amplifying the message of your actions?</strong></p> <p>Using Twitter allows me to not only go viral, but to also control the narrative when it does go viral. The toughest thing about viral internet culture is that it’s hard to control how people will interpret what you do. You can use these tools to help interpret it. When the cameras are on me during a hearing, I’m hamming it up. But when they aren’t, I am on Twitter frantically tweeting at anyone about the bill I am opposing, so that every single person gets my message.</p> <p>The whole Monopoly Man concept essentially brings a meme to life. There is a novelty in this type of humor that has evolved within internet culture in the last decade or so, and this approach takes it into the real world. Monopoly Man is over-the-top internet culture — it’s cartoonish, it’s baseline humor everyone can get that draws on imagery people can relate to from a lot of different perspectives.</p> <p><strong>What role does your specific brand of creative activism play in engaging people at this political moment when people feel so much rage at the Trump administration, but also somewhat powerless to do anything about it?</strong></p> <p>The Trump presidency has really been an important moment for creative and innovative action, specifically those targeted to get media attention. Obviously, one of the central challenges of the Trump era is that he’s always sucking up all the air time, so even if you do something huge at a policy level or organizing level it gets ignored. The actions I have seen become so successful are the ones where people get in front of cameras and make themselves impossible to ignore. The reason Monopoly Man worked was because I was in every single photo. They couldn’t talk about the hearing without talking about who the person was twirling their mustache in the back. It’s important to be entertaining, which is something progressives have shied away from in an effort to seem serious, angry, dignified — you name it. If you add something inspiring, instead of this nihilistic approach, you can actually use that to advance your goals.</p> <p>Even though we’re in a really divisive time right now, there is a pretty large set of issues that I think Americans agree on. We have these large issues of white supremacy and patriarchy to battle, but at the end of the day there is also a central struggle between the rich and powerful, and everyone else. Monopoly Man was successful because it cut across the aisle in many ways. I even got an interview request from&nbsp;<a href="https://video.foxbusiness.com/v/5604198062001/?#sp=show-clips">Fox News</a>. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at the time, or if they were going to try to trap me. I had just come out publicly as trans a couple of days before, so I was wondering if they were going to ridicule me. But, surprisingly, they didn’t go on the attack. The host asked me a couple of leading questions to make me say something silly, but I stuck to my talking points. The interview actually went really well and reached a really wide audience.</p> <p><strong>Are there times you have found humor to not be the right approach?</strong></p> <p>I’ve been trying to tailor my creative protest to the moment. One of my more recent protests that went pretty viral was of Kirstjen Nielsen. It was the week after the child separation policy was announced and two days after audio of the child crying in the detention center had been released. I got a text from a friend who saw her eating at a Mexican restaurant, and they said I should get folks down there. So I put out the call on Twitter and Facebook and texted all my friends. We got a group from the Metro DC Democratic Socialist Alliance — we had about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/us/kirstjen-nielsen-protesters-restaurant.html">15 people there protesting her</a>. And with that action, it wasn’t the right moment to use humor. That would have hurt a lot of folks at such a vulnerable time. When you’re talking about children being imprisoned, anger is the right approach and sadness is the right approach. A lot of things this administration does are ripe for satire and mockery, but you have to read the room and make sure you’re hitting the right chord.</p> <p><strong>Shaming and ridicule can also alienate people from supporting your cause. How have you struck a balance in your work with calling people out and calling them in?</strong></p> <p>For me, it’s been very important to use ridicule against people who have a lot of power, whether that’s elected officials or the extremely wealthy who hold a lot of power in society. I do think there’s a difference in making fun of people in power and making fun of everyday people. You can punch up or punch down, and I only advocate punching up. A lot of oppression that exists in our society is born out of the shame oppressors impose, so I don’t want to increase that. But it’s different to ridicule ideas. When you give hatred a platform, you legitimize it. You never want to delegitimize people themselves, but if you delegitimize their leaders and the ideas that cause suffering in the world, I think people move away from those leaders and ideas.</p> <p><strong>What will creative activism look like in a post-Trump era?</strong></p> <p>I’m inspired by how people have dug in and started organizing together since Trump was elected, but I’m nervous that it could disappear. In American culture, especially white American culture, we have a tendency to ignore issues if we ourselves are comfortable, and to engage with oppression only when it’s in front of our faces. The moment it isn’t right there, we stop thinking about it. I’m very aware that the moment Trump is gone, folks on the left could become complacent again. I do have hope that it won’t happen because we’ve seen that organizing really works. There have been a lot of victories in the past couple of years. If we have stopped as much of it as we have with zero institutional power, imagine what we could do when we have power. I just hope we’ll see it as a moment to build stronger institutions instead of going back to the ones we had before.</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-nagler-karen-ridd/humor-but-not-humiliation-finding-sweet-spot-in-nonviolent-">Humor but not humiliation: finding the sweet spot in nonviolent conflict resolution</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 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Economics Activism Fri, 14 Dec 2018 09:13:12 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert 120989 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Freedom is claimed, not granted https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nora-lester-murad/freedom-is-claimed-not-granted <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today’s actions by Central Americans and Palestinians show a historic convergence of resistance to borders. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/nora-lester-murad/la-libertad-se-reclama-no-se-concede">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NoraMurad2.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Solidarity protest in New York City, November 25 2018. Credit: Nora Lester Murad. All rights reserved.</p><p>A photograph of Maria Virginia Duarte sits on my desk, and as I watch the coverage of the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-45951782">migrant caravan</a> approaching the US border I think about her again. Maria arrived in the United States without documents from El Salvador in in the early 1970s. She became part of my family, and when I had my first daughter Maria dipped her finger in a cup of coffee and put it in my baby’s mouth (apparently in El Salvador that’s considered good for babies).</p> <p>In 1986, Maria was one of the almost three million “illegal aliens” <a href="https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128303672">granted amnesty by Ronald Reagan</a>, and she no longer needed to live in hiding. When she and her sister decided to visit El Salvador for the first time since they had escaped, I went with them. I met their relatives on both sides of the brutal <a href="https://cja.org/where-we-work/el-salvador/">civil war that took the lives of 75,000</a> people between 1980 and 1992. I took rickety buses on narrow, unpaved mountain roads to visit relatives who had no water, sewage or electricity. I was in the marketplace when in the blink of an eye, all the young boys disappeared into shops and houses just minutes before government forces marched around the corner to “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/21/world/salvador-army-fills-ranks-by-force.html">recruit</a>” child soldiers.</p> <p>Nearly four decades later, Central Americans continue to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA0G3NJmx00">risk their lives to escape conditions</a> caused in great part <a href="https://www.fairobserver.com/region/north_america/us-mexico-border-migrant-crisis-foreign-policy-world-news-23230/">by US foreign policy</a>, only to find themselves <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYnV5lV2xOQ">unwelcome</a> in the oft-touted “<a href="https://www.counterpunch.org/2006/05/31/stop-saying-this-is-a-nation-of-immigrants/">land of immigrants</a>.” But something feels different this time around. Individuals and families are marching together. It is not ‘merely’ that thousands of scared people are risking their lives to stay alive as we have seen in the <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/europe-emergency.html">exodus from Syria</a>. It is also a protest of sorts, a refusal to comply, and it’s being met not only with humanitarian aid but with <a href="http://www.newsanctuarynyc.org/">political solidarity</a>.</p> <p>It might just be me, influenced by 35 years of being married into a Palestinian family including 13 years living under Israeli military occupation, but no matter how they are portrayed in the media, the Central American caravan and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/14/opinion/gaza-protests-organizer-great-return-march.html">Gaza’s Great Return March</a> feel to me like a convergence. Regular people are taking brave steps, inspiring others to join, and building community while claiming freedom.</p> <p>Today’s protests stand firmly on generations of resistance. They are <a href="https://www.afsc.org/blogs/news-and-commentary/what-is-great-return-march">parts of movements</a>, cultivated over decades out of smaller attempts and in response to <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/asylum-refugees-trump-proclamation/">increasing repression</a> that has made clear to people that freedom is claimed not granted. And our claims for freedom must be global.</p> <p>Of course there are many differences in the situations of the Palestinians in Gaza and the Central Americans on the caravan, but there are also a surprising number of similarities. The Central Americans are running away from their homelands to find refuge in the United States. They are challenging the borders that prevent them from living in safety with respect for their human rights. The Palestinians in Gaza are running towards their homeland and challenging the <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-blockade-icrc/israels-gaza-blockade-breaks-law-says-icrc-idUSTRE65D00R20100614">blockade of a “border” that illegally</a> prevents two million people from returning (<a href="https://www.unrwa.org/where-we-work/gaza-strip">1.3 million of whom are documented refugees</a>).</p> <p>The Central Americans are seeking the <a href="https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/asylum-united-states">legal status of asylum</a>, which is part of <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/publications/legal/3d4aba564/refugee-protection-guide-international-refugee-law-handbook-parliamentarians.html">refugee law</a>, while in Gaza, legally-recognized refugees are denied their <a href="https://electronicintifada.net/content/right-return-heart-palestines-struggle/17856">right of return</a>. In both cases, the US and Israel distort the law in an attempt to claim that the relevant protections don’t apply.</p> <p>For example, the US government portrays Central Americans not as asylum seekers but as migrants – people who choose to move “not because of a direct threat to life or freedom, but in order to find work, for education, family reunion, or other personal reasons,” <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/publications/legal/3d4aba564/refugee-protection-guide-international-refugee-law-handbook-parliamentarians.html">as the UN puts it</a>. This enables the authorities to evoke their rights as sovereign states to deny entry across their borders, and say that caravan participants should apply using existing immigration procedures or face deportation. In fact, <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/413624-trump-calls-migrant-caravan-an-invasion">Trump has repeatedly called them “invaders,”</a> subject to a <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46026050">security rather than a humanitarian response</a>.</p> <p>This is nearly identical to Israel’s portrayal of the Gaza protesters. They are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-fence.html">deemed a security risk to Israel</a>, criminal, and not subject to any rights and protections – certainly not the right to return to their homeland, the right to protest to secure their human rights, or the right to international protection from a belligerent occupying power.</p> <p>In fact, <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/publications/legal/3d4aba564/refugee-protection-guide-international-refugee-law-handbook-parliamentarians.html">according to UNHCR</a>, the UN Refugee Agency:</p> <blockquote><p>“State responsibility starts with addressing root causes of forced displacement. Strengthening the rule of law and providing citizens with security, justice, and equal opportunities are crucial to breaking the cycles of violence, abuse and discrimination that can lead to displacement.”</p></blockquote> <p>Yet in both cases, the US and its allies have not fulfilled their obligations to prevent displacement. Instead, they have invested in funding conflicts and then erecting obstacles to rights-claiming by those who are displaced as a result. <a href="https://www.icj-cij.org/en/case/131">Israel constructed an Apartheid Wall that has been deemed illegal</a>; <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-40755559/trump-s-wall-on-patrol-in-the-border-s-deadliest-town">Trump is trying to construct a similar wall</a> along the US-Mexico border, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/world/middleeast/trump-mexico-wall-israel-west-bank.html">even citing the Israeli wall as a model</a>.</p> <p>One mechanism used in both cases is the outsourcing of foreign policy enforcement, often paid for with foreign aid. <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/11/security-aid-pa-sustains-israel-occupation-161103120213593.html">Israel outsources enforcement to the Palestinian Authority</a> (paid for by international donors), while the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xbt0ACMbiA&amp;feature=youtu.be&amp;fbclid=IwAR1n4pWGv7d_2-qin5WvFO0eMck4DNGHbB-dxZJE-Hlk1lG9WUEH_Rydaq0">US has outsourced enforcement to Mexico, again paid for with aid.</a></p> <p>In both cases, governments and multilateral organizations are complicit in the violation of human rights. The most obvious example is the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), ostensibly created to facilitate the reconstruction of Gaza after the 2014 Israeli attack by putting the United Nations in charge of vetting materials and beneficiaries using Israeli-approved criteria.</p> <p>In <a title="," href="https://www.academia.edu/30909451/The_Gaza_Reconstruction_Mechanism_Smoke_and_Mirrors_">my own research</a> &nbsp;I found that the GRM potentially legalizes the perpetuation of a wrongful act (the blockade of Gaza), and also potentially enables the perpetuation of violations by Israel, while the United Nations did not follow a correct process in becoming a legal party to the GRM agreement and inaccurately portrayed its role as a mere facilitator. In addition, the UN and other parties failed to fulfill their legal obligation of due diligence to ensure that the GRM agreement did not violate human rights, and the agreement appears unbalanced in assigning rights and responsibilities in Israel’s favor, while obligations are borne by the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority. Finally, the GRM potentially compromises the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence (for example, by allowing Israel a veto power over aid beneficiaries).</p> <p>It doesn’t take much digging to uncover the shameful failure of international organizations to protect the rights of Central Americans too. A recent article in an official United Nations news source <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/10/1023852">reported</a> that the “Secretary-General António Guterres was urging all parties to abide by international law, including the principle of ‘full respect for countries’ rights to manage their own borders.’” The failure to prioritize the protection of displaced Central Americans, Palestinians, Syrians, Rohingya, Afghanis, South Sudanese, Somalis and so many more demonstrates that an ongoing battle between human rights and states rights is at play - an existential fight to realize or crush the aspirational potential of international law and global governance.</p> <p>When the declaration of a “humanitarian situation” becomes a justification for a military build-up, checkpoints, and the collection of personal information that threatens security (as in both these cases), people increasingly recognize that this as a rhetorical slight-of-hand. When Donald Trump says that Central American <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/11/01/donald-trump-suggests-migrants-could-shot-throwing-rocks/1850582002/">migrants who throw stones would be shot</a>, a policy almost identical to <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/israel-stone-throwers-punishment_us_56045fade4b08820d91c447d">Netanyahu’s stance against Palestinian rock throwers</a>, people see what they are up against: this cadre of power-mongers intend to criminalize communities that seek to protect human beings from the unconstrained power of militarized states.</p> <p>But people like Maria Duarte and my friends in Gaza have no intention of giving up, nor of succumbing to the cowardly strategy of divide-and-conquer. Like the generations of activists on whose achievements we stand today, we will respond by recognizing the parallels and similarities in our struggles and in our aspirations for a safe place to live with dignity, and call home.</p> <p><em>Nora Lester Murad’s new book is&nbsp;“<a href="https://www.restinmyshade.com/">Rest in My Shade, a poem about roots</a>,” co-authored with Danna Masad and published by <a href="http://www.interlinkbooks.com/product_info.php?products_id=3510">Interlink Books</a> with support from the <a href="https://www.palestinemuseum.us/new-products/">Palestine Museum US</a>. More information at <a href="https://www.restinmyshade.com/">https://www.restinmyshade.com</a>.</em><span></span></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="/openglobalrights/nora-lester-murad/no-shortage-of-international-complicity-with-israeli-occupation">No shortage of international complicity with Israeli occupation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/oska-paul/refugee-to-refugee-humanitarianism">Refugee-to-refugee humanitarianism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/byung-chul-han/who-is-refugee">Who is a refugee?</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 refugees Nora Lester Murad Transforming Palestine and the Israeli occupation Care Activism Sun, 02 Dec 2018 19:26:26 +0000 Nora Lester Murad 120676 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Finding purpose in the future of work https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/dan-silver/finding-purpose-in-future-of-work <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="BodyA">Supporting disadvantaged young people to find meaningful careers benefits both them and the rest of society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanSilver11.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The former Littlewoods Building in Liverpool, England. Credit: Joe Entwistle. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="BodyA">We live in a world of work that is going to change dramatically over the next 15 years. During the first industrial revolution, work was shaped by the adoption of machinery, where production was more important than human life. Improved working conditions were hard fought for. The next revolution in work, which is happening now, will be more diverse, profuse and fragmented.</p> <p class="BodyA">We might need to abandon the very notion of a career in an increasingly non-linear and precarious labour market – thinking instead in terms of how we can use transferrable skills to jump from job to job. So should we abandon the potential for work to provide us with purpose and meaning in life? Should we be aiming for a post-work future in which automation and a universal basic income mean we don’t have to find or keep a job at all?</p> <p class="BodyA">If we could, most of us would probably choose to work less. In the UK <a href="https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/work/trends/uk-working-lives">nearly two-thirds of workers </a>are keen to reduce their hours, and as a recent report from the Trades Union Congress confirms people would choose <a href="https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/FutureofWorkReport1.pdf">a four day working week</a> as the ideal. We can certainly aim to work less, but at the same time we need to make sure that we also improve working life both now and in the future. Researcher <a href="https://futuresofwork.co.uk/2018/09/05/post-work-fallacies-and-the-social-reproduction-of-capitalism/">Alex Wood</a> says that decent employment can help our well-being; it can provide us with structure, social connection and collective purpose. But how?</p> <p class="BodyA">The <a href="https://www.mya.org.uk/">Merseyside Youth Association</a> (MYA) provides one useful example. They work with young people across the Liverpool City Region to support the development of meaningful careers that provide a sense of purpose, while making sure that genuine opportunities are more evenly distributed throughout the population. Through the Talent Match programme, MYA works with some of the most marginalised young people across Merseyside who aren’t in any form of training, education or employment. Many face multiple barriers to finding decent work: the vast majority don’t have any decent qualifications from school; 50 per cent haven’t worked for at least two years; nearly one in five has been homeless; and many have physical or mental health problems.</p> <p class="BodyA">Through the UK government’s ‘welfare to work’ approach, young people who experience disadvantage can find themselves pushed into ill-fitting jobs or facing a punitive sanctions regime. Even when they are in work, jobs are often as insecure as they are unrewarding. As Phil, who is 26 and from north Liverpool explained to me:</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“It may sound rather dystopian, but basically what society would prefer is a bunch of people who just go into a job, do it, and shut up. In most jobs that are available you are just there to be used and abused. If you complain, they kick you out and get other desperate people in.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">MYA has much higher hopes. Joe, who’s a youth worker at the agency, explained how they support young people to think about their futures - and then put things in place to help them move closer to their ambitions, step by step. “Recognising that each young person is different,” he told me, “means that the young people will get a career that they really want, rather than setting them up to fail.”</p> <p class="BodyA">Having a meaningful career is important to young people in the group. One of them, Stacey Prescott-Howard, shared how “young people get told all the time just to get off benefits and get any job that is coming. It makes you feel that you are not worth having a career.”</p> <p class="BodyA">MYA enabled Stacey to overcome some of the barriers she faced by helping her to become a support worker for children and young people with disabilities. For nearly two years now, she’s been working with children and young people who have complex needs in a range of settings including mainstream youth centres, nurseries, schools and behavioural units - where children excluded from school are sent.</p><p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/DanSilver10.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/DanSilver10.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="688" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stacey Prescott-Howard. Credit: Joe Entwistle. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Stacey feels as though her “dreams came back. I have got a career now. Having a career has taught me that I am worthy of having a future, I am confident enough to having a future, I am strong enough to have a future.”</p> <p class="BodyA">Enabling young people to develop their ambitions takes time, so MYA works with them over the medium term to build on their interests, capabilities and experiences. They explore what young people really want to do with their lives, and then put incremental steps in place to help them make progress.</p> <p class="BodyA">Sometimes, these steps need to begin with the basic foundation of survival. MYA has set up a foodbank just for 16-25 year-olds after they were told that many young people were going hungry but remained reluctant to use foodbanks due to stigma, anxiety, or from a feeling of not wanting to take food from families with children. The foodbank is a safe space for young people that they can call their own.</p> <p class="BodyA">Every week, they can come to get bags of food, but they can also speak with MYA volunteers and staff about additional support that might be needed - whether it’s counselling, mentoring or personal development. </p><p class="BodyA">Stacey Bridge, another member of the group, described her situation before she first came to use the foodbank:</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“My dad was killed. Then I lost my flat. I had a choice of paying for my dad’s funeral or keeping up to date with the rent. I ended up homeless. I went to a hostel with half a loaf of bread and a bottle of juice. The hostel gave me a leaflet for the foodbank at MYA.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">After going to the foodbank, Stacey’s life has changed through her hard work and through a plan of support that she came up with in collaboration with MYA.</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“They could see I was stressed. At the time, I didn’t know whether it was Christmas or Tuesday. I thought there was no coming back from what happened. But here I am, volunteering at the place that helped me and training to be a youth worker. I’ve found something I love doing. Knowing that I’ve done something to help people feels good.”</p></blockquote><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/DanSilver12_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/DanSilver12_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="688" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stacey Bridge. Credit: Joe Entwistle. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>By taking small steps, Stacey has developed a stronger sense of purpose and is a real asset to her community. That’s how MYA operates; they see the strengths in young people not just the weaknesses, and help them to overcome the things that are getting in their way.</p> <p class="BodyA">Social anxiety creates barriers for many young people in ways, for example, that stop them from going to college or attending job interviews. Such anxieties are not things that can be wished away, but through personal support young people can develop their confidence. Sometimes this begins with feeling comfortable on the bus, or being around groups of people. Bobbie is in college to do her Maths and English qualifications, and hopes to work in childcare. She explained how MYA supported her to deal with her anxieties:</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“When I have to go somewhere, I can text Joe from MYA and he will come with me. He came to college with me and sat with me when I did the exams. Instead of being scared, you feel more confident with someone there with you. They support you step by step.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">MYA shows how incremental changes to people’s lives can add up to something more transformative by providing personal support to secure the emotional and material foundations that young people need; recognizing and building on their existing strengths and experiences; and enabling young people to demand better futures.</p> <p class="BodyA">But there is more. Through the Talent Match Programme, MYA are highlighting the need for new thinking about the ways in which we “skill-up” ourselves, and how we include young people who have experienced disadvantage. Their approach points to an alternative world of work and skills in which we think beyond the dominant frames of the market and move towards what sociologist <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1468-4446.12072">Bev Skeggs</a> identifies as values of social support, care and cooperation.</p> <p class="BodyA">We should aim to develop relationships and institutions that can create a future that enables purposeful careers in which all young people can achieve what they want to achieve. By encouraging our democratic imaginations to become more hopeful and energetic we might yet be able to find purpose in the future world of work.</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/dan-silver-steph-niciu/we-deserve-right-to-exist-on-our-own-terms">“We deserve the right to exist on our own terms”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/dan-silver/politicians-don-t-live-our-lives-diy-social-action">Politicians don’t live our lives: DIY social action</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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> </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 Silver Economics Care Activism Tue, 27 Nov 2018 19:36:56 +0000 Dan Silver 120659 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lessons on building democracy after nonviolent revolutions https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-pinckney/lessons-on-building-democracy-after-nonviolent-revolutions <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why do some nonviolent revolutions end in democracy while others do not?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/lessons-building-democracy-after-nonviolent-revolutions/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JonathanPinckney.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Tahrir Square, Cairo, April 1 2011. Credit: Flickr/Lilian Wagdy via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14768252">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0.</a></p> <p>In 2011, Egypt began a political transition following a nonviolent revolution. There was tremendous optimism both&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Revolution-2-0-People-Greater-Memoir/dp/0547773986">from within the country</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2011-04-14/understanding-revolutions-2011">and abroad</a>&nbsp;that the transition was likely to lead to a democratic outcome. In 2014, Burkina Faso also began a political transition after&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/burkina-faso-protesters-remove-blaise-compaore-power-2014">a nonviolent revolution overthrew longtime authoritarian President Blaise Compaoré</a>. While many admired the revolution, its unfavorable conditions — low levels of economic development and a region that was less conducive to democracy — made the prospects for democratic advancement less optimistic. Yet, today, Egypt is once again under autocratic rule, following a 2013 coup by General Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi. Popular mobilization defeated a similar coup in Burkina Faso in 2015, and the country has now&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/12/06/burkina-faso-elections-mark-a-turning-point-in-a-country-in-political-turmoil/?utm_term=.f5234e326329">had democratic elections</a>, putting it on the road to a long-term sustainable democracy.</p> <p>What explains these differences? Why do some nonviolent revolutions end in democracy while others do not? And is nonviolent resistance really that much of a factor in promoting democracy in the first place? These are the questions that I examine in a new monograph from ICNC press:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/civil-resistance-building-democracy-popular-nonviolent-uprisings/"><em>When Civil Resistance Succeeds: Building Democracy after Nonviolent Uprisings</em></a>. The monograph builds on statistical research into 78 political transitions initiated by nonviolent resistance from 1945 to 2011, as well as interviews and in-depth examination of three particular transitions:&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/brazilians-act-end-military-rule-diretas-j-1983-84">Brazil’s transition away from military rule in the 1980s</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02589349308704989">Zambia’s transition away from single party rule in the 1990s</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/nepalese-general-strike-protest-monarchic-rule-2006">Nepal’s transition away from monarchy in the 2000s</a>. It focuses first on building our understanding of these questions using the best tools of social science research, and second on generating practical lessons that activists, political leaders and external actors interested in helping promote democracy after nonviolent revolutions can apply to their own situations.</p> <p>The first major takeaway from the research is that nonviolent resistance does encourage democratic progress, even in very unfavorable circumstances. Out of the 78 political transitions initiated by nonviolent resistance, 60 ended with at least a minimal level of democracy. This is a much higher proportion than political transitions initiated through any other means. This strengthens the findings of earlier research that found that&nbsp;<a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">nonviolent resistance led to more democracy than violent resistance</a>.</p> <p>The second major takeaway is that when nonviolent revolutions fail to lead to democracy, this typically happens because of two specific challenges, which I refer to as the challenges of&nbsp;<em>transitional mobilization</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>street radicalism</em>. If these challenges are successfully resolved, then democratic outcomes are much more likely. If they are not successfully resolved, then countries tend to revert to non-democratic regimes, or end up with a hybrid regime mixing some elements of democracy and autocracy.</p> <p>The first challenge is transitional mobilization. Nonviolent revolutions typically involve very high levels of social mobilization, with huge numbers of people from all walks of life pushing for positive change. Yet often after an initial democratic breakthrough this mobilization significantly declines. This is a problem because establishing democracy involves much more than simply removing a dictator. There are many more milestones on the road to democracy, and if popular pressure isn’t there for each one of them, then transitions can easily become derailed.</p> <p>I highlight three lessons for maintaining mobilization during transitions after nonviolent revolutions. The first is to foster independent sources of civic pressure. It is difficult during a political transition to keep independent civil society groups vibrant and pushing for the needs of ordinary people. Often groups that were independent from the state enter politics en masse during the transition, undermining their independent voice and becoming too focused on gaining power. Or they become too professionalized, often because of connection to international donors, losing their “movement” character and connection to ordinary people. Neither entering politics nor professionalization are inherently bad things, and often both can be very useful. But it is crucial to maintain some independent voices that can sustain or escalate pressure for the sake of democratic change.</p> <p>The second lesson for maintaining mobilization is to not put too much faith in your leaders. There is a strong tendency in many movements to personalize one’s opponents as wholly evil and one’s own leaders as wholly good. This tendency can lead to a belief that if your leaders could only be in positions of power then democratic progress would naturally follow. But the sad truth is that even good people who have gone through great sacrifices as part of a movement can also be corrupted by power. So, during political transitions, when movement leaders may be entering positions of political power for the first time, it is critical that they are judged based on their actions not on their history.</p> <p>The third lesson is to build and maintain a positive vision of the future. Pro-democracy movements often focus on negative goals to mobilize people against dictators. It can be easier to unite a diverse coalition around getting rid of a particularly hated leader, rather than having hard conversations about what the future will look like once the leader is gone. But having those hard conversations is crucial because, once the hated leader or regime is gone, people need a reason to continue to engage in activism.</p> <p>The second challenge is preventing what I call street radicalism. This challenge is in some ways the mirror image of the challenge of transitional mobilization. Nonviolent revolutions can provide strong signals that the tools of nonviolent political action can be wielded powerfully to achieve particular political goals. In the uncertainty of a political transition, this often means that there is a breakdown in building new regular avenues of politics and a common return to the streets. New institutions are delegitimized, and factions focus on using the most extreme tactics of nonviolent (and sometimes violent) resistance to gain short-term power advantages.</p> <p>Street radicalism during transitions can prevent new institutions from forming, disrupt the creation of normal politics, and often lead to an authoritarian resurgence as ordinary people get fed up with the disruptions and uncertainty of politics. For example,&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/urban-thais-overthrow-prime-minister-thaksin-thailand-2005-2006">in 2006 a primarily nonviolent resistance movement ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra</a>. In the following years, back and forth campaigns by Shinawatra’s “Red Shirt” supporters and their “Yellow Shirt” opponents severely undermined Thailand’s economic and political stability, leading to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/world/asia/thailand-military-coup.html">a 2014 military coup</a>&nbsp;that ended the country’s democracy and has led to a dictatorship ruled over by former General Prayut Chanocha.</p> <p>The first lesson on preventing street radicalism is to be careful when using highly disruptive protest tactics. Nonviolent resistance has many important “weapons” in its arsenal that can be very effective in disrupting social, economic and political life. This is what makes it a potent way of fighting injustice and oppression. But when these tools are deployed for selfish ends, or called upon too readily when new political institutions are still weak, they can backfire. Short-term gains achieved through disruption often rebound against the activists gaining them as ordinary people’s lives are destabilized.</p> <p>The second lesson is to focus mobilization on new institutional channels. Political regimes, to be stable over the long-term, need to develop regular norms of interaction and participation. Movements can help to direct these norms in a democratic direction by focusing activism on institutional channels. For instance, one major feature of most political transitions is the writing of a new constitution. Activism can focus on directing the rules of that constitution towards expanding freedoms and human rights protections, setting up an institutional environment that can protect democracy for a long time to come.</p> <p>The third lesson is to not shut out everyone from the old regime. Accountability for past crimes, particularly grievous human rights abuses, is central to any meaningful democratic tradition. But often the focus in political transitions moves beyond accountability to punishment and vindictiveness towards all those associated with the old regime. This creates a whole class of political players who have political skills but now no way of exercising them, and no reason to buy into the new democratic politics. They can thus often turn into a potent force seeking to undermine new democratic politics and preventing the creation of new institutions.</p> <p>Maintaining mobilization and preventing street radicalism certainly aren’t the only challenges that political transitions after nonviolent revolutions face. Specific countries have their own unique challenges related to any number of different aspects of democratic progress. I focus on these challenges for two reasons. First, we see their dynamics across many different kinds of contexts. Second, they are characteristics of political transitions that are most open to change by those interested in promoting democracy.</p> <p>It is important to emphasize as well that these lessons are meant to inform, rather than to limit, the choices that activists and politicians make during political transitions. There is no simple recipe for creating democracy after a nonviolent revolution, and the ways that these challenges, general as they are, will develop in particular countries will vary widely.</p> <p>Nor does the successful resolution of these challenges necessarily guarantee that one’s country will remain a robust democracy indefinitely into the future. For instance, while Brazil’s transition in the 1980s was a good example of both high mobilization and low street radicalism, recent years have brought significant challenges to that country’s democracy, captured most recently by the election to the presidency of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro. However, getting a country through the uncertainty of a political transition through high mobilization and low street radicalism tends to put countries on a stronger path towards a freer and more democratic future.</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/kazu-haga/why-moral-argument-for-nonviolence-matters">Why the moral argument for nonviolence matters</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/transformation/brian-martin/what-can-be-learned-from-recent-studies-on-nonviolent-action">What can be learned from recent studies on nonviolent action?</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 Jonathan Pinckney Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 23 Nov 2018 10:55:58 +0000 Jonathan Pinckney 120574 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “We deserve the right to exist on our own terms” https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/dan-silver-steph-niciu/we-deserve-right-to-exist-on-our-own-terms <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="BodyA">Emotional labour plays a crucial role in society. It’s time it was recognized and supported.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanSilver6.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Screen-printing workshop organized by Womxn is Work in Liverpool, UK, 2018. Credit: Jazamin Sinclair/FACT/ Liv Winter/Grrl Power. All rights reserved.</p> <blockquote><p class="Body">“Being a woman is work. We deserve to be recognised and for our labour to be valued. We deserve to be seen, heard and taken seriously, with recognition not just for what we do, but for what and who we are. We deserve autonomy, agency, and the right to choose our own path not predetermined by gendered expectations. We deserve the right to be selfish, to be emotional, to reject those that hurt us, and to nurture each other. We deserve the right to exist on our own terms.” </p><p class="Body">&nbsp;</p><p class="Body"><span><strong>From a statement produced by the Womxn is Work project in Liverpool, England, 2018.</strong></span></p></blockquote> <p class="Body">On a daily basis, women undertake a disproportionate amount of unrecognised work, be it emotional labour or the vital care duties of a parent or a guardian. As researcher <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0038026117742085?journalCode=sora">Fiona Jeffries</a> puts it, work of this kind is “indispensable to the daily re-making of life itself but is…typically consigned to the backstage of political life.”</p> <p class="Body">But in Liverpool and thousands of other communities this is being challenged by grassroots groups who are determined to publicise the injustice of unrecognized labour and support women to deal with its implications in concrete terms. For the past ten months we’ve been working with a number of these groups to document their stories as part of a collaboration with the <a href="https://www.fact.co.uk/">Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT)</a>, a media arts centre based in the city, and <a href="https://www.vsnw.org.uk/">Voluntary Sector North West</a>, a charity that aims to shape policy to support social justice.</p> <p class="Body">One of these groups is Womxn is Work, an art-led campaign built around a critique of gender based marginalisation that was developed under FACT’s <a href="https://www.fact.co.uk/projects/the-future-world-of-work.aspx">Future World of Work programme</a>. The group is made up of school students, mothers, carers, teachers and retired women who are united in the fight against unrecognised labour, and who have made a special effort to include minorities that are often ignored in mainstream feminism - hence the inclusion of ‘x’ in ‘womxn.’ Artist-activist Liv Wynter and a local research collective called “Grrrl Power” developed the approach for the campaign by drawing on radical organising, social critique and art. </p> <p class="Body"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanSilver8.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Screen-printing workshop organized by Womxn is Work in Liverpool, UK, 2018. Credit: Jazamin Sinclair/FACT/Liv Winter/Grrl Power. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="Body">At FACT’s mixed use cultural venue in Liverpool city centre, for example, Womxn is Work created a safe space for women and non-binary people to work together, culminating in a screen printing workshop where personal experiences were converted into powerful visual provocations exploring the future world of work. But how do these provocations show up in real life? How does recognising the importance of emotional labour create the foundations for women to gain power, knowledge and equality?</p> <p class="Body">To understand the answers to these questions let’s move across the city to the Swan Women’s Centre in Bootle, a charity that has been working alongside women from the area to improve their well-being since 1989 - and whose everyday actions illustrate the demands of the Womxn is Work campaign in practice. The Centre currently runs on a paid staff of eight (six of whom are part time) and 50 volunteers, all of whom understand the experiences of the women who come in for support because many have had similar experiences themselves. “All the women that work and volunteer at the Swan Centre are all really strong positive women. It is a great environment to be in” as one women who uses the centre told us. Another woman who has been involved for 15 years summed things up like this:</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“I came to Swan when I had a nervous breakdown and was suffering with depression…Swan would reassure me that I wasn’t going crazy. It was so important having someone to speak to, and who would tell me that lots of women go through depression and anxiety...I would always feel better after I came to Swan.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">In an area that has experienced historic industrial decline, everyday life for many women living in north Liverpool can be a struggle, juggling numerous roles that include paid employment, looking after children, caring for relatives and minding their grandchildren because childcare is too expensive, so unrecognized labour is a fact of life. As a grassroots charity the Swan Women’s Centre can’t address entrenched poverty, but it does provide a break for women from the everyday experience of struggle, described by one volunteer as the “stuff out there and the things in our heads which we can’t escape from.” In so doing the Centre creates opportunities for women to take care of themselves, ultimately sustaining the textured and informal networks of care that communities are built on.</p><p class="BodyA"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanSilver9.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Workers and volunteers at the Swan Centre in Liverpool, England. Credit: Joe Entwistle. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="BodyA">Joan, one of the workers at the Swan Centre, told us that many women feel properly listened to for the first time in their lives when they walk through the door; normally, “they talk, but they are not heard.” At the Centre women feel that they can be more honest about what they are going through. Rita is another of the Centre’s workers who visit women who experience social anxiety or other mental health problems in their homes. She describes how women are often told by people close to them “that they are having one of their turns, and to get some happy pills down them. Their mental health is totally dismissed. It is used against them...Their concerns are dismissed, but here we acknowledge those concerns, and we listen to them.”</p> <p class="BodyA">Sue (not her real name) is a good example of this approach, someone who was too anxious to even open her letters when she first met Rita; as a result, she “would get in all kinds of trouble, and get into terrible debt.” Sue now opens her post, and doesn’t have “piles of letters” in her house anymore. Her experience of mainstream social services often felt like a “punishment,” where she was just treated as a number. In contrast, the Centre staff support her as a person, and help with changes at a pace that she’s comfortable with, so she can now do things that other people would consider everyday activities - like going to the shops or putting the washing on the line outside. Sue feels that at least she “has some form of normality now,” and no longer “beats herself up” about things she can’t manage at the moment. </p> <p class="BodyA">Such changes are incremental, but they can add up to be transformative by helping women to reclaim control over their lives. Central to this process is the fact that staff and volunteers listen to women on their own terms. There is professional counselling available, but more informally there’s always someone available to have a chat over a cup of tea. And if women don’t want to share their experiences they don’t have to; they can join one of the Centre’s social groups instead such as a coffee afternoon, gardening, or mosaics and creative writing classes. </p> <p class="BodyA">Lynda, who has volunteered and worked with the Centre for over a decade, identifies “a silent power” in these groups of women coming together. The approach isn’t prescriptive or limited to box-ticking; instead, tangible changes are arrived at based on the particular needs and capabilities of each person who comes in. Staff and volunteers consciously try to equalise unequal relations of power through the ways in which they work, encouraging women to take the lead and focus on what they want to do to improve their own well-being, rather than do what they feel might be expected of them. As Karen, the chief executive of the Swan Centre, explained: </p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“we are respectful to the women, and they are respectful back to us. And so the women begin to see that they are worthy of respect. Then the women start to believe in themselves incrementally. If people treat you well, then you start to believe that you are worth something. We build power with the women to continue that outside of Swan.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">By creating spaces that represent a rupture with the struggles of everyday life and which feature relationships rooted in listening, mutual respect, and participation, both the Swan Centre and Womxn is Work demonstrate the potential of <a href="https://www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/1213/1213">everyday radicalism</a> to expand our democratic imaginations. </p> <p class="BodyA">The Womxn is Work campaign raises vital questions about society’s relationship to unrecognised labour, but it also shows that there is still much work to be done. Relating the feminist ethics of care embodied by the Swan Centre to these questions can help us to re-imagine how everyday politics is carried out in ways that value caring, listening and cooperation. Taken together, these groups highlight the foundations of care that underpin healthy communities and economies, inviting us to consider how to recognise and support the crucial role of emotional labour in society in more egalitarian ways.</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/dan-silver/politicians-don-t-live-our-lives-diy-social-action">Politicians don’t live our lives: DIY social action</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/gary-barker/why-don%E2%80%99t-men-care">Why don’t men care?</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 Steph Niciu Dan Silver Liberation Activism Care Intersectionality Sun, 18 Nov 2018 18:56:04 +0000 Dan Silver and Steph Niciu 120571 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Five ways new social movement leaders are effecting change https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-silberman/five-ways-new-social-movement-leaders-are-effecting-change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Parkland students and others are reinventing models for people-powered activism that adapt to today’s rapid pace of change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MichaelSiberman.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Emma González attends March for Our Lives on Mar. 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Credit: Noam Galai/WireImage/Getty Images via YES! Magazine.</p> <p>It’s hard to think of anything more embarrassing than throwing up in front of millions of people waiting to hear you speak. But that’s exactly what Sam Fuentes did at the&nbsp;<a href="https://marchforourlives.com/">March for Our Lives</a>&nbsp;rally she helped to organize in Washington, D.C.</p> <p>Here’s the kicker: The school shooting survivor didn’t act embarrassed at all. Instead of running off the stage—like most of us would—she took it in stride and went on to give an impassioned speech.</p> <p>Since 17 of their classmates were gunned down in February, Fuentes and other survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, have turned their trauma into a mass movement against gun violence. They organized a national march without any infrastructure—and in record time. And this summer, they toured the country for a campaign to mobilize the youth vote in the upcoming midterm elections.</p> <p>But perhaps most significantly, these young people have debunked the assumption that this issue could never be wrested from the hands of powerful and well-funded gun rights forces.</p> <p>Among the doubtful were older activists and professional campaigners who’d been in the organizing trenches for years—and with the scars to prove it. While thrilled about the new movement’s success, they also had a feeling that something had changed. Is this the&nbsp;dawn&nbsp;of a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/civicus-at-25/3183-the-green-shoots-of-a-new-civic-activism" target="_self">new kind of organizing and campaigning</a>?</p> <p>In short, yes. And the March for Our Lives movement is only one example. From the Movement for Black Lives and 350.org to the Women’s March and the tea party, a new wave of people-powered action is flipping the script and in some ways confounding traditional organizations that have been unable to convert into nimble social movements.</p> <p>What all have in common is what authors Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms are calling “<a href="https://thisisnewpower.com/">new power</a>”—new models that are organic and grow directly from the people rather than being directed or managed by formal organizations that control what gets done and by whom.</p> <p>“Old power models ask of us only that we comply (pay your taxes, do your homework) or consume,” they write. “New power models demand and allow for more: that we share ideas, create new content (as on YouTube) or assets (as on Etsy), even shape a community (think of the sprawling digital movements resisting the Trump presidency).”</p> <p>Today, new movements are working with more established organizations to capitalize on their wide-reaching networks. And they are learning to embrace the kinds of technologically savvy tactics used by the Parkland students. Here are five strategies that are proving valuable.</p><p><strong>Ditch the script.</strong></p> <p>Seasoned campaigners have long understood that the most effective messengers and organizers are those with the most at stake, or—like the Parkland students—little to lose. Those most directly affected by an issue can speak from the heart, while many campaigners and advocates sound scripted when they cite statistics or the latest study to make their points.</p> <p>Soon after taking the stage at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., Parkland and speaking for two minutes, senior Emma González went silent. After standing wordlessly at the podium&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/24/us/emma-gonzalez-march-for-our-lives.html">for another four minutes and 26 seconds</a>, she informed the crowd that her entire six minute and 20 second speech had lasted the same amount of time as she and her classmates had endured an active shooter.</p> <p>She captured attention not only by speaking from the heart, but by showing rather than telling. González and her fellow student leaders are compelling to us because they have what Frank Sesno, director of George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, says are the three critical elements of&nbsp;good stories: (1) compelling characters, (2) characters who have overcome obstacles, and (3) characters who have achieved a worthy outcome.</p><p><strong>Step back so others can step up.</strong></p> <p>We all want to be recognized for the work we’re doing, especially when it comes to issues we’re passionate about. That desire to be front and center can sometimes hurt, rather than advance, a movement or mission.</p> <p>At the March for Our Lives in Washington, for example, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, a nationally recognized gun violence survivor,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GabbyGiffords/status/977628591151337478">stood in the crowd instead of onstage</a>. She had stepped back so students’ voices could be heard. At the same time, she stepped up in other ways such as paying for many students’ travel to Washington.</p> <p>The bottom line: Transformative social change is going to come from organizations that see people as change agents, not just cheerleaders or foot soldiers carrying out plans designed by those “in charge.”</p><p><strong>Use the power of social media.</strong></p> <p>When Fox News host Laura Ingraham mocked Parkland student organizer and survivor David Hogg for not being accepted into certain colleges, Hogg didn’t spend the next few days convening staff meetings on how to respond.</p> <p>Instead, he quickly posted a list of Ingraham’s advertisers on Twitter and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/03/31/laura-ingraham-takes-an-easter-break-amid-david-hogg-controversy-and-advertiser-revolt/?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.61348e009ed6">asked his outraged followers&nbsp;</a>to let those companies know how they felt. As a result, more than a dozen advertisers dropped her show.</p> <p>The most effective social change organizations understand that as technology moves everything to warp speed, the ability to respond rapidly and nimbly matters more than ever before.</p> <p>The key to such agility?&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/03/inside-the-secret-meme-lab-designed-to-propel-neveragain-beyond-the-march">Agreeing on an overarching vision and message</a>. This provides team members with the autonomy needed to respond quickly and creatively when opportunities arise.</p><p><strong>Dream big to go big.</strong></p> <p>In one of the most viewed&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=612154435">TED talks</a>&nbsp;of all time, behavioral researcher and author Simon Sinek uses Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech to explain why a big, bold idea is a key element of movement building and social change.</p> <p>“He gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, not the ‘I Have a Plan’ speech,” Sinek says. “He spoke for a different world, how to go from here to there. And he so beautifully described what ‘there’ is.”</p> <p>King’s vision of a positive future mobilized a quarter of a million people to make the trek to Washington, D.C. (long before the internet). The Parkland students inspired&nbsp;over a million&nbsp;to&nbsp;<a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/380321-more-than-a-million-people-participated-in-anti-gun-violence-marches" target="_self">stand up against gun violence</a> in Washington and cities across the U.S. And March for Our Lives inspired an even bigger nationwide school walkout to keep up pressure on politicians and continue building local power.</p><p><strong>Adopt a movement mindset.</strong></p> <p>Could your organization pull off a national march in five weeks? Without any infrastructure or paid staff? With little financial support? And while leaders are still reeling from major trauma?</p> <p>A lot of people told the Parkland students that what they were attempting was impossible. Luckily, they ignored the concerns because they weren’t fixating on what they didn’t have. Instead, they had a “movement mindset” that allowed them to focus on creatively and efficiently using the resources they<em>&nbsp;did&nbsp;</em>have.</p> <p>Organizations of all sizes are discovering that they can take a page from social movements and find ways to act before everything is in place or completely figured out. Through participatory planning, rapid audience testing, and real-time ongoing improvements, organizations are developing initiatives that can be successful in rapidly shifting and unpredictable contexts. In short, the perfect is no longer the enemy of the good.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/5-ways-new-movement-leaders-are-effecting-change-20181016?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20181019&amp;utm_content=YTW_20181019+CID_c0e79b49645d2a673aa5f6de88b17ab1&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=5%20Ways%20New%20Movement%20">YES! Magazine</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/ed-morales/politics-of-latinx-recognition">The politics of Latinx recognition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/laurence-cox/everyday-power-of-movement-activism">The everyday power of movement activism</a> </div> <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> </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 Social Movements Michael Silberman Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 15 Nov 2018 18:07:35 +0000 Michael Silberman 120193 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Donald Trump and the politics of emotion https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/edward-sugden/donald-trump-and-politics-of-emotion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Trump’s ability to create a shared mood among voters was honed in the world of professional wrestling.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/EdSugden.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The ‘Trump Unity Bridge’ trailer on August 18, 2017 in Iowa City, Iowa. Credit: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trump_Unity_Bridge#/media/File:Donald_Trump_Unity_Bridge_Trailer_Float_-_Iowa_City_(36255657150).jpg">Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In 2017 Donald Trump posted a clip of himself on Twitter wrestling an <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-tweets-video-of-him-tackling-and-punching-cnn">avatar of CNN to the ground</a>. In the thirty-second vignette he seizes an individual with CNN’s logo where the head should be and pummels them. The point was to position himself as a defender of truth, flattening media enemies who spread disinformation about his reign.</p> <p>It was a predictable move: Trump is a <a href="https://www.wwe.com/videos/playlists/donald-trump-greatest-wwe-moments">recurring character on World Wrestling Entertainment</a> (WWE), body slamming its CEO Vince McMahon, “buying” its ‘Monday Night Raw’ program and remaining unperturbed by an egregiously <a href="https://www.wwe.com/videos/donald-trump-meets-the-boogeyman-wrestlemania-23">racialised boogeyman</a> who regularly appears in the ring. He is the only US President to be inducted as a member of the <a href="https://www.wwe.com/superstars/donald-trump">WWE Hall of Fame</a>.</p> <p>His immersion in this world might appear to be just another instance of the absurdly comic combining with the brutally terrifying in his presidency, but it is much more than that: the collision between Trump and wrestling provides an insight into his tactics and the broader contemporary transformation of electoral politics. The WWE taught Trump how to fuse the interests of big business with a mass of people coagulated around shared rage.</p> <p>Nationalist populism is an odd phenomenon in the ways in which it creates alliances between voters who occupy structurally opposed positions. Trump has managed to combine support from the corporate world, evangelical Christians, rural southerners and ex-union Democrats in a way that confounds <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/us/politics/donald-trump-voters.html">existing psephological models</a>. Transcending, at least to some extent, distinctions between left and right, this alliance <a href="https://youtu.be/3wDh3G7sWp0?t=80">melds together</a> the ultra-rich with the people they have actively disempowered.</p> <p>There’s an obvious inconsistency here: big capital fattens itself on the democratic choices of its victims. But this also suggests that ideology and demography no longer provide a satisfactory explanation for the results of elections. Something else brings this bloc together - mass emotion which has taken the place of ideological identification. What unites the electoral victories of nationalist populists is their ability to manipulate affect, to induct their voters into a shared mood that usually resonates in the key of anger and hate. So could ‘emotional politics’ of this kind also be used to anchor a progressive revival?</p> <p>The shift from ideology to emotion that has taken place in politics over the past 30 years passed through a phase of centrism in the 1990s when <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/feb/10/labour.uk1">liberal democracy</a> was seen as <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/24027184?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents">the ‘end of history.’</a> Dominated by a managerial technocracy, the role of politicians was to oversee public affairs in a rational, detached manner in an affectless world. Neither the governments they ran nor the people they governed were expected to behave emotionally. Politics was stripped of any sense of mob mentality in order to save the populace from their supposedly self-destructive urges.</p> <p>This model of governance also aimed to create a new citizen who would vote similarly according to rational, calculating self-interest. Manifestoes were not statements of belief so much as collections of incentives directed at different demographics. While this might encourage voters to retreat ever further into an atomized individualism, on the up side communities would never again fall into violence or pathology.</p> <p>It was these pathological urges, so the thinking went, that had led to fascism earlier in the century. Mass displays of orchestrated emotion characterized fascist governments and led whole populations to run willingly towards their own destruction. Once these regimes were defeated, ‘the people’ awoke, self-forgetful and stunned, their spent emotions discarded all about them.</p> <p>But in reality these emotions never went away. They were repressed, perhaps, but remained lodged deep in the political subconscious, desperately searching for routes back out into the world. If there is one lesson that is shared by almost every school of psychoanalysis after Freud it is this: an unrequited emotion will return with twice the fury of its repression. And it’s here that Trump returns to the WWE arena</p> <p><a href="https://www.wwe.com/videos/donald-trump-drops-money-in-the-arena-raw-january-29-2007">Picture the scene</a>: Donald Trump, eerie and disembodied on a giant raised TV screen, addressing an audience of enthusiastic wrestling fans. He rails against McMahon and pretends to advance the cause of an increasingly agitated audience against this vast media conglomerate. He pauses, and then releases money from the ceiling, huge wafts of dollar bills of different denominations floating down to the floor. The audience grabs and grasps at what they can.</p> <p>It is an exemplary moment, as prescient as it is troubling for how it anticipates Trump’s electoral tactics. In this knowingly theatrical moment he transforms his vast wealth into a mass spectacle that unifies the crowd into a seething mood of collective affect. Trickle-down economics, one of the great shams of neo-liberalism, becomes material for entertainment, literally and metaphorically. The audience experiences emotion at its most visceral and unrefined, and crucially, recognizes the same affect in others.&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This transformation of entrenched financial power into cod drama that elicits an intense, shared response is characteristic of Trump’s appearances on WWE, and, to a lesser extent, on his own TV series <em>The Apprentice. </em>In each case, Trump is able to make big money and big emotion equivalent to each other, and to use business as a tapestry for negative manifestations of group emotion. The entrenched financial power of oligarchs transmutes into a form of spectacular entertainment that unearths citizens from their ideological substrata and lifts them into a shared mood of frenzy. It’s precisely this fusion that brought him to power in 2016.</p> <p>These actions exploit a contradiction in the liberal democracy of the previous era: while politics became increasingly technocratic, emotion was outsourced to, among other places, corporations and consumerism. To buy anything in this era was to experience a swelling of emotion, a visceral experience of selfish desire that swallowed up both need and utility. This is why branding became the preeminent business activity: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Logo">in a context where function is effectively homogenous, consumer choices are driven increasingly by feeling</a>.</p> <p>But these outsourced emotions could also eat up liberal democracy itself. There was always the risk that the calculated manipulation of the collective emotional world could break out into self-destructive actions. The riotous outpourings of <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-creative-imperative/201112/black-friday-violence-where-it-comes-and-what-we-can-do-about-0">consumer violence that mark the sales, special offers and mark-downs of ‘Black Friday</a>’ in the US reveal just how fragile the balance can be between corporatism and mania.</p> <p>As businesses made emotions central to consumption, emotion and feeling became the yardstick for authenticity: if something felt good then it was. Corporatism catered for affect, and objectivity be damned. It was precisely these contradictions and intersections that Trump sensed could be useful in his campaign by redirecting emotional frenzy from products to politics. Trump’s rallies resemble the wrestling arenas in which he appears and the shopping centres that are ravaged by riots among consumers.</p> <p>That emotions have displaced objectivity also explains Trump’s post-fact world. In this universe it doesn’t matter whether a statement is true or false. Instead, the positive or negative feelings invoked by any given statement are taken as self-authenticating and total. The reaction of the audience is deemed legitimate regardless of the content of the stimulus that provoked it. This is exactly how the WWE also operates. The authenticity of the scene is irrelevant: it is a known sham. What is significant is the power of the mass spectacle to create a shared mood of rage, a mood that can bring together the millionaires and those they have dispossessed.</p> <p>A basic principle of electoral strategy is to acknowledge things as they are. This means that if the left is to reverse the rise of nationalist populism it will have to do so by generating an affective atmosphere using similar techniques of mass spectacle and participation. The emotional realm need not be divorced from policy; every ideology comes with its own mood after all. Fortunately, the left has access to a set of positive emotions that the right does not: optimism over fear, love over hate, care over callousness and tolerance over hatred. These emotions are tougher, more textured and more rewarding than the dark binaries with which they are twinned. They offer us a route to bring people together in a mood of mass hope.</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/izzy-goldstein/art-of-dissonance-dissecting-language-of-donald-trump">The art of dissonance: dissecting the language of Donald Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/nicholas-baer/american-idiot-rethinking-anti-intellectualism-in-age-of-trump">American idiot: rethinking anti-intellectualism in the age of Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/does-donald-trump-s-foreign-policy-actually-make-sense">Does Donald Trump’s foreign policy actually make sense?</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Democracy and government Donald Trump Political polarization Edward Sugden Activism Culture Sun, 11 Nov 2018 21:21:06 +0000 Edward Sugden 120503 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It’s time to go on the offensive against racism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/george-lakey/it-s-time-to-go-on-offensive-against-racism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nonviolent direct action campaigns that stay on the offensive can build vision-led movements that win.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/its-time-to-go-on-the-offensive-against-racism/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GeorgeLakey8.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Black Lives Matter protesters kneel and raise their hands in London's Oxford Street - 8 July 2016. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/alisdare/28087609562">Flickr/Alasdair Hickson</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p>When I read this in the morning paper, my heart stopped: Just 40 minutes away from me, the white mother of black children in New Jersey was repeatedly harassed via Facebook by a stranger, who told her that her children should be hung.</p> <p>Kentucky police arrested the young white man on Oct. 18, as he was backing out of his driveway with weapons, 200 rounds of ammunition and plans for shooting up a nearby school. The authorities thanked the mom —&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2018/10/23/woman-reported-racist-facebook-message-she-may-have-helped-stop-school-shooting/">Koeberle Bull</a>&nbsp;of Lumberton, New Jersey — for alerting them.</p> <p>I’m the white grandfather of a family of mostly black children. Someone armed and active is so offended by a mixed-race family that he wants to kill children like mine. Supported by my white daughter Ingrid, I allowed the terror to move through me while I raged and cried.</p> <p>After a while, when the intensity of my feelings lessened, Ingrid asked, “Isn’t it time to go on the offensive against racism?”</p> <p>I needed to access positive energy. While I was still identifying with the New Jersey mom and immersed in the feelings of fear, the ideas running through my head were all about defense.</p> <p>That’s the intention of terror, after all, whether it’s expressed in packages of bombs sent to prominent people or conducting a massacre in a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. I was gripped by my human programming: When under attack, defend!</p> <p>When I released enough fear to be able to think again, I could hear Ingrid’s question and access my strategy brain. Strategy urges the opposite of fear’s reactivity. Mohandas K. Gandhi, observing Indians reacting against the British Empire, urged his people to go on the offensive. Military generals agree with Gandhi: Wars can’t be won by staying on the defense.</p> <p>For its part, folk wisdom couldn’t be clearer: “The best defense is a good offense.”</p> <p>Despite this, many Americans at this moment — perhaps especially activists — are locked into reactivity and defense. I see the resulting frustration when I observe activists attacking each other. Going on the offense has different outcomes: It builds healthier movement cultures and shifts our focus to winning over allies in an expanding struggle.</p> <p><strong>What an offensive against racism looks like.</strong></p> <p>I often heard Bayard Rustin, a senior strategist for Martin Luther King Jr., say at the height of the civil rights movement, “We’ve got to change our economic system or in 50 years we’ll still have ugly racism!”</p> <p>He’s backed up by a trio of political scientists who recently&nbsp;<a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/polarized-america">studied polarization in the United States</a>. They found that polarization was directly linked to economic inequality. In other words, the economic elite that makes the basic decisions in the United States has, since the Reagan revolution, dramatically increased inequality and therefore accelerated polarization.</p> <p>But what does polarization have to do with the violent expression of racism?</p> <p>Even though racism is an integral part of American culture, how strongly it is felt and expressed varies on a spectrum, from subtle stereotyping and micro-aggressions on one end to the would-be Kentucky shooter on the other. That means there is always some racial hatred around; we need to just face that. What usually keeps people from violently acting out their hatred is the social context.</p> <p>Polarization releases people to act out their hatred. In the 1920s economic inequality deepened, polarization grew, and the Ku Klux Klan was everywhere. It’s not only racism that’s released by polarization. As society heats up movements on the left grow, too. That’s why we saw powerful movements for progressive change in the 1930s, even while the American Nazis were busy recruiting.</p> <p>The biggest mistake 1930s activists could have made was going on the defensive because, as it turns out, it was exactly the time to go on the offensive. Thankfully, that’s what they did. The result was the biggest decade of gains for American progress in the first half of the 20th century. Historic breakthroughs on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/unions-have-been-down-before-history-shows-how-they-can-come-back/">racial integration of industrial unions</a>&nbsp;were made in that very period.</p> <p>In the 1960s, bombings of Mississippi black churches became epidemic, along with killings of black people and their white allies — even in broad daylight. Nonviolent civil rights leaders understood this dynamic. </p> <p>King and his comrades were clear that the remedy is to take the offensive, and the movement won gains that, at the time, appeared to be impossible. The economic emphasis of Rustin and A. Philip Randolph also gained support. The 1963 March on Washington — dreaded by President John F. Kennedy and most Democratic Party leaders — significantly named itself the March for Jobs and Freedom, attracting significant trade union support.</p> <p>King modeled for all of us what offensive strategizing looks like, as illustrated in the outstanding film&nbsp;<em>Selma</em>. He felt his feelings about the latest outrage, but instead of letting his feelings control his behavior he channeled the energy into action aimed at changing institutions. The more that vicious attacks targeted him and his people, the more clearly he saw that injustice is reinforced by the economic structure. Increasingly he linked racism and poverty to capitalism.</p> <p>As the current political turbulence swirls around us, the need grows for models of grounded campaigns that take the offensive and make the racial and economic connections. One example is the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/sun-center-new-campaign-economic-racial-justice/">Power Local Green Jobs campaign</a>&nbsp;in North Philadelphia, which incorporates a strong racial and economic justice dimension.</p> <p>Most activists can find ways to connect the dots even if their primary issue is gun control, sexism, incarceration, rights for trans people, peace or raising the minimum wage. Progress on many issues is opposed by the economic elite, whether acting through Donald Trump or Congress or state governments. The only way to break this opposition is to push the economic elite out of its position of dominance, so we can make the required changes toward equality (both economic and racial) and enjoy the social peace that results.</p> <p><strong>Three steps help put us back on the offensive.</strong></p> <p>The good news is that activists, by taking three strategic steps, can dramatically increase our power and effectiveness. The steps are not rocket science — in fact, they are perceived by people outside the activist bubble as common sense steps to take.</p> <p><em>1. Shift away from reactive, one-off demonstrations.</em>&nbsp;Protests can be emotionally satisfying, but they rarely produce change. Again, the black-led civil rights movement showed its strategic brilliance by focusing on campaigns rather than episodic protests. A campaign has a specific demand for change, a target (the deciders who can yield to the demand) and an escalating series of actions that build the campaign. Campaigning doesn’t guarantee winning, but it increases the chance of success from near-zero using one-off demonstrations to a chance that’s better than even.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;<em>Link the network of campaigns on an issue into a movement</em>. That movement can result in the movement winning in the big picture, even if some specific campaigns within the movement&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/4-lessons-for-climate-organizers-from-the-anti-nuclear-movement/">don’t win</a>. The military analogy is that generals don’t expect to win every battle, but if they retain the initiative they do expect to win the war.</p> <p>Linking campaigns into a movement also promotes the learning curve of the campaigners, by comparing themselves to each other. They learn how to figure out the opponent’s vulnerabilities and how to sustain themselves over time.</p> <p>3.&nbsp;<em>Create a vision of what justice looks like</em>. While the Occupy movement changed the conversation, it was held back partly by its lack of a concrete vision of what should replace the unjust status quo. Fortunately, the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/a-vision-for-black-lives-is-a-vision-for-everyone/">Movement for Black Lives issued a vision draft</a>&nbsp;in 2016 that has gathered endorsements by many national and grassroots groups.</p> <p>The hope for a movement of movements that can amass enough power to push the 1 percent out of dominance lies, I believe, in taking at least these steps. A series of nonviolent direct action campaigns that stay on the offensive can build vision-led movements that — finding themselves facing the same opponent — create a coalition and win.</p> <p>That is the shift that can make possible, at long last, a decisive win against racism.</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/to-succeed-movements-must-overcome-tension-between-rationality-and-emoti">To succeed, movements must overcome the tension between rationality and emotion</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 Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 08 Nov 2018 20:43:43 +0000 George Lakey 120382 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The art of dissonance: dissecting the language of Donald Trump https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/izzy-goldstein/art-of-dissonance-dissecting-language-of-donald-trump <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Modes of communication which allow for compromise are being deliberately delegitimised.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/IzzyGoldstein.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Donald Trump&nbsp;on the campaign trail in 2016. Credit: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insane_Clown_President#/media/File:Donald_Trump_(25832785252).jpg">Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>“Every word has consequences, every silence too.”&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Temps_modernes">Jean Paul Satre’s famous epithet</a> was a popular feature of news headlines when a wave of&nbsp;<a title="//www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/25/donald-trump-attacks-media-hostility-in-wake-of-pipe-bombs" href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/25/donald-trump-attacks-media-hostility-in-wake-of-pipe-bombs" target="_blank">bombs were sent to high profile Liberals</a>&nbsp;at the end of October 2018, including George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as to CNN’s offices in New York. Reports of a mass shooting in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh two days later seemed to confirm hate-fuelled violence as a defining characteristic of Donald Trump’s presidency, with dangerous linguistic abstractions reproducing themselves in reality. </p> <p>This conviction has been strengthened over the past two years as Trump’s tweets and calls-to-action have become increasingly incendiary. When the president describes right wing extremists as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/15/donald-trump-press-conference-far-right-defends-charlottesville">“very fine people,”</a> encourages supporters to <a href="http://time.com/4203094/donald-trump-hecklers/">“knock the crap”</a> out of protestors and <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-45913921">endorses attacks on the press</a> by his party’s congressional representatives it seems reasonable to draw a correlation between political rhetoric and the mainstreaming of violent extremism. </p> <p>Demonstrating the effects of the president’s provocations is obviously important. But to truly understand Trump’s actions and hold him to account for the substance of his language we must conduct a closer analysis of his style, else we risk bypassing an important factor in the chain of causality: dissonance.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Dissonance and the language of politics.</strong></p> <p>Simply defined, dissonance means a <a href="https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/thesaurus/dissonance">lack of agreement or harmony between people or things</a>.&nbsp;In music, dissonance is produced via the organisation of sounds in ways that are jarring; in poetry by rearranging text in order to disrupt and create tension; and in language, by engineering a clash between words, feelings and content. </p> <p>Political rhetoric employs these linguistic qualities to inspire people to align their beliefs in line with a particular stance or ideological perspective. <a href="https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=3850">According to social psychologist Leon Festinger,</a> human beings strive for internal psychological consistency.&nbsp;When discrepancies arise between what a person perceives and their internal belief system they tend to become psychologically uncomfortable. This compels them to reduce the resulting ‘cognitive dissonance’ by adding new parts to the story or actively avoiding contradictory information. </p> <p>Trump is an expert in using rhetoric to exploit this tendency, for example, through his use of superlatives and absolutisms like “amazing,” “tremendous” and “big league.” These terms jar with our sense of reality and proportion, and when deployed as expressions of fact they serve to skew the line between objective truth and subjective opinion. Resolving this conflict requires us to make a choice: either we reject Trump’s claims as inconsistent with our understanding of what is accurate, or we find methods of justifying them in order to deal with the dissonance they create. These methods include misperception (altering the meaning that is associated with a claim), rejection (denying it completely), and refutation (advancing an alternative intended meaning). </p> <p>This process of rationalising information that contradicts our established ideas and empirical understanding is practiced prolifically by Trump on Twitter. His favoured social media platform enables him to respond with repeated, consistent assertions such as “<a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/04/politics/donald-trump-pardon-tweet/index.html">I have the absolute right to PARDON myself</a>,” and diversions like “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41796255">There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!</a>” which deny any conflict between claim and truth.</p> <p>The cumulative effect is one of subversion, with semantics destabilised and democratic authority undermined. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s Counsellor, exemplified this psychology when she coined the term “<a href="http://time.com/4642689/kellyanne-conway-sean-spicer-donald-trump-alternative-facts/">alternative facts</a>” soon after his election. In attempting to persuade the world that the White House’s claims to truth can be squared with the reality of its lies, Conway denied the existence of dissonance whilst simultaneously deploying it to destabilise objectivity.</p> <p>The challenge this creates is twofold. First, modes of communication which allow for compromise have been delegitimised. The erasure of complex meaning has induced a preference for a world conceived through binary categories and contrast, so that, for example, people and countries are portrayed as “strong” or “weak,” “winners” or “losers,” but nothing in between.</p> <p>Second, an increasingly fundamentalist culture of political discussion is emerging. In this context, accusations and inferences are transformed all too easily into calls-to-action, especially when belief systems appear to be under threat.</p> <p>Take, for example, Trump’s suggestion that the “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/10/us/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton.html">second amendment</a>” on the right to bear arms might provide a good method of silencing his rivals. To suggest that firearms should be used to shut down pluralistic debate whilst smearing opponents as “corrupt,” “crooked” and “enemies of the people” is both wholly undemocratic and extremely dangerous, proscribing dissent and denying any empathy for others in the process. Those others then come to represent an existential threat, with their narratives requiring wholesale destruction. Suddenly, the second amendment suggestion seems less of a joke and more of a prophecy. Hypothetical objects of contempt become real subjects of attack.</p> <p>Expertly deployed by those on the alt-and far right, dissonant language is detaching us from the ethical implications of expression, enabling dehumanization, and&nbsp;justifying the use of force in service to political aims. It has become a widespread mechanism for engineering social discord.</p> <p><strong>Reversing the rhetorical tide.</strong></p> <p>Understanding the mechanisms through which Trump perpetrates linguistic violence is one thing. Knowing how best to counter them is quite another. In a&nbsp;<a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/09/politics/hillary-clinton-brett-kavanaugh/index.html">CNN interview</a>&nbsp;on October 2018, Hillary Clinton declared that Democrats “need to be tougher” if they’re to have any hope of winning Congress in the upcoming mid-term elections or defeating Trump in 2020. But what does it mean to be “tougher?” </p> <p>If it means recasting Trump’s language in the blue tones of the Democratic Party then I’m sceptical. Trump’s method of sowing discord works because the structure of his language supports the impact of dissonance. His hyperbole is a mechanism for self-aggrandisement, underscoring his claim to be America’s “<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/trump-dealmaking-skills-mexico-australia_us_598b7e7fe4b0d793738c729a">best</a>” deal maker; whilst his binary language creates a false choice between protecting the integrity of America and surrendering to “<a href="https://www.voanews.com/a/trump-tries-to-rally-voters-with-illegal-immigration-issue/4539948.html">illegals</a>.” When they’re repeated enough times, the evidence that discounts these claims becomes irrelevant, and impression and meaning coalesce to create a speech that is “truthful” in so far as truth has been redefined.</p> <p>Democrats face a more imperfect marriage between language and ideas. Hypothetically, the same rules could be used to amplify a Bernie Sanders-esque politics of democratic socialism. But even if the party’s members and leaders could be persuaded to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/19/us-democrats-are-struggling-to-make-sense-of-a-socialist-surge">resolve the ideological splits that face the party</a>&nbsp;and coalesce around a common language, the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/07/12/americas-electoral-system-gives-the-republicans-advantages-over-democrats">US electoral system</a>&nbsp;remains a significant barrier to progress. Republican gerrymandering and the peculiarities of the Electoral College render a small number of swing states crucial to electoral success, and it’s uncertain whether a rhetorical move to the left will appeal to this key segment of voters.</p> <p>There’s also the risk of slipping into a discourse of identity that <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/vote-class-values-clans-bmg-research-opinion-polls-a8601446.html">can have</a>&nbsp;isolating or polarising effects. The American left should resist modes of communication that&nbsp;<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lauryn-oates/identity-politics-alt-right_b_14481006.html?guccounter=1&amp;guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&amp;guce_referrer_cs=8eRRbKxa0iTjwVbiaz4z2Q">pit identities against one another</a>, disregard shared histories, and problematise consensus building. Instead, they should focus on using some of Trump’s more sophisticated linguistic tricks in order to conduct a parallel redefinition of the American value system.</p> <p>Democrats <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/perspective/donald-trump-language-of-populism.aspx">should harness repetition</a>, charged adjectives and colloquialisms&nbsp;when they discuss the challenges of the future, framing national and global politics as a balancing act that only Democratic leaders have the integrity and dynamism to perform effectively. They should also focus on the erosion of traditional values such as kindness and charity. In this way, Democrats can reclaim the left as a force for compassion and equanimity, tapping into visceral concerns about cultural erosion, social isolation and loss of dignity. By deploying a rhetoric that forcefully and unequivocally advocates for a belief system based on principle and liberal justice, Democrats can communicate a powerful alternative to Trumpism whilst deploying some of his most effective linguistic tactics.</p> <p>It’s necessary to pay attention to the connections between Trump's words and ensuing events, but if all our focus is on these effects we may serve to provide him with the publicity he desires without identifying the underlying causes at play. We'd do better to examine how Trump applies language to claim subservience to his mode of thinking, feeling and believing. In doing so we might gain more insight into Trump's supporters and the symbiotic relationship between “truthful hyperbole” and incitement to violence, as well as illuminating how Democrats can employ dissonance to advocate their own alternative path to victory.</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/nicholas-baer/american-idiot-rethinking-anti-intellectualism-in-age-of-trump">American idiot: rethinking anti-intellectualism in the age of Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/does-donald-trump-s-foreign-policy-actually-make-sense">Does Donald Trump’s foreign policy actually make sense?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/beautiful-trouble-team/six-principles-for-resisting-presidency-of-donald-trump">Six principles for resisting the presidency of Donald Trump</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"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation United States Culture Democracy and government Donald Trump Political polarization Izzy Goldstein Activism Culture Sun, 04 Nov 2018 21:16:34 +0000 Izzy Goldstein 120424 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What the map of U.S. hate groups reveals https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/wyatt-massey/what-map-of-us-hate-groups-reveals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New research offers clues on how to stop the spread of organized hate groups in the U.S.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/WyattMassey.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">White Supremacists encircle&nbsp;counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 11, 2017. Credit: Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images and YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Organized hate groups span all geographic areas of the United States, from White nationalists in Washington state to neo-Nazis in Alabama to radical traditionalist Catholics in New Hampshire. While persecution of classes of people happens everywhere, the drivers that push people to join hate groups are unique to specific places. In this way, hatred can be a study in geography as much as anything else.</p> <p>A new model tracking organized hate groups upends a long-held, simplistic view of the issue, one that placed a generalized blame on education or immigration, for example, positing that a person’s education level could be a sole indicator of whether they would join a hate group.</p><p>New&nbsp;<a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24694452.2017.1411247">research from the University of Utah</a>&nbsp;provides a much more nuanced picture of what gives rise to organized hate groups that can better serve those working to dismantle them. In the Midwest, economics is a more influential factor than immigration. On the East Coast, more religious areas correlate with more per capita hate groups, while education has little influence.</p> <p>Richard Medina, University of Utah assistant professor of geography and lead author of the research, said public perceptions of hate and its motivating factors are often oversimplified. “Drivers of hate are dependent on regions and cultures and all the things we see and study in geography,” he said. “It can be really complicated. People don’t just hate for one reason.”</p> <p>Medina’s group had been working on the research before the White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, where a woman was killed in the violence. Emily Nicolosi, University of Utah graduate student and co-author of the paper, said that what happened in Charlottesville started national conversations she believes the research can support.</p> <p>“The motivators and drivers of hate look very different in different places,” Nicolosi said. “If you look at the maps, you can see that these sort of regions emerge where the [different] variables are playing the same role.”</p> <p>The research used census data to track specific socioeconomic variables, such as population changes over a five-year period, poverty, and education levels. Researchers mapped population percentage of White non-Latinos because places changing from strong racial and ethnic similarity are more likely to experience a negative reaction to change. Poverty is a driver of hate because extremist groups promise the impoverished a way out of financial difficulty or provide a group to blame. The group also measured conservative religious and political ideology.</p> <p>The maps of these socioeconomic factors were then compared to a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/splc-hate-groups-previous-years.xls">2014 map of 784 organized hate groups&nbsp;</a>across the country that the Southern Poverty Law Center created.</p> <p>The hate groups were mapped down to the county level in each state. The states with the most hate groups per million people in population were Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Vermont. Comparing the socioeconomic map with the hate group map showed which factors were the strongest indicators in different regions of the country.</p><p><strong>What drives hate?</strong></p> <p>In general, the research reveals that less diversity, more poverty, less population change, and less education all correlate with more hate groups. But how influential those factors are depends on where you live.</p> <p>On the West Coast, high poverty and a large concentration of White people in an area are the most influential factors driving hate groups. While the region generally has racial diversity, non-White people moving in and changing a demographic quickly can become targets, Medina said. In the southern parts of California and Arizona, lower education levels and higher poverty levels are the most important indicators.</p> <p>In the central United States, economic factors—such as poverty and employment levels—are most likely to push people into hate groups. Immigration is less of a factor because fewer people are moving into the region compared to the coasts.</p> <p>Population shift is the most telling factor on the East Coast. Areas with more people leaving than coming have more hate groups. This trend is also present throughout the country, Medina said, but is most prominent in the East. Rates of education, poverty, and diversity have less influence there.</p> <p>The measurements of ideology—by concentrations of religious people and Republicans—created somewhat different regional maps. Counties with strong religious communities have fewer hate groups on the West Coast and parts of the Midwest and Southeast. Yet, most of the Midwest and East Coast see more hate groups as counties grow more religious. Similar geographic trends are seen when tracking hate groups and Republicanism.</p> <p>This mapping reveals what fuels different biases, Nicolosi said. Movement organizers working for social justice must recognize the most important factors in their own communities to create positive change.</p> <p>Politicians can better understand their constituents and the cultures influencing them, Medina said.</p><p><strong>How to change minds?</strong></p> <p>Citing research such as this, Medina said creating interactions with people from different races, religions, and places is one of the most effective strategies to combat organized hatred.</p> <p>And that is what Peace Catalyst International does, creating opportunities for interaction and relationships between Christians and Muslims in both the United States and Indonesia. City by city, the group brings together people from different religions, organizing meals and group discussions. The dynamics of each city or region play out differently, so local organizers must respond accordingly.</p> <p>Rebecca Brown, grants manager for Peace Catalyst International, said Christian communities often struggle to overcome misconceptions and fears about Muslims they have internalized from American culture. Islam is often&nbsp;<a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1748048516656305">portrayed as a violent religion in American media</a>. According to the Pew Research Center, non-Muslim Americans are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2017/07/26/how-the-u-s-general-public-views-muslims-and-islam/">more likely to have positive feelings about Islam&nbsp;</a>if they know a Muslim. But studies show non-Muslim Americans are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/17/how-many-people-of-different-faiths-do-you-know/">more likely to know someone&nbsp;</a>who is atheist, Jewish, or Mormon than someone who is Muslim.</p> <p>People can be transformed by one relationship, Brown said. “The xenophobic, anti-Muslim threat is a very real threat and a growing threat in our community,” she said. Her organization wants to “provide viable theological and ideological ways for [people] to cling to peace rather than ... moving toward fear.”</p> <p>Similar to the work Peace Catalyst International does, Life After Hate helps create relationships across ideological divides. The organization was co-founded by Christian Picciolini with a mission of researching extremism and helping radicalized people disengage from hate movements.</p> <p>In his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/christian_picciolini_my_descent_into_america_s_neo_nazi_movement_and_how_i_got_out#t-1203353">2017 TEDx Talk</a>, Picciolini describes how feelings of abandonment and anger toward people he saw as different led him to join the neo-Nazis at 14.</p> <p>The birth of his son and interactions Picciolini had with customers in his record shop pushed him away from the hate movement. “A gay couple came in with their son, and it was undeniable to me that they loved their son in the same profound ways that I loved mine,” Picciolini said in his talk. “Suddenly, I couldn’t rationalize or justify the prejudice that I had in my head.”</p> <p>Picciolini underscores the importance of the research findings. The most effective way to change a radicalized person’s view is to understand what is driving their prejudice,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2016/life-after-hate">Picciolini said in an interview&nbsp;</a>with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s about changing their perspective just a little bit,” he said. “Because often when you change their perspective just a little bit, it allows them to see the cracks in the foundation of the ideology that they believe in.”</p> <p>Both extremism research and the rush to understand and combat organized hate groups are happening at a time when technology is helping to target potential recruits. Hate groups use&nbsp;<a href="https://abcnews.go.com/US/hate-groups-similar-online-recruiting-methods-isis-experts/story?id=53528932">similar strategies as ISIS or al Qaeda</a>, focusing on individuals who feel victimized or isolated. Hate groups tap into beliefs that racial or religious groups are attacking Whites, as seen in a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsweek.com/how-kkk-targeting-high-school-students-white-supremacy-recruitment-681886">Ku Klux Klan recruitment flier&nbsp;</a>distributed at a North Carolina high school in 2017. An appeal to religious conservatism is an effective tactic in North Carolina, Medina said, though playing off a fear of losing one’s culture is used across the country.</p> <p>The research begins to offer a measurable picture of where in the country different types of messaging will attract members. And Medina would like to investigate further, for instance, the roles that specific religions play; the current study groups all religions together. He also plans to work with researchers who will do qualitative studies to learn about motivations directly from citizens.</p> <p>“[Hate] is not uniform. But people treat it like it’s a uniform phenomenon across the country. It just doesn’t work that way.”</p><p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/mental-health/what-the-maps-of-hate-groups-reveal-20181001?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20181005&amp;utm_content=YTW_20181005+CID_adcc4ea2884932357efd74c7380100f3&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=What%20the%20Maps%20of%20Hate%20Gr">YES! Magazine</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/ian-hughes/entrepreneurs-of-hate">Entrepreneurs of hate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/shane-burley/is-new-breed-of-white-nationalists-in-retreat">Is the new breed of white nationalists in retreat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ae-elliott/assemble-ye-trolls-rise-of-online-hate-speech">‘Assemble ye trolls:’ the rise of online hate speech</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 Political polarization Wyatt Massey Activism Culture Thu, 25 Oct 2018 19:11:47 +0000 Wyatt Massey 120033 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Helping people to find common ground on Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/perry-walker/helping-people-to-find-common-ground-on-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Conversations across divides are very hard, but they’re essential to democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PerryWalker2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Manchester anti-Brexit protest for Conservative conference, October 1, 2017. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IMG_2816_Manchester_anti-Brexit_protest_for_Conservative_conference,_October_1,_2017.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>On the first day of October 2018 I did something I’d never done before: I went to the UK Conservative party conference in Birmingham. The theme of the event I attended was ‘Chuck Chequers’ – a reference to Prime Minister Theresa May’s controversial plan for Brexit. It was organised by the Bruges Group, which takes its inspiration from a <a href="https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/107332">speech made by Margaret Thatcher in Bruges in 1988.</a> The most quoted part of that speech was her statement that "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level." </p> <p>I went to Birmingham because, as someone who voted Remain in the EU referendum, I wanted to talk to people who voted Leave, to try and understand their position. We might not agree, I thought, but at least an honest dialogue might start to overcome the polarisation to which the Brexit vote has led. I particularly wanted to see if I could voice my concerns without getting into a slanging match. </p> <p>Waiting for the event to begin, I talked to a woman called Monica. Despite being part-Italian she was a Leaver believer, but the conversation started well. We identified a shared value, that of democracy, and explored the other values we held that had led us to such different conclusions. Then the speakers spoke, with applause at its loudest when Conservative MP Owen Patterson promised to vote against the Chequers plan. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Q&amp;A session that followed included some ritual if low-key booing of a journalist from the left-leaning Guardian newspaper. As we all started to disperse, I leaned over to Monica and said that I was probably the only person in the room who had warmed to a reference to Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission and his recent <a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-18-5808_en.htm">State of the Union speech</a>. Juncker had called for a ‘pooling of sovereignty’ at the EU level. That’s where things started to go wrong. </p> <p>I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened, but something shifted in her body language. &nbsp;I had piqued her at some fundamental level. She made a remark that I heard as an assertion that this pooling would lead to a United States of Europe, and in turn open the door for a European version of Donald Trump. I’m sure that she had a much more nuanced position in her mind, but in the moment, and with everyone starting to leave, I couldn’t see a way to explore it. Despite my best intentions, I had started the slide into the kind of altercation I wanted to avoid, so I thanked her for the conversation and we went our separate ways. </p> <p>This preamble is by way of stressing that ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/beauty-of-bothand-mind">both/and’ conversations</a> across the Leave/Remain divide are very hard work. My organisation, <a href="http://www.talkshopuk.org/">Talk Shop</a>, had already experienced this, when, in the run-up to the EU referendum in 2016, we organised and facilitated ten events around the country. They were among the few opportunities for Leavers and Remainers to meet and appreciate each other.&nbsp; But were there to be a general election or a second referendum I wouldn’t repeat those events. They were incredibly difficult to set up, and even with this number our small team of facilitators was very stretched. Rather, we need to find ways in which people can organise and run sessions for themselves. How could this be done?</p> <p>My first clue comes from a structured conversation called <a href="https://uk.iofc.org/listening-roadshow-0">the Listening Roadshow</a>, which was offered after the referendum by an organisation called <a href="https://uk.iofc.org/">Initiatives of Change</a>. The name was chosen to emphasise the need for deep listening to each other, without judgement. It was built around the question, “What do you most hope for, and what most concerns you, following the EU Referendum?” </p> <p>In almost all of their 18 events, at least one person said that this was the first time they had heard someone who voted differently to them in the referendum talk about why they had done so. Once people saw the possibility, there was considerable interest in reaching out across divides to ‘the other.’ </p> <p>Given this interest, perhaps the best way to get people together across the Brexit divide is to draw on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jacob-z-hess-joan-blades/can-you-change-world-from-your-living-room">an American model</a> called <a href="https://www.livingroomconversations.org/">Living Room Conversations</a>, which asks anyone who wants to do so to find someone from across the divide who shares that aim. The two of them co-host the event, with each inviting two other people who share their point of view. The resulting group of six meets in the home of the organiser over an agreed length of time. </p> <p>This approach enables people to self-organise, and it guarantees equal numbers of participants from both sides. &nbsp;But what would they talk about? First, start not with Brexit but with daily life. The late <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Dialogue-Transforming-Conflict-Cooperation/dp/0684865661">Daniel Yankelovich, an American pollster, wrote that</a>, “in focus groups where those holding contrary views have been demonized, each side makes the unexpected discovery that the other is human: a kindred soul who laughs at the same jokes and has similar worries.” In <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Foundations-Deliberative-Democracy-Empirical-Implications/dp/1107625017">a dialogue in the city of Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina</a> between&nbsp; Serbs and Bosnjaks (Muslims), for example, a Bosnjak man started by complaining about having to drive his daughter to school because of stray dogs. Almost everyone in the room, it turned out, had a story to tell about the same dogs; people started to realise that they lived in the same world.</p> <p>Second, have them make the case for the other side. That was the best part of our 2016 events. As a Remainer in Liverpool put it, “Arguing the case for leaving helped me realise that people who take that view, especially because of immigration, may have thought it through, rather than simply absorbing messages from the media.”</p> <p>Third, ask them to look for the ‘joining point,’ an idea that comes from <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Bridges-Not-Walls-Interpersonal-Communication/dp/0073534315">a story told by American feminist Sally Miller Gearhart</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“Five years ago when I’d see a logging truck loaded with redwoods or old oak, I’d shoot the driver a finger. He’d shoot one right back at me…Three years ago, I was a shade more gentle. I would stop dead in my tracks, glare at the driver of a logging truck and make sure he read my lips: ‘Fuck you, mister.’</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I’ve [now] learned that my pain, anger and/or hatred accomplish nothing except to render me ineffectual and to increase the problem by adding to the pain, anger and hatred that already burden the world…These days when I meet an erstwhile ‘enemy’ I look for the joining point, the place where we are the same, where we can meet each other as beings who share the experience of living together on this planet.”</p></blockquote> <p>I’d extend that idea to cover points of overlap on Brexit itself. And because this could be challenging for a self-organised event, I’d make a game of it. I’d devise a scoring system that encouraged people to make suggestions that appeal to the whole group, and are specific. Someone might propose, as Monica and I did, ‘democracy’ as a joining point, but someone else might extend that, for example, to ‘democracy in the sense of being able to vote out the people in charge.’&nbsp; </p> <p>The group could then use these joining points to explore their implications for the future relationship between the UK and the rest of the EU. In doing this, they might also bear in mind that people can support the same outcome for different reasons. A citizens’ income, for example, is supported by many people on the right to reduce the size of the state, and by many on the left to tackle poverty. &nbsp;</p> <p>In the children’s programmes of my youth like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Peter">Blue Peter</a>, some hair-raising stunt would be preceded by a caution: “Don’t try this at home.” In this case, please do.</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/beauty-of-bothand-mind">The beauty of a both/and mind</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani-hannah-rollins/three-more-ways-to-build-solidarity-">Three more 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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Brexit Political polarization Perry Walker Activism Care Tue, 23 Oct 2018 18:54:33 +0000 Perry Walker 120104 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 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 1968 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 Activism Economics 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 Activism Care 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 Activism Culture Intersectionality 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 Activism Care 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 Activism Culture 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 Activism Culture Environment 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