Activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/12876/all cached version 16/05/2018 14:58:46 en Why human rights groups are beginning to support the rights of non-human animals https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jay-shooster/Why-human-rights-groups-are-beginning-to-support-the-rights-of-non-human-animals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Solidarity must extend, not only to all people but also to animals, the earth, and the environment.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jayshooster_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Undercover Investigation at Manitoba Pork Factory Farm. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mercyforanimalscanada/8250115715">Flickr/Mercy For Animals Canada</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>I’ve told this story<a href="https://socialchangenyu.com/harbinger/justice-for-all-including-animal-rights-in-social-justice-activism/">&nbsp;before</a>. It doesn’t have a happy ending—but at least this time it has a hopeful one. &nbsp;</p> <p>The day the men took Sasha away from her mother she was only three weeks old. A few months later they took her to the cage where she spent the rest of her life. This was ‘home:’ a prison of concrete and metal. No sunshine, no space to turn around, and nothing to do. Even though she had just hit puberty they forced her to get pregnant. It went on that way until the end, forced to give birth over and over until her body couldn’t take it anymore.</p> <p>After years of confinement and abuse Sasha was packed into a pen with dozens of others in preparation for slaughter. No more boredom and no more pain, but the worst wasn’t over. One by one, they were pulled out until there was nobody left but Sasha. She ran back and forth, and then in circles, screaming. She struggled to lift the gate of the pen from its hinges but it was no use. She died because she was no longer useful. She died because she was born as a member of the wrong species, because she was a pig, and pigs don’t have rights.</p> <p>But is that true, or even acceptable in an era when conceptions of rights are broadening? I’ve worked with many human rights organizations and admire their goals, but I’ve also felt a profound sense of despair, loneliness, and disappointment at how communities that are so deeply concerned with justice can so thoroughly fail to stand up for the rights of non-human animals.</p> <p>When we see the horrors that human beings inflict on animals in <a href="https://thinkprogress.org/undercover-investigation-finds-shocking-torture-of-chickens-in-slaughterhouse-141d18a8db0f/">slaughterhouses</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDwMeUNcimA">fur farms</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECspj0daAlE">circuses</a> and other settings, how, as decent people, can we not act? That was the question posed to me by a senior <a href="https://www.aclu.org/">ACLU</a> attorney when I sat down to talk with him about animal rights last fall. I had realized that something big was happening in the human rights world: after years of<a href="https://socialchangenyu.com/harbinger/justice-for-all-including-animal-rights-in-social-justice-activism/">&nbsp;neglect</a>&nbsp;and<a href="https://jayforjustice.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/standing-up-to-the-left-on-animal-rights/">&nbsp;hostility</a> the human rights movement was embracing animal rights in earnest.</p> <p>A week after that meeting I learned that the <a href="https://chrgj.org/">Center for Human Rights and Global Justice</a> (CHRGJ) at New York University—one of the premier human rights programs in the world—was taking a stand for animal rights and committing to an all-vegetarian food policy, which was <a href="https://chrgj.org/2018/04/25/chrgj-adopts-vegetarian-food-policy/">announced</a>&nbsp;publicly in April of 2018. The <a href="https://chrgj.org/2018/04/25/chrgj-adopts-vegetarian-food-policy/">policy</a> makes clear that the fundamental values underlying human rights advocacy demand that we have “respect for animals.” And crucially, it recognizes that an institution committed to working towards “a more just and humane world” must take a stand for the animals who are victimized by industrial agriculture.</p> <p>Even more importantly, the policy—which requires the Center to purchase only vegetarian foods for its events—is&nbsp; grounded in an understanding of the interconnectedness of the struggles for human and animal rights—in “respect for animals and the humans impacted by the animal agriculture and processing industries, and out of concern for the environment on which we all depend.”</p> <p><a href="https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/index.cfm?fuseaction=profile.biography&amp;personid=22544">Margaret Satterthwaite</a>, a renowned human rights law professor, attorney and a director of the Center, has recognized that this new policy is reflective of a profound and necessary shift in the human rights movement. As she told me in a recent email:</p> <p>“The human rights community is beginning to recognize that our solidarity must extend to embrace not only all people, but also animals, the earth, and our environment. In moving to a vegetarian policy, CHRGJ is taking an important step to match our actions with our values.”</p> <p>CHGRJ isn’t alone. The <a href="https://ccrjustice.org/">Center for Constitutional Rights</a> (CCR), another of the world’s leading human rights organizations, <a href="https://youtu.be/jThcsTUWPv8?t=976">recently embraced a vegan/vegetarian policy</a> as “a meaningful act of solidarity” with the animal rights movement. The CCR policy further recognizes that an “increasing number of CCR staff members see violence against animals as contrary to a fundamental commitment to justice.”</p> <p>The progressive <a href="https://www.nlg.org/">National Lawyers Guild</a> &nbsp;has adopted a similar position through an&nbsp;initiative&nbsp;spearheaded by women of color in the Guild's Animal Rights Activism Committee (now an independent project).&nbsp;In the wake of the steps taken by other human rights groups, the Guild’s President-Elect, Elena Cohen, told me that: “I am so proud that we have joined in the movement of progressive organizations in adopting a vegan food policy, to make clear that non-human animal oppression is integral to our anti-oppression work and vision for a more just world.” In addition, the <a href="https://reblaw.yale.edu/">Rebellious Lawyering Conference</a> at Yale University—the largest student-run public interest conference in the United States—has been<a href="https://reblaw.yale.edu/sites/default/files/2018_final_reblaw_program_1.pdf">&nbsp;fully vegetarian</a>&nbsp;for several years in a row.</p> <p>Importantly, this support for animal rights is beginning to extend beyond internal food policy to the substantive work of human rights organizations. In April 2018, the CCR supported the <a href="https://www.nonhumanrights.org/">Nonhuman Rights Project’s</a> lawsuit to grant legal rights to chimpanzees by<a href="https://ccrjustice.org/letter-brief-amicus-curiae-support-nonhuman-rights-project-behalf-tommy-kiko-0">&nbsp;filing</a>&nbsp;an “amicus brief” on their behalf in the Court of Appeals of New York. In another example, a recent<a href="https://www.aclu.org/news/lawsuit-challenging-iowas-ag-gag-law-proceeds">&nbsp;statement</a>&nbsp;from ACLU attorney Rita Bettis made clear that one of its recent ‘ag-gag’ cases which challenge laws that criminalize undercover investigations of factory farms is not just about promoting free speech, but about preventing “animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions.”</p> <p>To be clear, this trend is not entirely new. Legendary human rights activists like<a href="http://www.mercyforanimals.org/angela-davis-feminist-civil-rights-activist">&nbsp;Angela Davis</a>,<a href="http://ufw.org/ZNET-Cesar-Ch-vez-and-Comprehensive-Rights/">&nbsp;Cesar Chávez</a>&nbsp; and<a href="https://www.peta.org/living/entertainment/dick-gregory-circuses/">&nbsp;Dick Gregory</a>&nbsp;have championed animal rights for decades, and prominent progressive law professors—including<a href="https://www.nonhumanrights.org/blog/scholarly-support-nonhuman-rights/">&nbsp;Cass Sunstein, Martha Nussbaum, Laurence Tribe,</a> <a href="http://www.dorfonlaw.org/2018/05/specious-speciesism-in-monkey-selfie.html">Michael Dorf, </a><a href="https://hls.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/10852/Stilt/">Kristin Stilt </a>and<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Mind-If-Order-Cheeseburger-Questions/dp/1590563840">&nbsp;Sherry Colb—</a>have all been strong advocates. What is new is that major human rights organizations are taking a stance on this issue through a wave of change in their institutional policies and practices. Crucially, this isn’t just a random hodge-podge of radical organizations. The ACLU, CCR and others are widely-respected organizations in the vanguard of the human rights movement, and bellwethers for social justice advocacy as a whole. </p> <p>The leadership of CHRGJ includes two high-level UN appointees and several world renowned international legal scholars; the Center for Constitutional Rights secured historic Supreme Court victories on behalf of Guantánamo detainees years before other organizations got involved; and the National Lawyers Guild was the<a href="https://www.nlg.org/nlg80/">&nbsp;first</a>&nbsp;racially integrated national bar association. The fact that change is happening in such organizations is a strong indication of a much broader, movement-wide shift towards the embrace of animal rights.</p> <p>Prominent members of other major human rights organizations are also becoming more vocal in their support. For example, Simon Cox, a Legal Officer at the <a href="https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/">Open Society Foundations</a> (one of the world’s largest funders of human rights advocacy and also a donor to openDemocracy), wrote in a recent email that “the idea of human rights is grounded in the notion that sentient creatures deserve respect and that harms to them should only be permitted when justified.” &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://carrcenter.hks.harvard.edu/people/william-f-bill-schulz">William F. “Bill” Schultz</a>, former executive director Amnesty International USA and Senior Fellow at Harvard’s <a href="https://carrcenter.hks.harvard.edu/home">Carr Center for Human Rights Policy</a>,<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-f-schulz/are-animal-rights-human-rights_b_4453593.html">&nbsp;argues</a>&nbsp;that animals deserve at least some legal rights. In October of 2017, he told me about an illuminating recent conversation about animal rights with his fellow board members in a leading US human rights organization:</p> <p>“I say, ‘Screw ‘em,’” bellowed one board member. “Torture, genocide, people—they’re all more important.” &nbsp;And maybe they are. But all the other board members were sympathetic to the notion of rights for animals, knowing that it behooves human rights activists to extend their circle of care and concern to complex creatures outside the narrow confines of convention. He went on to <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=GRUY468Z13QC&amp;pg=PA239&amp;lpg=PA239&amp;dq=%22I+love+forms+beyond+my+own,+and+regret+the+borders+between+us%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=8n2NdnkA-R&amp;sig=phY9cNO-ue3y2-K9rHnI_T1XEqY&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiRkuKrufvaAhViplkKHYtABSwQ6AEIUTAL#v=one">quote the anthropologist Loren Eiseley</a>: “I love forms beyond my own and regret the borders between us.” The extension of rights to animals, he added, is one way to diminish that distance.</p> <p>In fact, that distance is already diminishing, and quickly. I’m grateful to all the human rights organizations and advocates that are taking serious steps to fight the arbitrary discrimination that denies our moral and legal obligations to non-human animals. Thank you for showing me that our commitment to liberty and justice for all really does mean something for <em>all</em> victims of injustice, brutality, and discrimination—human and non-human alike.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gary-l-francione-anna-e-charlton/why-we-must-respect-rights-of-all-sentient-animals">Why we must respect the rights of all sentient animals</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation animal rights Jay Shooster Activism Care Culture Sun, 13 May 2018 20:08:31 +0000 Jay Shooster 117802 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are we losing our love of life? ‘It must be the money’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rajiv-khanna/are-we-losing-our-love-of-life-it-must-be-money <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Healing our relationship to finance is a pre-condition for building a grassroots-led investment fund that’s focused on wellbeing.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Rajivkhanna.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Pia Infante of The Whitman Institute, Adriana Welsh Herrera of Ñepi Behña, Elvira Sanchez Toscano of ISMUGUA, Milvian Aspuac Con of AFEDES, and Gloria Marina Figueroa Aguilar of DESMI at the <em>Buen Vivir</em> Fund founders circle meeting at Casa Xitla in Mexico City in October 2016. Credit: <a href="http://www.whattookyousolong.org/">http://www.whattookyousolong.org</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <blockquote><p>“Our <em>buen vivir</em> was taken 500 years ago when the Spanish colonized our lands and people.” Milvian Aspuac Con, AFEDES, Guatemala.</p></blockquote> <p>I knew right then I was going to be schooled.Thirty-eight of us, representing 24 organizations from six countries, had gathered in rainy Mexico City to design an investment fund that would re-imagine our economy—and &nbsp;our investment practices—with the concept of <em>buen vivir </em>at the center.</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.whattookyousolong.org/">Buen vivir</a></em> comes from Indigenous movements in Latin America and implies “right living” or life in balance with communities, natural systems and future generations. Our grassroots partners, financial investors, and adviser allies—all &nbsp;leaders in alternative economic practices—had joined the gathering because of relationships built up over time with my organization, <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/">Thousand Currents</a>.&nbsp;They trusted us because we have a <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/what-we-do/">30-plus-year track record</a> of establishing respectful and productive partnerships with grassroots leaders around the world, <em>and </em>with those who have deeper pockets in wealthy countries.</p> <p>But that doesn’t mean we knew how to build an economy that’s centered on love and equality.<em> </em>That was the challenge that emerged from the grassroots, and specifically, how to develop an investment fund that’s run on these same principles and values—in stark contrast to the mainstream of philanthropy, foreign aid, social enterprise and investing.</p> <p>Most impact investment initiatives are centered on persuading investors from the Global North to lend money and ‘expertise.’ The accumulation of privatized wealth is then reflected in the centralization of power and control  in philanthropy and social investing. That’s why we came together to design a fund that would not only provide capital to grassroots groups who had never had access to investment before, but also support donors in the US who are floundering in a broken, fear-ridden financial system.</p> <p>In order to re-imagine finance in this way we asked: What if that economic power could be shifted to communities in the Global South? What if capital could flow in the service of well-being? That’s why I needed to be ‘schooled’ by Milvian Aspuac Con, the leader of an <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/?s=afedes">Indigenous-women led group called AFEDES</a>, a long-term Thousand Currents partner in Guatemala. She went on to share what it means to “recover the deep love for life” after a long history of Spanish colonization.</p> <p>In generations past, she said, her family lived well. Her grandparents produced food so they had enough to eat. Her grandmothers knew how to weave so they had enough clothes to wear, and what they needed for the house. They produced, sold, or exchanged the rest. They had little stress. They had a chance for recreation, to do other things besides work.</p> <p>But in 1980, after the approval of neoliberal and “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution">Green Revolution</a>” policies in Guatemala, many multinational agribusinesses arrived to convince farmers that it wasn’t profitable to produce their own food, and that their land could produce extra crops and extra money instead. This, they said, was the ultimate goal. These companies got rid of trees and other forms of biodiversity in order to focus on cash crops like green beans.</p> <p>As a result, Milvian’s community lost their traditional crops. Industrial agriculture meant that they had to buy seeds and apply for credit from these companies, trapping them in cycles of debt. Her family lost their way of life. In the end, Milvian’s father suffered bankruptcy.</p> <p>“It must be the money,” she said. “My father lost the love of life and went after money. We are recovering from this…slowly.”</p> <p>That feeling of loss—of substituting love for money—is common in contemporary societies, and it also characterizes the ways in which we usually approach the question of mobilizing finance for social change. We wanted to escape from these constrictions and develop a model that brought love and money back into a healthier relationship with one another, but this process proved to be much more challenging than we imagined.</p> <p>Conventional attitudes toward money run deep—who has it, who controls it, and how many strings are attached to how it’s spent. Working through these questions became a year-and-a-half long process of co-designing a radically-different investment vehicle which would come to be called the <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/buen-vivir-fund/"><em>Buen Vivir</em> Fund</a>. What we thought could be resolved in a week took many thousands of hours—<a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/2934-hours-buen-vivir-fund/">2,934 to be exact</a>.</p> <p>That’s because we had to acknowledge that our own relationship to money was grounded in scarcity. Until we transformed that relationship—until we truly acknowledged our fears about money and inequality—we couldn’t build an investment fund that would run on different principles and result in wellbeing instead of profit or top-down control.</p> <p>We also had to re-imagine our relationship with time. Maybe our initial plan and timeline needed more than a week to kick off, we thought, but with the outstanding leadership, initiative, and ideas of the people we had gathered together we could surely complete the co-design process of the Fund within a few months.</p> <p>We assumed that many elements of the Fund’s design could be identified in virtual conversations prior to the gathering, and planned to complete the details of its operations face to face. However, it was only when we came together in person and built more trust and authenticity among us that the most important questions, ideas, and challenges arose.&nbsp;</p> <p>Prior to the gathering we had essentially been assuming a mainstream investment model as a starting point, and then a process of proposing changes to that design. But when the conversation started our grassroots partners pushed us to depart completely from these mainstream models. Instead, they wanted to start with designs that already placed collective wellbeing at the center, like community-led savings and lending circles in their regions.</p> <p>In order to learn the basics of each other’s approach to investment, savings, and enterprise, we realized that we had to deepen the sharing among grassroots partners and financial investors. We also extended the co-design process to more than a year to ensure that adequate time and care could be given to this vital opportunity for a completely different way of thinking about money and social change, one that was firmly centered in <em>buen vivir</em> but also financially feasible and sustainable.</p> <p>Those living in higher-income countries have been conditioned to the commodification of time and the short-termism that’s created by mainstream financial investment practices. I too was frustrated, and our mindsets meant that many of us felt the pressure of time in the design process. Yet as Don Jorge Santiago reminded us, one of the advisers of the Fund who’s based in Chiapas and is a decades-long practitioner of the <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/?s=solidarity+economy">Solidarity Economy</a>: “Are you committed, as this is what it takes when you are creating something entirely new?”</p> <p>Ari Sahagún, another participant, shared how important it was to <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/what-it-means-to-trust-the-process-and-why-we-do-it/">trust the process</a>: “Bringing underrepresented voices into a previously-constructed process that was never designed by or for them simply does not work,” she told us. Hence, we needed to create a new and rigorous process that would uplift the determination, agency and leadership of grassroots communities. We learned that we had to prioritize this new process over expediency or efficiency.</p> <p>Time did pass, and <a href="https://medium.com/@1000Currents/can-we-remove-the-fear-from-our-global-economy-973debb95969">money from the Fund is now flowing</a>. We started with one million dollars in investment capital and US$200,000 in grant capital, distributed between <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/buen-vivir-fund/#BVFprojects">eight visionary projects in five countries</a>—from a Members Assembly that puts ‘on the ground’ expertise on an equal par with those who put up the money, to loans where the investors shoulder the risk (because they can), to borrowers making a solidarity contribution of their choosing back into the fund after their project ends rather than being required to pay any interest.</p> <p>In these and other ways the <em>Buen Vivir</em> Fund is designed for any growth (or more properly, abundance) to be passed forward to the next set of groups. But this isn’t just a matter of technics or operations. As I reflect back on my participation in the design process I can see how my own family’s relationship to money is also changing. My wife is currently in a two-year training program that has resulted in a significant decline in our household income. There has been the usual stress and anxiety in our conversations about wants and needs. And yet, at the point last year when our household income was at its lowest, our annual giving to causes we care about was at its highest.</p> <p>We are continually reconsidering what wellbeing and a ‘good life’ means to us, and we are appreciating the abundance of wealth in our lives in the form of health, love and joy; relationships, community and family; and food and the stunningly beautiful Bay Area that we call home.</p> <p>As it turns out, Milvian was right, and not only about her own experience or the design of the Fund: ‘It’s <em>not</em> just about the money.’ Confronting our fears about scarcity—whether within our own families or the global economy—means focusing not on wealth accumulation for the few but on the <a href="https://thousandcurrents.org/buen-vivir-fund/">good life for all</a>. The next challenge is to extend this realization to the mainstream of philanthropy, social investing, and foreign aid that currently runs on the opposite set of principles.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fatima-van-hattum-arianne-shaffer/transforming-philanthropy-it%E2%80%99s-time-to-get-serious">Transforming philanthropy: it’s time to get serious</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/angela-eikenberry/could-giving-circles-rebuild-philanthropy-from-bottom-up">Could giving circles rebuild philanthropy from the bottom up?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/money-in-terms-of-social-change-it%E2%80%99s-both-%E2%80%98beauty-and-beast%E2%80%99">Money: in terms of social change, it’s both ‘beauty and the beast’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Rajiv Khanna The role of money Activism Economics Love and Spirituality Tue, 08 May 2018 20:21:08 +0000 Rajiv Khanna 117728 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can antifa build an effective broad-based anti-fascist movement? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/brian-martin-sue-curry-jansen/can-antifa-build-effective-broad-based-anti-fascist-mov <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Using violence and suppressing free speech is no way to build a just society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/antifa-effective-broad-anti-fascist-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MollyWallace_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Antifa graffiti. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/old_olsen/7875897238">Flickr/Oliver Wunder</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In March, Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist, cancelled his speaking engagements at U.S. universities, saying he was deterred by “antifa,” a loose international network of radical anti-fascist groups that aims to shut down far-right talks and rallies. For antifa members and supporters, Spencer’s capitulation was both&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/17/richard-spencer-college-tour-antifa-alt-right/">vindication of their aggressive tactics</a>&nbsp;and a sign of their success in opposing fascism.</p> <p>These confrontations between far-right activists and antifa groups—on the rise since the election of Donald Trump—are often presented as involving two opposing values: free speech on one side and the danger of allowing fascists to appear in public on the other. What is missing in this framing, however, is an understanding of the dynamics of censorship and of nonviolent action as an alternative.</p> <p>At the forefront of this clash of values is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mhpbooks.com/books/antifa/">Mark Bray’s 2017 book</a>&nbsp;“Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” which provides the most comprehensive justification for antifa tactics available. It has sold briskly and received considerable attention among its target audience of antifa activists.</p> <p>Bray readily acknowledges that “Antifa” was written “on the run” during the early days of the Trump era to meet the demand for information about newly visible anti-fascist activists.</p> <p>The immediate catalyst was the assault on Spencer by a masked man in 2017, which generated a&nbsp;<a href="http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/richard-spencer-punched-in-the-face">popular meme</a>&nbsp;and had many news outlets asking the question, “<a href="http://www.newsweek.com/richard-spencer-punch-nazi-ethicists-547277">Is it okay to punch a Nazi</a>?”</p> <p>Responding in the affirmative, antifa activists believe that the ends (“stopping fascism before it becomes unstoppable”) justify the means: violence. The more thoughtful members of antifa add the qualifier “when necessary.” </p> <p>As Murray, one of Bray’s anonymous U.S. informants puts it, “You fight them by writing letters and making phone calls so you don’t have to fight them with fists. You fight them with fists so you don’t have to fight them with knives. You fight them with knives so you don’t have to fight them with guns. You fight them with guns so you don’t have to fight them with tanks.” Beyond punching Nazis, antifa tactics drawing significant media attention include “no platforming”—or blocking or disrupting speeches—and “doxxing,” which consists of publishing private information about a target on social media to encourage harassment.</p> <p>Despite its genesis as instant history, “Antifa” is a serious book that raises fundamental questions about the viability of liberal tenets of free speech and the role of violence in political protests. Bray, a historian, visiting scholar at Dartmouth College and an Occupy Wall Street organizer, used his radical credentials to gain access to the antifa network, which generally operates in secrecy. He interviewed 61 active or former members of antifa groups from 17 countries. </p> <p>Supportive of the goals of antifa, but open to criticism of the movement, Bray argues that “militant anti-fascism is a reasonable, historically-informed response to the fascist threat that persisted after 1945 and that has become especially menacing in recent years.” The authorial voice he projects is humane and reflective, occasionally punctuated with references to his personal history and activist experiences.</p> <p>The first two chapters are devoted to the history of fascism and anti-fascism, from the 1899 founding of the anti-Dreyfusard League to the early 2000s when antifa groups began to rethink their strategies in light of the rise of new far-right parties in Europe. While historical contextualizing is essential to understanding antifa’s “never again” rationale for preventative violence, Bray packs too many facts into too little space for readers without a deep background in European history to readily absorb and retain, making these crucial early chapters a hard slog. </p> <p>This is unfortunate because the subsequent chapters are accessible and illuminating. Chapter Three addresses the recent emergence, in response to the refugee crisis in Europe, of “pin-stripe Nazis”: nationalists who cover their underlying fascist tendencies with a veneer of respectability. They claim to be protecting democracy against its enemies while providing a cover for racism, Islamophobia and restoration of patriarchal gender regimes.</p> <p>The remaining chapters focus on the theory and politics of antifa at more pragmatic levels: lessons to be drawn from history; no platforming and free speech; strategy, including internal criticism within some antifa groups; the dangers of machismo within antifa; fetishization of violence; feminism and antifa; nonviolent antifa tactics; militant anti-fascism and public opinion; antifa groups functioning as reserve police in some Nazi encounters; popular culture’s relation to antifa (via punk, hipster and hooligan subcultures) and much more. There are two appendices: One offers advice to recruits from veteran antifa activists, while the other provides a bibliography on North American and European works on anti-fascism. Unfortunately, the book lacks an index.</p> <p><strong>The conundrum of no tolerance for intolerance.</strong></p> <p>Bray defends no-platforming, saying one of history’s lessons is that “it doesn’t take that many fascists to make fascism.” Mussolini and Hitler demonstrated that once fascism is legitimized, it can expand rapidly and quickly consolidate its power. Another is that, historically, fascists gained power legally. Therefore, Bray concludes that fascism must be stopped at its source.</p> <p>He contends that most antifa groups do not reject freedom of speech in principle, but they maintain that the struggle against fascism takes precedence. On this point, he quotes Joe, one of his respondents, who says, “The idea that freedom of speech is the most important thing that we can protect can only be held by someone who thinks that life is analogous to a debate hall.” Bray argues that no one actually lives up to the absolutist free speech standard that liberals use to condemn antifa. History, he points out, is full of examples of liberal abridgments of free speech, including some systemic ones, such as wartime press censorship, incitement-to-violence prohibitions, obscenity laws, copyright infringement and incarceration.</p> <p>Bray argues that the liberal Enlightenment ideal of the best, most rational, argument prevailing in a free and open debate does not take into account the irrational and emotional appeal of fascism. Citing appeasement in the 1930s, Bray contends that liberalism has failed to provide a reliable bulwark against fascism. To be sure, free speech is fragile and liberalism’s failures are legion. That is why these positions do require radical interrogation in struggles for social justice. Free expression is, however, a fundamental feature of participatory democracy, whether liberal or socialist.</p> <p>When Richard Spencer announced on Twitter that he was canceling his “college tour” because antifa had escalated its efforts and—in his view—police were not responding adequately, it seemed like a victory for antifa. If so, it was pyrrhic. Antifa’s tactics, which attracted hostile media coverage, did little to advance struggles against racism, patriarchal gender regimes, ableism and the other causes the movement supports. Intentional bureaucratic obstructionism by various university administrators may have done as much to undermine Spencer’s tour as antifa. For example, he decided to quit the tour when only 12 people showed up for his appearance at Michigan State University, which scheduled his talk during spring break when most students were away from campus.</p> <p>Bray faults liberal free speech theory for its failure to live up to an absolutist standard of free speech and for its hypocrisy. Yet, in doing so, he unwittingly encounters the conundrum that has dogged free speech theorists for centuries: what Karl Popper referred to as “the paradox of intolerance” in his 1945 work “The Open Society and Its Enemies.” Any system that legally valorizes tolerance, regardless of its ideology, must—by logical extension—resort to intolerance of the intolerant. Like liberalism, antifa and Bray are also caught in this logical trap. As Bray puts it, “An anti-fascist outlook has no tolerance for ‘intolerance.’” Yet, antifa is founded upon aggressive intolerance of fascists.</p> <p>Presumably Bray means no tolerance for racism, misogyny, homo- and transphobia, etc. Intolerance of intolerance is the socio-logic, if not the formal rationale, for the European Union’s controversial 2007 measure outlawing Holocaust denial. That precedent also points to the possibility of legalistic tactics that antifa could use in some national jurisdictions, although it does not have the machismo appeal of violent confrontation.</p> <p>Democracy has always been aspirational. Free speech is a desired goal, though very unevenly realized in practice. Bray persuasively chronicles some of the many failures of liberal democracy and free speech, and underscores the importance of radical struggles for greater economic and social justice. Antifa’s binary framing of choices—speech or violence—does seem to give Bray pause at times, as it should. He contends that the society that anti-authoritarians seek to create would offer more opportunities for free expression than the liberal status quo. For antifa, that is a society inspired by revolutionary socialism; for Bray, preferably one that is anti-authoritarian and non-hierarchical.</p> <p>Suppression of free speech is a method fascists use to consolidate power and amplify the reach of the irrational emotional appeals of their propaganda. Hitler, for example, quashed opposition, banning trade unions and opposition parties, and established the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which controlled German media and cultivated anti-Semitism and the Aryan myth, most famously through films like “The Eternal Jew” and “Triumph of the Will.” Antifa, by seeking to suppress the speech of fascists, actually mimics their own techniques rather than providing an alternative.</p> <p><strong>Justifying violence on moral, not strategic, grounds.</strong></p> <p>Bray’s history of fascism and anti-fascism gives the most attention to violence on both sides. Fascists in inter-war Italy and Germany used violence and so did their opponents. Bray recounts clash after clash. From the 1940s to the present, he portrays anti-fascism as a continuing attempt to prevent fascists and neo-Nazis from being able to organize in public, with anti-fascists assaulting right-wing protesters and speakers. In some cases, this goes further, with anti-fascists assaulting anyone just wearing fascist garb, or bombing the offices and homes of prominent right-wingers. Bray recounts these events, presenting no reservations about any tactics used.</p> <p>Bray argues that fascists need to be cowed into submission before they gain any sort of profile, arguing that the failure of the left in the 1920s and 1930s was letting fascism grow without sufficient resistance, though his claim is&nbsp;<a href="https://theconversation.com/how-should-we-protest-neo-nazis-lessons-from-german-history-82645">questionable</a>. Most of Bray’s arguments concerning violence are about justifying it. The limitation of this approach is that even if one believes a violent action might be justified, morally or politically, it still may not be the most effective approach.</p> <p>Bray presents violence as the alternative to liberal approaches, which rely on rational discourse and policing. Certainly, liberalism has often failed to deal with right-wing threats. However, there is another alternative: nonviolent action, the strategic use of petitions, rallies, strikes, boycotts, sit-ins and a host of other methods. This alternative has a rich history—including, for example,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/nazis-afraid-clowns/">countering fascists</a>&nbsp;using clowning. Bray can hardly avoid discussing nonviolent action because it is now used widely in contemporary social movements.</p> <p>To his credit, Bray addresses nonviolent action. He spends much of his treatment countering the arguments about fascism presented by Erica Chenoweth, a leading nonviolence scholar and co-author with Maria Stephan of the acclaimed study “<a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">Why Civil Resistance Works</a>.” Bray cites particular cases in his attempt to counter the findings of Chenoweth and Stephan. This is strange because Chenoweth and Stephan do not claim violence is never effective, but rather that a statistical analysis of violent and nonviolent anti-regime campaigns shows that nonviolent movements are more likely to be successful and to lead to freer societies years later.</p> <p>More seriously, Bray does not come to grips with the assumptions underlying nonviolent action. As Chenoweth and Stephan show, and many others have argued, a key reason why nonviolent action is effective is because it enables participation by most sectors of the population, including women, children, elderly and people with disabilities. Anyone can participate in a boycott.</p> <p>A second key reason for the effectiveness of nonviolent action is precisely its avoidance of violence. Many people see violent attacks on peaceful, non-resisting protesters as unfair, even inhumane. As a result, such attacks can recoil against the attackers, generating greater support for the protesters. This effect, called political jiu-jitsu, is reduced or nullified when protesters are themselves violent.</p> <p>Bray is quite right to point out that many campaigns, categorized as primarily nonviolent, used some violence. But this does not mean the violence helped the campaigns. By the logic of political jiu-jitsu, it may have weakened them.</p> <p>Throughout “Antifa,” Bray actually gives examples of when fascist violence was counterproductive for the fascists and examples of when anti-fascist violence was counterproductive for the anti-fascists. For example, in Sweden in the 1990s, “neo-Nazi violence provoked a harsh societal backlash.” Then, in 2000, a Swedish neo-Nazi, Daniel Wretström, “allegedly was killed in a fight with immigrant youth,” and was seen as a martyr for his cause. The neo-Nazis subsequently held an annual march in his memory. However, Bray does not dwell on cases in which violence is counterproductive and does not link them to a backfire process.</p> <p>In terms of nonviolence theory, one of the shortcomings of much anti-fascist campaigning is that the use of violence limits participation. Bray notes the challenges that antifa groups have with excess machismo and the rise of feminist antifa (fantifa) groups in response. He gives no information about the demographics of antifa groups, in particular their age and ability profiles. It is reasonable to assume that most antifa activists involved in physical confrontations are young fit men, the same profile as most military forces and combatants in any armed struggle.</p> <p>“Antifa” succeeds in its primary mission: providing English-language readers with an overview of the antifa network, its purpose, diverse international groupings, ideology and tactics. The book is an informed and revealing, yet one-sided, account of efforts against fascism. What it omits is a sustained discussion of strategy to counter fascism by any means except using force to deter or fight the presence of the far right in public spaces. This one-dimensional approach limits the potential for participation of many sympathetic people. Furthermore, it can even alienate potential supporters who might be won over and involved using less confrontational tactics.</p> <p>Using violence sends a message that the way to oppose those with whom you disagree is to silence their speech. This can legitimate use of the same methods by opponents. Ultimately, suppressing free speech and using violence are not good ways to build the sort of free society Bray desires, because they fail to foster the attitudes and skills necessary for such a society to develop and flourish.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/strategic-naivet-of-antifa">The strategic naiveté of Antifa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/david-standen/is-it-ok-to-punch-nazis-in-face-thats-beside-point">Is it ok to punch Nazis in the face? That&#039;s beside the point</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence">Six principles of nonviolence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sue Curry Jansen Brian Martin Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 03 May 2018 20:07:57 +0000 Brian Martin and Sue Curry Jansen 117545 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The revenge against the commons https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zad-forever/revenge-against-commons <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why France’s biggest police operation since May 1968 is prepared to kill for Macron’s neoliberal nightmare (10k words).</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad1.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The APC pushes the Vraies Rouges barricade. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p>This is a long read by one of the inhabitants of the Zad, about the fortnight rollercoaster of rural riots that has just taken place to evict the liberated territory of the zad. It’s been incredibly intense and hard to find a moment to write, but we did our best. This is simply one viewpoint, there are over 1000 people on the zone at the moment and every one of them could tell a different story. Thank you for all the friends and comrades who helped by sharing their stories, rebel spirits and lemon juice against the tear gas.</p> <blockquote><p>&nbsp;“We must bring into being the world we want to defend. These cracks where people find each other to build a beautiful future are important. This is how the zad is a model.”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/230418/naomi-klein-la-zad-est-un-modele" target="_blank">Naomi Klein</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>“What is happening at&nbsp; Notre-Dame-des-Landes illustrates a conflict that concerns the whole world”&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="https://zad.nadir.org/spip.php?article5679" target="_blank">Raoul Vaneigem</a></p></blockquote> <p>The police helicopter hovers above, its bone rattling clattering never seems to stop. At night its long godlike finger of light penetrates our cabins and farm houses. It has been so hard to sleep this last week. Even dreaming, it seems, is a crime on the zad. And that’s the point: these 4000 acres of autonomous territory, this zone to defend, has existed despite the state and capitalism for nearly a decade and no government can allow such a place to flourish. All territories that are inhabited by people who bridge the gap between dream and action have to be crushed before their hope begins to spread. This is why France’s biggest police operation since May 1968, at a cost of 400,000 euros a day, has been trying to evict us with its 2500 gendarmes, armoured vehicles (APCs), bulldozers, rubber bullets, drones, 200 cameras and 11,000 tear gas and stun grenades fired since the operation began at 3.20am on the morning of the 9th of April.</p> <p>The state said that these would be “targeted evictions”, claiming that there were up to 80 ‘radical’ zadists that would be hunted down, and that the rest, the ‘good’ zadists, would have to legalise or face the same fate. The good zadist was a caricature of the gentle ‘neo rural farmer’ returning to the land, the bad, an ultra violent revolutionary, just there to make trouble. Of course this was a fantasy vision to feed the state’s primary strategy, to divide this diverse popular movement that has managed to defeat 3 different French governments and win France’s biggest political victory of a generation.</p> <p>The zad was initially set up as a protest against the building of a new airport for the city of Nantes, following a letter by residents distributed during a climate camp in 2009, which invited people to squat the land and buildings: ‘because’ as they wrote ‘only an inhabited territory can be defended’. Over the years this territory earmarked for a mega infrastructure project, evolved into Europe’s largest laboratory of commoning. Before the French state started to bulldoze our homes, there were 70 different living spaces and 300 inhabitants nestled into this checkerboard landscape of forest, fields and wetlands. Alternative ways of living with each other, fellow species and the world are experimented with 24/7.</p> <p>From making our own bread to running a pirate radio station, planting herbal medicine gardens to making rebel camembert, a rap recording studio to a pasta production workshop, an artisanal brewery to two blacksmiths forges, a communal justice system to a library and even a full scale working lighthouse –&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqrtUkBmv8s&amp;t=3s" target="_blank">the zad has become a new commune for the 21st century</a>. Messy and bemusing, this beautifully imperfect utopia in resistance against an airport and its world has been supported by a radically diverse popular movement, bringing together tens of thousands of anarchists and farmers, unionists and naturalists, environmentalists and students, locals and revolutionaries of every flavour. But everything changed on the 17th of January 2018, when the French prime minister appeared on TV to cancel the airport project and in the same breath say that the zad, the ‘outlaw zone’ would be evicted and law and order returned.</p> <p>I am starting to write 8 days into the attack, it’s Tuesday the 17th of April my diary tells me, but days, dates even hours of the day seem to merge into a muddled bath of adrenaline soaked intensity, so hard to capture with words. We are so tired, bruised and many badly injured. Medics have counted 270 injuries so far. Lots due to the impact of rubber bullets, but most from the sharp metal and plastic shrapnel shot from the stun and concussion grenades whose explosions punctuate the spring symphony of birdsong. Similar grenades killed 21 year old ecological activist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article36425" target="_blank">Remi Fraise</a>&nbsp;during protests against an agro industrial dam in 2014.</p> <p>The zad’s welcome and information centre, still dominated by a huge hand painted map of the zone, has been transformed into a field hospital. Local doctors have come in solidarity working with action medic crews, volunteer acupuncturists and healers of all sorts and the comrades ambulance is parked outside. The police have even delayed ambulances leaving the zone with injured people in them, and when its the gendarmerie that evacuates seriously injured protesters from the area sometimes they have been abandoning them in the street far from the hospital or in one case in front of a psychiatric clinic.</p> <p>The thousands of acts of solidarity have been a life line for us, including sabotaged French consulate parkings in Munich to local pensioners bringing chocolate bars, musicians sending in songs they composed to demonstrations by Zapatistas in Chiapas, banners in front of French embassies everywhere – from Dehli to New York, a giant message carved in the sand of a New Zealand beach and even scuba divers with an underwater banner. Here on the zone three activist field kitchens have come to feed us, architects have written a column deploring the destruction of unique forms of habitat signed by 50,000 people and locals have been offering storage for the safe keeping of our belongings. </p> <p>A true culture of resistance has evolved in parallel with the zad over the years. Not many people are psychologically or physically prepared to fight on the barricades, but thousands are ready to give material support in all its forms and this is the foundation of any struggle that wants to win. It means opening up to those who might be different, those that might not have the same revolutionary analysis as us, those who some put in their box named ‘reformist’, but this is what building a composition is all about, it is how we weave a true ecology of resistance. As a banner reads on one of the squatted farmhouses here, Pas de barricadieres sans cuisiniers “There are no (female) barricaders without (male) cooks.”</p> <p>Today has been one of the calmest since the start of the operation, and it felt like the springtime was really flowering, so we opened all the doors and windows of house letting the spring air push away the toxic fumes of tear gas that still linger on our clothes. It feels like there is a momentary lull. For the first time since the evictions, our collective all ate together, sitting in the sun at a long table surrounded by two dozen friends from across the world come to support us. I hear the buzzing of a bee trying to find nectar and look up into the sky, its not a bee at all, but the police drone, come to film us sharing food, it hovers for hours. In the end this is the greatest crime we have committed on the zad, that of building the commons, sharing worlds together and deserting the pathology of individualism.</p> <p>Two years before the abandonment of the airport project the movement declared in a text entitled The Six Points for the Zad: Because there will be no Airport, that we would, via an entity that emerged from the movement , collectively look after these lands that we were saving from certain death by concrete. A few months before the abandonment the form that this entity took was the Assembly of Usages. Soon after the airport was cancelled, we entered into negotiations with the state (via the prefet. Nicole Klein, who represents the state in the department) following a complicated week of pre-negotiations, where we were forced to open up one of the roads which had had cabins built on it since the&nbsp;<a href="https://zadforever.blog/2012/11/15/rural-rebels-and-useless-airports-la-zad-europes-largest-postcapitalist-land-occupation/">attempted evictions of 2012.&nbsp;</a>It seemed that the flow of traffic through the zone was the state’s way of telling the public that law and order had returned on the zone. (see the text&nbsp;<a href="https://zadforever.blog/2018/03/12/the-zad-will-survive/" target="_blank">Zad Will Survive&nbsp;</a>for a view of this complicated period).</p> <p>A united delegation of 11 people made up from the NGOs, farmers, naturalists and occupiers of the zone attended the negotiations and did not flinch from the demand to set up a collective legal land structure, rather than return these lands to private property and agro-business as usual. In the 1980s a similar legal structure was put in place following the victory of a mass movement against the expansion of a military base on the plateau of the Larzac in Southern France. With this precedent in mind we provided a legally solid document for a global land contract, but it was ignored, no legal grounds were given, the refusal was entirely political. Three days later the evictions began.</p> <p>The battle lines were made clear, it was not about bringing ‘law and order’ back to the zone, but a battle between private property, and those who share worlds of capitalism against the commons. The battle of the zad is a battle for the future, one that we cannot lose.</p> <p><strong>Day 1: Monday 9th April—everything begins in the dark.</strong></p> <p>The telephone rings, it’s 3.20am, it’s still dark outside, a breathless voice says two simple words, “It’s begun!” and hangs up. Everyone knows what to do, some run to offices filled with computers, others to the barricades, some to the pirate radio (Radio Klaxon, which happens to squat the airwaves of Vinci motorway radio, 107,7, the construction company that was going to build and run the airport) others start their medics shift. Hundreds of police vans are taking over the two main roads that pass through the zone.</p> <p>Fighting on one of the lanes manages to stop the cops moving further west. But elsewhere the bulldozers smash their way through some of the most beautiful cabins made of adobe and the wastes of the world that rose out of the the mud in the east of the zone, they destroy the Lama Sacrée with its stunning wooden watch tower, permaculture gardens and green houses are flattened and they rip gashes in the forest. A large mobile anti riot wall is erected by the police in the lane that stretches east to west, a technique that works in cities but in rural riots it’s useless and people spend all morning hassling them from every angle. Despite gas and stun grenades we hold our ground. Journalists are blocked for a while from entering, the police stating that they will provide their own footage (free of copyrights!). The “press group” gives them directions so that they manage to cross the fields and the pictures dominate the morning news.</p> <p>There are over a dozen of us are facing a line of hundreds of robocops at the other end of the field. One of us, masked up and dressed in regulation black kway is holding a golf club. He kneels down and places a golf T in the wet grass. He pulls a golf ball out of a big supermarket bag and serenely places it in the T. He takes a swipe, the ball bounces off the riot shields. He takes out another ball and another and another.</p> <p>In the afternoon the cops and bailiffs arrive at the 100 noms, an off grid small holding with sheep, chickens, veg plots, and beautiful housing including a cabin built by a young deserting architect which resembles a giant knights helmet made with geodesic plates of steel. The occupiers, who have built this place up from nothing over 5 years are given 10 minutes to leave by the bailiff. Several hundred people turn up to resist, many from ‘the camp of the white haired ones’ which has brought together the pensioners and elders, who have called it a camp for “the youth of all ages” and have been one of the backbones of this long struggle. There must be nearly 200 of us, at the 100 noms, this time no one is masked up. A massive block of robocops is coming up the path, some of us climb on the roof of the newly built sheep barn, others form a line of bodies pressed hard against the riot shields, we are peasants and activists, occupiers and visitors, young and old and they beat us, burn our skin with their pepper spray and push us out of the fields.</p> <p>We reply with a joyful hail of mud that covers their visors and shields. The people on the roof are brought down by the specialists climbers and the bulldozer does its job. A few minutes later as one of their huge demolition machines gets stuck in the mud, a friend shouts ironically to the crowd: “come on let’s go and give it hand and push it out!”, Hundreds approach, trails of gas take over the blue sky, dozens of canisters rain down on the wetlands, many falling into the ponds which begin to bubble with their toxic heat. I try to console Manu whose home, a tall skinny wooden cabin with a climbing wall on its side, has just been flattened, my hugs cannot stop his sobs. Our eyes are red with tears of grief and gas.</p> <p>In the logic of the state, the 100 Noms ticked many of their fantasy boxes of those wanting to be legalised, ‘the good zadists’. It was a well functioning small holding, producing meat and vegetables and where the sheep were more legal than its inhabitants. It was a project that had the support of many of the locals. Its destruction lit a spark that brought many of those in the movement who had felt a bit more distant from the zad recently back into the fold of the resistance. Of course its no less disgusting than the flattening of all the other homes and cabins, but the battle here is as much on the symbolic terrain as in the bocage and it seems to be a strategic blunder to destroy the 100 Noms.</p> <p>The live twitter videos from the attack are watched by tens of thousands, news of the evictions spreads and a shock wave ripples through France. Actions begin to erupt in over 100 places, some town halls are occupied, the huge Millau bridge over 1000 km away is blockaded as is the weapon factory that makes the grenades in Western Brittanny.</p> <p>The demolition continues till late, but the barricades grow faster at night, and we count the wounded.</p> <p><strong>Day 2: Tuesday 10th April—between a barricade and a tank.</strong></p> <p>It all begins again before sun rise, the communication system on the zone with its hundreds of walkie talkies, old style truck drivers cb’s and pirate radio station calls us to go and defend the Vraie Rouge collective, which is next to the the zad’s largest vegetable garden and medicinal herb project. We arrive through the fields to find one of the armoured cars pushed up against the barricade, we stand firm the barricade between us and the APC. We prepare paint bombs to try and cover the APC’s windows with. </p> <p>Then the tear gas begins to rain amongst the salad and spinach plants. A friend finds a terrified journalist cowering in one of the cabins, she writes for the right wing Figaro newspaper and is a bit out of place with her red handbag. “What’s that noise??” she asks, trembling, “the stun grenades” he replies. “But why aren’t you counter attacking?” she says, “where are your pétanque balls covered in razor blades?” Our friend laughs despite the gas poisoning his lungs, “we never had such things, it was a right wing media invention, and it’s impossible anyway, no one can weld razor blades onto a pétanque ball!”</p> <p>There is so much gas, we can no longer see beyond our stinging running noses. The police are being pressurised simultaneously from the other side of the road by a large militant crowd with gas masks, make shift shields, stones, slingshots and tennis rackets to return the grenades. They are playing hide and seek from behind the trees. The armoured car begins to push the barricade, some of us climb onto the roof of the two story wooden cabin, others try to retreat without crushing the beautiful vegetable plot. It's over, the end of another collective living space on the zone. Then we hear a roar from the other side of the barricade. Dozens of figures emerge from the forest, molotov cocktails fly, one hits the APC, flames rise from the amour and the wild roar transforms itself into a cry of pure joy. The APC begins to back off as do the police. The Vraie Rouge will live one more day it seems, thanks to diversity of tactics.</p> <p>In 2012 when we managed to stop the first eviction attempts of the zone, this was what gave us an advantage. Over the 50 years that the movement against the airport lasted, it used everything from petitions to hunger strikes, legal challenges to sabotage, riots to citizens ecological inventories of the zone, defensive tree houses to flying rocks, tractor blockades to clown armies. Its secret weapon was the respect we had for each others’ tactics and an incredible ability to try and not condemn each other. Pacifist Pensioners and black bloc worked together in a way that I had never seen before, which made criminalising the movement much more complicated for the government. Movements win when they have the richest most colourful palette of tactics at their disposal and they are ready to use every one of them at the right time and place.</p> <p>In a woodland dip to the east of the zone, the Cheverie, is still resisting. A huge high cabin made from different types of swirling coloured clay – brown, grey, ochre and white – punctuated by mosaics and carved spiders, constructed by hundreds of hands, is about to be crushed. Hundreds of gendarmes surround it, one of them seems to have a machine gun strapped to his back. From the roof someone uses a traffic cone as a megaphone: “we are defending life and the living.” When the cabin is finally brought down a minor miracle occurs, none of the dozens of windows is broken, which will make it much easier to rebuild.</p> <p>At the Fosses Noires, the brewery has been turned into a canteen, but the tear gas is falling on the pots, pans and piles of donated vegetables. After lunch, a second press conference takes place, yesterday the first one had brought dozens of TV cameras and microphones from radios across the country, 8 people from all the composition of the movement faced the cameras, their dignified anger was so powerful, so palpable, many of us shed tears listening.</p> <p>Today there are 30 inhabitants in front of the cameras, it is those that have an agricultural and craft projects running on the zone, the tanner is there as is the cheese maker, the potter and market gardeners, cow herders and leather workers. They explain how over the last weeks of negotiations with the state, they handed over documents to develop a collective project within a legal nonprofit association that had been set up. They show that on this bocage to think ecologically is to realise that all the projects are interdependent, rotating the fields between folk, sharing tools and and everyone helping out on each others' projects when needed. To divide the zad into individual separate units makes no sense.</p> <p>But the words are not as strong as the striking image of Sarah, our young shepherdess who like a modern day madonna holds a dead black lamb on her lap. She explains how her flock was legalised already and that this one died from stress when it was moved from the 100 Noms farm to avoid the evictions. Her grey eyes pierce the camera lenses, “they choose violence, they choose to destroy what we build, they choose to break off the dialogue with us.” Whilem a young farmer, whose milk herd squats fields to the west, raises his trembling voice, “ If there is no collective agriculture then you get what’s already happening in the countryside – individualism: eat up your neighbours farm land, be more and more alone with a bigger and bigger farm,” he takes a deep breath, “the isolation is pushing farmers to commit suicide, we are more and more alone on our farms faced with increasing difficulties. On the zad we hold a vision of farming for all, not just for us.”</p> <p>The zad makes a call for a mass picnic the following day. Vincent. one of the supporting farmers from the region, a member of COPAIN 44, a network of rebel farmers whose tractors have become one of our most iconic and useful tools of resistance, sighs, “the government has broken any possibility of dialogue now, they have forced us to respond with a struggle for power.”</p> <p>Between the tall poles that hold the breweries’ hop plants a long banner is raised, “Nicole Klein radicalised me.”</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">A banner is raised “Nicole Klein radicalised me.” Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p><p><strong>Day 3: Wednesday 11th April—gassing a picnic.</strong></p> <p>We are woken as normal by the explosions of gendarmes' grenades, fighting continues near the D281 road. A small group is trying to stop the police lining up in a field, there aren’t many of us, it feels hopeless, then out of the morning mist comes a tractor, its driver wears a balaclava, in the front bucket – a tonne of stones. He drops them in a pile just where we are standing, puts the tractor in reverse and disappears back into the mist.</p> <p>In the next door field a towering guy wearing a balaclava and dressed in a full monk's habit throws a bucket of water over a handful of robocops – “I baptise you in the name of the zad”, he bellows. A cloud of pepper spray engulfs him, but one the gendarmes slips in the mud and drop his truncheon, at the speed of light the monk grabs it and runs off, wielding his rebel relic in the air. The police megaphone calls out “You must return the state’s property. Return it now!”</p> <p>At lunch time, over a thousand people turn up to share a picnic in the fields. Over thirty tractors have come, some from far, despite the fact that its one of the busiest seasons for the farmers, they encircle the large Rouge et Noir collective vegetable garden, now littered with hundreds of toxic plastic tear gas canisters. “The state crossed the red line when they destroyed the 100 Noms” one of them says.</p> <p>The crowd of all ages walk through the barricades and debris of yesterday’s battle that litter the country lanes. The atmosphere is festive, a samba band with pink masks leads us into the field beside the Lama Sacrée. A long line of black clad police stretches across the spring green pasture. The samba band approach, then all hell lets loose: gas canisters shower down, dozens of stun grenades are thrown into the peaceful crowd, panic ensues, people retreat across the hedgerows.</p> <p>The houses of la Boite Noire, Dalle à Caca, Jesse James and la Gaité fall in the east. Simultaneously they attack la Grée, the large rambling grafitti covered farm at the centre of the zone that has an unconditional welcome policy. There is a car repair workshop, climbing wall and the rap studio and many folk escaping the misery of street life and addictions end up living there together. Farmers’ tractors are surrounding the building, a barricade made from the carcasses of cars, is set alight. But the tear gas is too strong and the tractors are forced to back off.</p> <p>Out of the mist of gas come black lumbering troops, they charge across the fields. The whole zone is split in two by a seemingly endless lines of robocops stretching east to west. The crowd is dispersed, people are coughing up their lungs, they are furious. It began as a picnic, now it’s a war zone again. The gas clouds cling to the pasture, frightened cows huddle together in a corner of a tiny field. The medic post at the Fosses Noires has to move away to the Gourbi, but then the gas catches up with it there too and it moves to La Rolandière just in time before the police arrive to smash one of the zone’s most symbolic sites, the Gourbi.</p> <p>In the very centre of the zad the Gourbi is where the weekly assembly of occupiers is held and Friday’s No-market, a place where excess produce is distributed with no fixed price but by donation only. Initially there was a stone farm house there, inhabited by an old couple who were evicted in 2012 and their home destroyed for the airport project. Then a wooden hut was built in its place, but its ramshackle pallet sides soon needed restoring and so a brand new state of the art cabin-like meeting house was built over 2015. But one night someone sneaked into this beautiful meeting house and set it alight.</p> <p>But Gourbi was to rise from the ashes, and as an ironic response to the governments 2016 local consultation about the airport project, we held an all night building party whilst the results came through (55 per cent for building the new airport). To the sound of a wild one man accordion band doing kitsch covers of Queen and other trashy pop songs, hundreds of people stuffed the clay of the wetlands into a huge geodesic metal dome structure to build our new round meeting house. It was made of steel and mud to resist arson, but today the bulldozer crushed it with a single swipe of its blade. Worlds away in the metropolis, the Minister of Interior, Gérard Collomb, tells parliament “We want to avoid all violence in this country, this is what we are doing at Notre-Dame-des-Landes.”</p> <p>By sunset the government claims to have evicted 13 more living spaces, bringing the total to 29 since Monday. The prime minister refuses to pause the operations, and the medic team share horrific photos of some of the 60 injuries since Monday, including 3 journalists. Meanwhile the cops release their figures: 32 injuries, but it turns out most are from the mis use of their own weapons. Solidarity actions pour in from thousands, including squatters in Iceland, farmers in Lebanon and eco builders in Columbia. In Paris, sex workers send in kinky zad themed S and M photos and students occupy the EHSS elite social science school in solidarity. That afternoon electricity is cut across a large part of the zone and many of our neighbors homes outside of the zad. It is a tactic reminiscent of collective punishment used during military occupations. At night the gentle lulling croak of mating frogs in the marches mixes with the hum of back up electric generators. Four hundred of us meet at the Wardine, in the old concrete cow shed covered in bright murals, we share stories, dogs bark, tempers fray.</p> <p><strong>Day 4: Thursday 12th April—are they ready to kill ?</strong></p> <p>The day begins with some good news on radio klaxon. An affinity group action just shut down the motorway that passes near the zad. Emerging from the bushes they flowed down onto the tarmac armed with tyres, fluorescent jackets and lighters. Within seconds a burning wall blocked the flow of commuters to Nantes. The group disappeared just as quickly as they materialised, melting back into the hedgerows. The more we fight for this land, the more we become the bocage and the harder it is to find us. Every day more and more people converge here, many for the first time in their lives.The art of the barricade continues across the zone, including one topped with an old red boat. Some of our most useful barricades are mobile, in the form of tractors, dozens of COPAIN 44’s machines take over the main cross roads of the zone.</p> <p>Following an attempt by friendly lawyers to prove that the eviction of the 100 noms was illegal, the prefect is forced to appear in court in Nantes, but the case is adjourned. The indefatigable zad press group sends out a new communique entitled, After 3 days of evictions are they ready to kill because they don’t want a collective ? Clashes continues across the bocage as Macron take to the TV screens for a national statement about his policies. A social movement is rising against him, with university occupations, supermarket, rail workers and Air France on strike – he has to respond. The mise-en-scène is bizarre, he sits in a primary school class room. He speaks about the zad for a little over a minute, “republican order must be returned” he says, and “everything that was to be evacuated has already been evacuated”.</p> <p>As he speaks a hundred and fifty concussion grenades are launched in less than half an hour in the Lama Sacrée field, the explosions echo across the bocage, bursting the ear drums of those nearby and raising the anxiety levels of those within hearing distance, which on this flat landscape of the zad, is all of us. The league of Human Rights demands that all parties come back to the table. A call is sent for people to converge on the Zone on Sunday: “ The time has come to find ourselves together, to say that the zad must live, to dress our wounds and re build ourselves.”</p> <p>We walk home to la Rolandière, with its ship shaped library attached to the lighthouse, built where they wanted to build the airport control tower. The sun is setting, 20m high up on the lighthouse’s balcony a lone figure is playing a trumpet, fluid sumptous jazz floats across the forest. It is one of those moments when you remember why you live here.</p> <p>That night under a clear constellation filled sky, the Assembly of Usages meets. We sit on wooden hand made bleechers under Le hangar de l’avenir (The Barn of the future). This cathedral like barn was built by over 80 traditional carpenters in 2016 using mostly hand tools, it is ornamented with snakes and salamanders carved into the oak beams. There are several hundred of us at the assembly, one of the peasants whose tractor is blocking the crossroads reads out a series of texts messages he has received from the préfete who is trying to negotiate with COPAIN 44. “Yesterday the Prime minister said it was war, today the president says its peace, therefore it’s all over.” It’s clear that she’s feeling that the situation has become much more complicated than predicted. A deal is made, move your tractors she writes, and I promise that by 10pm I will announce to Ouest France, the regional news paper, that it is the end of operations by the Gendarmes.</p> <p>The meeting continues, we wait for the article to appear on the newspaper’s web site. I reload my phone endlessly waiting for the site to update. Suddenly it does, but it’s just a story about rock legend Johnny Hallyday, was it all a bluff ? Then it arrives, half an hour late. A cheer rises from the tired voices. At home we try to party a little, at least we might get a lie in tomorrow morning, it seems that it’s over for the time being?</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The Assembly of Usages meets at the Barn of the Future. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p><strong>Day 5: Friday 13th April—utopias with teeth.</strong></p> <p>I’m half awake, there is a rumble of vehicles on the road… At first I think it’s tractors, then I see the lights, blue and flashing, van after van of cops passing. We leap out of bed and run to the top of the lighthouse, the entire road is filled with vans as far as the eye can see. The huge barricade at the crossroads, which the tractors left last night following the préfete’s announcement, is on fire, a plume of black smoke frames the the orange dawn. The familiar pop of tear gas canisters being fired is accompanied by the crunching sounds of barricades being pushed by the APC. Radio Klaxon says they have kettled la Grée and are searching it, the Wardine camping is also encircled and a hundred and fifty cops are heading towards the Rosier. </p> <p>The Lascar barricade, made of several burnt cars, with a huge metal doorway and a trench that is several meters wide, is being defended by nearly 100 of us. The forest is wrapped in toxic mist, ghostly rebel silhouette run from tree to tree, stones are aimed at the robocops with catapults that were made by Andre, an 83 year old who set up a production line for us during the eviction threats of 2016, his team churned out 1000. The cops throw stun grenades blindly from the fields into the forest, one explodes just above my head, caught in the tree it rips the bark into smithereens. Is this what they call the end of operations ?</p> <p>A communiqué from the gendarmerie explains that they are clearing the roads and are not doing any expulsions or knocking down any squats, but that they are looking to arrest people who fired a distress rocket at their helicopter. At la Grée they take away two people but not for that charge. The gas pushes everyone back from the Lascar’s barricade and the grinders come out to cut the metal gateway into pieces. Despite the rising clouds of tear gas, people on the roof of the brand new Ambazada, a building that will host folk from intergalactic struggles, manage to sing some of our re purposed folk songs, recount the history of the struggle of the zad.</p> <p>Then a moment of joy, one of the armoured cars attacking the Lascar tips into a ditch and has to be pulled out by the other one. The mud of this wetlands has always been our ally, its wetness our friend. When they retreat a banner is put up, “Cheap APC driving license available here.” Our other accomplice is humour of course, even in what feels like a war zone, with tarmac scorched, broken glass and rubble everywhere, being able to laugh feeds our rage. The police retreat again and the barricade grows back out of its ruins, bigger and stronger than ever. We notice that where the APC fell into the ditch is now a huge deep hole at exactly the place where the drain for the Ambazada was going to be dug, no need for digging, just put the plants in it to make our grey water reed bed. That’s what you call radical permaculture, least effort for maximum gain.</p> <p>At midday the préfete begins her Press conference in Nantes. She confirms last nights message – evictions are over – and in a dramatic gesture, flourishes a page of A4 paper towards the cameras. “It’s a simplified form” she tells the press, “so that those who wish can declare their projects as quickly as possible…The deadline is the 23rd of April” she continues “ all we are asking is that they declare their names, what agricultural project they wish to develop and to tell us what plot of land they wish to work on, so that the state can process them.” She also confirms that it was Macron who was running the operation not the prime minister or interior minister, it was he who decided to stop the expulsions. “I am holding out my hand” she says, and asks for negotiations to re start on Monday, “I am giving the zadists a last chance.” Sitting next to her General Lizurey in charge of the Gendarme’s operations says that the number of zadists on the zone has increased from 250 to 700.</p> <p>I walk through the Rohanne forest to The Barn of the Future, I breathe in the forest air, the sweet pine, the musty damp smell of mushrooms. The barn has returned to its normal use as a saw mill and carpentry workshop for the zad. It is the base of the Abracadabois collective that looks after the forests and hedgerows, harvesting fire wood and building timber and setting up skill shares to learn carpentry, forest biology, wood carving, chain saw use and learning about other ways of inhabiting forests inspired by indigenous practices from past and present. The saw mill is planking the logs, twenty carpenters are busy preparing frames for a new building, a new assembly and no-market hall for the Gourbi, that we aim to put up on Sunday during the mass action.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Carpenters prepare the new building for the action. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p>This morning I was enveloped in tear gas and now I’m watching some of the same barricaders without their gas masks making a barn using the techniques that have been used for millennia. It is somehow healing to watch the attentive work. It is this capacity to fight and build, to block capitalism and to construct other forms of life which gives the zad its strength. It is also another reason the state wants to destroy us, they can deal with nice clean alternative eco projects, easy to buy off and recuperate into new forms of green capitalism. But when those who have a systemic critique are also providing material examples of other ways of being, it becomes dangerous. The resistance and creativity, the no and the yes, are the twin strands of DNA of this territory, split one from the other and the zad dies. It becomes another ecovillage or Transition Town, alternatives without teeth.</p> <p>Yet a second helicopter is flying above the barn, this time with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and the minister of interior inside, they are getting a private birds eye tour of the zad. They have come to congratulate the troops for their hard work. As he shakes hands with the gendarmes Phillippe tells the press that “the state will not accept any reconstruction or reoccupation.” He is referring to the action planned on Sunday, “Any place that tries such an action will exclude itself from any possible regularisation…. and will thus put themselves under judicial proceedings.” Once again the threat of sorting the good zadists from the bad. The carpenters work late into the night.</p> <p><strong>Day 6: Saturday 14th April—we won’t forget our scars.</strong></p> <p>Bang, another wake up call, the APCs and dozens of vans pass by at the speed of a TGV train, bulldoze the barricades away on the D81 road again, and continue South, probably to Nantes where striking workers are holding a demonstration followed by one against the eviction of the zad.</p> <p>Barricades are cleared at the Lama Fachée at the same time, and a strange new gas is spotted, dark yellow. It makes people throw up, sows mental confusion and a loss of all spatial and temporal senses. Behind one of the barricades, a trio of action medics are keeping an eye on the adjoining woodland where grenades are exploding, “ It’s been war wounds here,” they explain “skin and nerves hit by shrapnel, open gashes, eardrums damaged, necrosis and bone fractures.” Some folk have over 70 pieces of shrapnel in their limbs, it takes hours every day to pull them out and clean them, some have gone 3cms deep into the skin. Many of the new comers on the zone throw themselves into picking up the thousands of gas canisters that litter the fields, placing them in big bags for everyone to see in the “camp of the white haired ones.” Each canister costs 110 euros.</p> <p>The demonstration in Nantes is big, 10,000 people. The 1000 riot police on duty attack it and gas people drinking on the café terraces.</p> <p>The sun set is dark red this evening. The wood working tools and machines are cleared aside, the Barn of the Future becomes a meeting hall again for the Assembly of Usages. The fresh smell of saw dust perfumes the discussions about whether we should go to back to the negotiations on Monday. The response is no, not yet.</p> <p><strong>Day 7: Sunday 15th April—the human millipede realises a dream.</strong></p> <p>It’s the big day, thousands of people from all over the country are converging on the zone for the day of mass action. The troops have cut off a third of the zad, they line the lanes for kilometers, cutting off access to any of the part of the zone where homes had been destroyed last week. This includes the Gourbi where we hoped to bring the new building too. All road access to the zad are blocked off by the gendarmes, they tell people to go home because they won’t be able to reach the demonstration. But more than ten thousand of them disobey, park their cars and coaches in the nearby villages and trek for over an hour across the bocage. The details of the new building are still being finished, as the crowds arrive, such as a large ‘fuck you’ finger and the face of a fox that are being carved.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">The fuck you finger carved for the new Gourbi. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>Through the pirate radio, text messages and word of mouth, we tell people to converge on Bellevue, the big farm in the west and wait for a decision about what we will do. 50 of us meet in a field in an emergency meeting, the farmers don’t want to risk their tractors, we don’t want to have a gesture that feels too symbolic, once again the collective intelligence comes to the fore and we come up with a plan B. The building will be erected as close to the front as possible without forcing the police line, there are too many families here to risk being gassed.Simultaneously we will ask people to unearth the staffs and sticks that had been planted in the ground in October 2016 when the government told us they were coming to evict. It was a ritual disguised as a demonstration, 40,000 people answered the call, planted their stick into the ground and made a pledge to return to get them if the government came back to evict the zone for the airport. The ritual magic worked, that time the government stood down. But now they were back with a vengeance and the moment has come.</p> <p>Whilst people pulled the deeply charged sticks out of the clay, others on lane behind carried the huge wooden frames, planks and beams of the new building to the field between between the Wardine and the Ambazada. It takes a few hours to put the carpentry back together and raise the structure up, meanwhile thousands of people push their sticks back into the ground creating a huge circular pallisade around it. In the next door field the police start to tear gas and stun grenaded hundreds of people, some had been reading poems to the cops many held their hands in the air in a gesture of peace. Families hold their ground next to masked up barricaders.</p><p> Meanwhile, a handful of people decide as a kind of game, to take the campanille, the tower like addition of the new building, through the forest to the east. </p> <p>A crowd of hundreds follows, we cross the road next to the cops who charge but are forced back by the mass of bodies, we try to get as near to the Gourbi as possible. The wind is on our side and blows the teargas back into the cops lines. But the playful act of defiance ends when its clear that we can’t get anywhere near the Gourbi, the police lines are too thick. However, the pleasure of running through forests and fields carrying part of a wooden building is clearly addictive. A few hours later, once the sun has gone down and the cops have left, a new plot is hatched. Why don’t we move the whole building, one and a half tonnes of it, 3kms across the fields, in the dark – to the Gourbi !</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad6.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The new Gourbi arrives at its destination. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ZAD_NDDL">@zad_nddl</a><span>. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>Despite the general state of tiredness that fills our bodies, we manage a huge heave, 150 of us lift up the structure. A mass of rubber booted feet walk in unison, it feels like a strange chimera shuffling across the bocage, half human half millipede. One of the carpenters directs the operation via megaphone, “a bit to the left ! slow down ! watch that tree branch !” Lit by the beams of dozens of head torches the building seems to float above the prairies, we are plunged into a space between fabulous dream and a scene from an epic film. Someone sits on the very top of the building pushing up the electricity and phone cables so we can pass under them. This is what we call the magic of the zad, the belief that anything is possible when we do it together.</p><p>We half expect to see the police helicopter, to feel its spotlight pierce the night, but nothing. The closer we get to the Gourbi the louder the chants: “on est plus chaud, plus chaud, plus chaud que le lumbago” (we are much hotter, much hotter than lumbago). When we arrive, fireworks shoot up into the darkness, a bright red distress flare illuminates the scene. We set the building next to the pilled up ruins of the dome. We light a bonfire, Gourbi has risen again. Whilst we were moving our house, Macron was being interviewed live on TV, sitting in a black and gold marble hall the Eiffel tower as monumental backdrop. He declares that airport had been abandoned as part of the “ecological priorities of the government” and that therefore our anger is no longer legitimate. Rather than an alternative society, the zad was “a project of chaos… illegally occupying public lands” he tells the nation.</p> <p>“We have restored republican order” he declares, at least four times. We must sign individual forms before the 23rd of April or “everything that should be evicted will be evicted” he says. Macron ends with a ridiculous analogy: the zad is as if someone came into your living room to propose an alternative and squatted your sofa. Ridiculous and wrong, none of the land here belongs to private individuals, it all still belongs to multinational airport builders Vinci and the state. But his statement was a new ultimatum, a declaration of total war against all collective forms of life. We return home to the news, but it cannot blunt the memories of this improbable night.</p> <p><strong>Day 8: Monday 16th April—we will always re-surge, return, reclaim.</strong></p> <p>There are a half a dozen bodies perched like birds on the rafters of the new Gourbi, one plays a drum, a couple kiss, the green prairies below burst with yellow dandelions. We hear the rumble of APCs, it’s obvious they are coming straight here. The glint of riot visors shimmer in the sunlight, a column is moving towards us. A few flash bangs later and those on the roof are brought down by police climbers. The pillars of the building are cut by a chainsaw and the APC drives into it. Like the skeleton of a dying beast it crumbles to the ground. The police leave under a hail of stones, people sort out the broken beams. “Bastards !” a friend points to a stump of cut timber, “they sawed off the big fuck you finger and took it back to the barracks as a trophy !” </p><p>The Gendarmerie release their drone footage of the destruction on social networks. They need to show some success in their operation, they too are getting tired of this infernal cycle of destruction and reconstruction. A communication from a group called “Gendarmes and Citizens” denounces the fact that they are feeling “bogged down” and like “cannon fodder” faced with “rural guerrillas”. They deplore the “political paralysis” of the government who are on the one hand communicating with a “warlike tone” but are not following it up with effective orders on the ground. “Why are we not being given orders to arrest everyone in the squats?” they complain. So far there have been suprisingly few arrests, we wonder if they will just come back later, raid our homes, pick us off one by one, when things are quieter?</p> <p>There is a new moon above tonight’s Assembly of Usages. Unsurprisingly the debates are heated, we have to decide to re start negotiations or not. The question has never been negotiate or fight, we always knew that we had to do both, but after so many days of attacks it’s not easy to accept to go back to the table. In the end we decide that we can meet the préfete, not to negotiate the base issues, but make demands for the continuation of talks, one of which is take the troops off the zone. “You don’t negotiate with a gun to your head”, one of the locals says, but we know that if we refuse to meet, Macron’s machine could return and destroy everything that is left, risking lives and in the end depriving us of this territory where we found each other. </p><p>An older friend of mine, someone who experienced the uprisings of ’68, writes to me. His letter just says, “the zad will never end, it will simply change shape.” And he is right. This attachment we have to this territory where we have been able shake our dependence to the economy and the state, is something that brings us together, however disparate our political perspectives. Our love for this huge playground which inspires us to organise together, this deep desire for the wetlands that lubricates our imaginings, these are not abstractions but feelings that are deeply anchored to our experience of this bocage and all our experiments that emerge from it. It is a place that compels us to recompose, to renew, to have the courage to put our political ideas into question, to always push ourselves further than what we thought was possible, to open ourselves up beyond a radical ghetto or walled off utopia.</p> <p>Despite our barricades and the diversity of disobedience, if the state really wants to eradicate the whole of the zad, they can. Everyone would have lost their homes, workshops, fields, tools and we would probably find ourselves banned from returning to the region (a common judicial punishment in France). Scattered across the country without a place that enables us to grow roots together, we would loose all our strength. We know that changing shape is painful, but like a chameleon changes colours, we need to find a way protect this laboratory and camouflage its revolutionary potentialities from the eyes of the state. If we want to stay we need to find a compromise whilst refusing to let go of the commons.</p> <p><strong>Day 14: Sunday 22nd April—the art of changing shape.</strong></p> <p>It’s a week later. Over breakfast, Paul tells me about last night’s adventures. “It felt like we were robbing a bank. So organised, dressed in black, head lamps, maps, scouts etc. Except all we were doing was evacuating the bee hives from the destroyed homes and gardens, getting them off site.” he smiles “we had to carry them full of bees across the hedgerows behind police lines.”</p> <p>The days have calmed down. Less cops on the zone, more bird song than explosions. The cycle of barricade growing and then being smashed slows down, partly because on the main roads the police bring in huge skips to take the materials away. In the smaller lanes barricades remain.</p> <p>The restart of the negotiations on Wednesday went badly, nothing shifted, despite the presence of ex TV personality Nicolas Hulot, now Minister of Ecological Transition, in charge of the zad case since Marcron’s election. He is flown in specially to Nantes in the presidential jet. Following the meeting with us, he gives a press conference in the palatial hall of the Prefecture. The government’s hard line is held, the rights of property and the market reign, there will be no global or collective contract for the land, we have to give individual names and land plots by the 23rd or face evictions. In a rhetorical floury he ends, “ecology is not anarchy.”</p> <p>Not surprising for a man whose ‘ecology’ involves owning six cars, signing permits for oil exploration and supporting the nuclear dump at Bure. Hulot is simply the ‘eco’ mask for Macron’s “make the planet great again” form of authoritarian neoliberal green capitalism. But his statement shows Hulot’s absolute ignorance of the history of both ecological and anarchist thought. Many of the first theoreticians of ecological thinking, were anarchists. Élisée Reclus, world famous geographer and poet, whose beautiful idea that humans are simply “nature becoming aware of herself,” fought on the barricades of the 1871 Paris Commune. 19th century geographer Peter Kropotkin, spent many years in jail and exile for his politics, but was renowned in scientific circles as an early champion of the idea that evolution is not all a competitive war of “red tooth and claw” but instead involves a cooperation, what he termed Mutual Aid. From the 1950s onwards, US political philosopher Murray Bookchin (now best known for the influence he has on the Kurds to build a stateless form of Municipal Confederalism, taking place in the autonomous territory of Rojova – Northern Syria) brought ecology and anarchy together.</p> <p>At the heart of his Social Ecology is the idea that humans dominate and destroy nature because we dominate ourselves. To avert ecological collapse we had to get rid of all hierarchies – man over woman, old over young, white over black, rich over poor. According to Bookchin, our greatest lesson to gain from the natural world was that we had let go of the idea of difference, and reclaim the concept held by many small scale organic societies, of unity in diversity. Diversity being the basic force of all bio-systems. He envisioned a world that would be neither communist nor capitalist, but what he called “Communalist”. “The effort to restore the ecological principle of unity in diversity,”&nbsp; he wrote, “has become a social effort in its own right – a revolutionary effort that must rearrange sensibility in order to rearrange the real world.” For him the question of society, to reframe Rosa Luxembourg’s: “Socialism or barbarism” – was: “Anarchism or extinction.”</p> <p>When we truly inhabit an eco system it becomes obvious that life has no control centre, no heirachy, no chiefs or bosses, no governments or presidents. Every form of life is a self organising form of commons – deeply connected and interdependent, always changing, always embedded and entangled – from the cells in your fingers to worms in your the garden, from the trees in the forest of Rohanne to the bacteria in your gut. As biologist and cultural theorist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.boell.de/en/2013/02/01/enlivenment-towards-fundamental-shift-concepts-nature-culture-and-politics" target="_blank">Andreas Weber&nbsp;</a>says, all life forms “are continuously mediating relationships among each other – relationships that have a material side, but also always embody meaning, a sense of living and the notion of belonging to a place.” The more we observe the living world in all its complexity the more we are able to understand how to become commoners, how to truly inhabit a place and see that the separation between the individual and the whole is a fiction.</p> <p>“In the ecological commons” writes Weber “a multitude of different individuals and diverse species stand in various relationships to one another – competition and cooperation, partnership and predatory hostility, productivity and destruction. All those relations, however, follow one higher principle: Only behaviour that allows for the productivity of the whole ecosystem over the long term and that does not interrupt its capacities of self-production, will survive and expand. The individual is able to realise itself only if the whole can realise itself. Ecological freedom obeys this basic necessity.”</p> <p>And so to be really free is not to be an individual able to operate free from constraints, but to be tied to beneficial relationships with people and habitats, relationships that feed you materially and psychologically. Without a tie to your food – you starve, without the tie to lovers – you sadden. We are free because we are linked. Freedom is not breaking our chains but turning them into living roots and veins that connect, share, flow together and enable us to change and evolve in common.</p> <p>Since the abandonment of the Airport, changing together on the zad has been a very painful process. On the zad often it is a fight between those of us who try to read the terrain and invent something new that is messy and hybrid yet fits the situation we are in and those of us who want to keep a pure radical position, more based on uprooted ideas and ideology than the complexity of the present moment, the here and now, the forces we hold and don’t. In 1968 Bookchin asked “When will we begin to learn from what is being born instead of what is dying?” It is a question still just as relevant today on the zad. Things have been moving so fast. After Hulot’s ultimatum, a ministerial announcement suggests that the Prime minister and minister of interior are on a war footing, they are prepared to go for it, evict the whole zone on Monday’s deadline, the 23rd.</p> <p>During the re start of negotiations on Wednesday a technical meeting between our delegation and the bureaucrats, who look at the case from a purely land and agriculture question, had been set for two days later, Friday 20th. Once again we are on a knife edge, this could be the last moment of negotiation before a full scale attack, an attack that most of us who live on the zone know we can’t win against, however big our barricades.</p> <p>The Assembly of Usages makes a huge strategic gamble, it's a paradigm shift in tactics. We decide to hand in the forms at the Friday meeting, but in a modified way, to show that yes we can fit the state’s square boxes of individual projects if they want, but that on the bocage nothing can be separated out, everything is interdependent. Whilst at the same time making a call out for people to come and be ready to defend on the territory from Monday onwards if the state attacks. It's the logic of hacking, take what’s there, re-purpose it, change its use.</p> <p>Then one of the most unexpected types of zad magic takes place, an office of form filing is set up in the zad’s library, and for 24 hours the building becomes a disturbed ants nest, dozens and dozens of people are running around carrying white pages of paper, writing on computers, having meetings together, looking at maps of the zone, making phone calls. Comrades with great legal and administrative knowledge help out and and by Friday afternoon, just as the meeting at the Prefecture begins a huge black bound file of 40 different projects is produced, each with a name and plots of lands earmarked, but no single name attached to a single plot.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/zad7.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A map of the common projects of the zad. March 2018. Credit:&nbsp;collectif carto zad. All rights reserved.</p> <p>A colourful cartography of the commons of the zad (above) illustrates the interdependent and cooperative nature of the projects, be they a school of shepherding or the library, orchards or the sports group, mechanics garage or a snail farm, sunflower oil production or bringing up children together. Of the 70 living spaces on the zone, 63 are covered by the forms, only 7 decide not to take this bet of a barricade of paper. Of course paper barricades are not half as fun as ones on the streets, but this time they just might be the ones that save zad from becoming just another orgasm of history, another free commune which shone briefly but ended in bloodshed, another martyred experiment in freedom sacrificed for the sake of a pure revolution. </p> <p>The zad always tried to go beyond the idea of a TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone), in favour of building a PAP ( Permanent Autonmous Zone), this desire is embedded in the solid buildings, the long term agricultural plans, the vineyards planted for wine in 5 years time. We can’t just let go of all the ties we built here, with the locals, surrounding farmers, pensioners, workers in the city, wanderers of all sorts, Nantes students and the youth, the owls, the black squirming salamanders, the knarly oaks trees, the mud. We must hold onto all these deep friendships and networks of struggle that we have shared with such intensity over the last decade.</p> <p>The state bureaucrats were confused, some enchanted, the préfete seemed relieved. Leaving the meeting our delegation tells the press that “we have responded to the injunctions of the state because we want to stop the escalation of tension and at last find the time for dialogue and construction,” warning that “ if we take away one element of the collective, it cannot work. It’s up to the state now to negotiate.”</p> <p>As I finally finish this text, the helicopter returns, anxiety rises again in my chest. It spends a long time swooping over the zone, observing this rebel bocage that it wants to reclaim back. Perhaps it is preparing for a final revenge against the commons, who knows, all we know is that during this last fortnight we have fought with every weapon we thought possible including the unexpected. Now we wait to see if the bet worked out…</p> <p>P.S. On the 26th of April three days after we posted this blog, the Prime Minister made a statement about the zad: announcing a truce in evictions until at least the 14th of May, to allow time for the regularisation of the occupants who filed forms. According to the Minister of the Interior, “Everything moves calmly and in serenity, as always,” that hasn’t stopped them piling in with the tear gas this morning to clear barricades. The bet seems to have given us some breathing space, even though they remain with the logic of sorting the ‘good’ who have chosen the ‘right path’ and the bad ‘illegals’, something we continue to reject.</p> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://zadforever.blog/2018/04/24/the-revenge-against-the-commons/">Zad Forever</a> with many more powerful photos of the events described.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/thomas-miller/findhorn-inner-listening-outer-action">Findhorn: inner listening, outer action</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Sacred activism: the story of Tamera</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/martin-winiecki/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing">Sacred activism: a movement for global healing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Can Europe make it? Transformation France openmovements Intentional communities Zad Forever Activism Thu, 03 May 2018 05:00:00 +0000 Zad Forever 117642 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The US teachers strike in historical perspective https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/steven-parfitt/us-teachers-strike-in-historical-perspective <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Previous waves of unrest offer clues to the possible regeneration of the American labor movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/StevenParfitt.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Teachers with the Chicago Teachers Union picket outside of the Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago, Illinois, on Monday, September 10, 2012. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/50864803@N03/16503056070/">Flickr/TMT photos</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. </p> <p>In the US, a teachers’ strike is spreading from one red state to another. It began in West Virginia when 34,000 teachers walked out on February 22 2018. They stayed out until March 7, against the advice of their own union leaders, until they received a deal that they could live with from the state government. They were soon joined by tens of thousands of teachers in Oklahoma, who struck from April 2 to April 12, and then their colleagues in Arizona followed them on <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/04/arizona-teachers-strike-unions-charter-schools">April 26</a>. </p> <p>Now there are rumbles of teachers’ strikes in the blue and purple states of Illinois and New Jersey, and in states elsewhere. NBC News reports a “<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/red-state-teacher-rebellion-hits-oklahoma-grows-arizona-n861851">Red-state Teacher Rebellion</a>.” There is no telling whether the rebellion will spread to more states and occupations. </p> <p>The teachers’ strikes come at a difficult time for American unions. Their total membership has <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm">fallen</a> from 17.7 million people in 1983 to 14.8 million in 2017, and the proportion of union members in the workforce has fallen even more dramatically, from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 10.7 percent in 2017. Unions continue to fund the Democratic Party, but their investment has seen few legislative gains. This is a story of failure, softened only by the occasional victory. </p> <p>Yet the teachers’ strikes may offer American unions a road back to health. Historians have long known that unions seldom grow at a slow, steady pace. They tend instead to push forward in a series of leaps, in a kind of chain reaction where a strike in one industry inspires strikes in others. The growth of unions in one part of the country leads to the growth of unions in other parts, and to use the British historian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/oct/01/eric-hobsbawm">Eric Hobsbawm’s</a> term, the labor movement recruits “in lumps” as striking workers join unions <em>en masse</em>. The American labor activist Kim Moody, in his recent book <em><a href="https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1106-on-new-terrain">On New Terrain,</a></em> describes this process as a “labor upsurge.” Could the strike by teachers in West Virginia be the spark for just such an upsurge in 2018?</p> <p>To answer this question it’s useful to look back to previous waves of strikes in the US like the <a href="http://isj.org.uk/1934-year-of-the-fightback/">rising of 1934</a>, when striking workers laid the groundwork for the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_of_Industrial_Organizations">Congress of Industrial Organizations,</a> or the mass strikes in coal, steel, the railroads and other industries during or immediately after the First World War, or the militancy of auto and other workers in the 1970s. </p> <p>We could also look to more recent <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2012/12/one-two-many-chicago-teachers-strikes-2">strikes in 2012</a> by the Chicago Teachers’ Union, the near-ousting in 2016 of President James P. Hoffa of the powerful Teamsters Union by the <a href="http://www.tdu.org/">Teamsters for a Democratic Union</a> (a rank-and-file movement), and the victories of <a href="https://fightfor15.org/">Fight for $15</a> in the last two years. But I would go <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/02/trump-fascism-gilded-age-knights-of-labor">even further back</a> to understand what an upsurge could mean for today’s American labor movement, to the ‘Great Upheaval’ of 1885/87. What happened then?</p> <p>American workers in the 1880s lived, as we do today, in the aftermath of a global financial crisis: in their case, the ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1873">Panic</a>’ of 1873. The ensuing depression wiped out many American unions. As today, the survivors faced a highly unequal society and a political system beholden to big money. In this historical picture, the infamous financier <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Gould">Jay Gould</a> substitutes for the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_family">Koch Brothers</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie">Andrew Carnegie</a> stands in for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates">Bill Gates</a>.</p> <p>Wages stagnated in nominal terms, at least for the rest of the 1870s and into the 1880s. Immigrants faced widespread discrimination, and Chinese immigrants were even excluded from the United States altogether from 1882 onwards. Black Americans endured the end of Reconstruction and the imposition of Jim Crow. American women faced exclusion from much public space and, when they worked for a wage, they faced a gender pay gap larger than that of today. Grievance piled on grievance.</p> <p>However, union organizing started to expand again at the start of the 1880s, when economic conditions improved. A working-class movement, the Knights of Labor, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00236568408584743?journalCode=clah20">rose from 10,000 to 70,000 members between 1878 and 1884</a>. Telegraph operators, glass workers and railroad workers waged bitter strikes, sometimes successfully, and the final spark was lit in 1885 by workers on the Wabash railroad and the Southwestern rail system. Both railroads were owned by Gould. </p> <p>In strikes during March and August, railroad workers twice forced him to reinstate strikers, grant overtime pay, reverse wage reductions, and tolerate their representatives, the Knights of Labor. Few strikes had ever succeeded against such a powerful adversary, and their victory over Gould gave workers in other places and industries the confidence necessary to down tools themselves. The Great Upheaval had begun.</p> <p>This is the stage that some commentators think we’ve also reached today: on the cusp of a strike wave, this time sparked by the teachers of West Virginia. In the 1880s version of a labor upsurge, the strikes on Gould’s railroads opened the floodgates to industrial action. In 1886, <a href="http://libcom.org/history/strike-jeremy-brecher">499,489 American workers engaged in 1,411 recorded strikes at 9,891 establishments</a>. This was more than double the number of strikers in 1885 and far higher than the <a href="http://libcom.org/history/strike-jeremy-brecher">129,521 strikers recorded in 1881.</a> </p> <p>Membership in the Knights of Labor <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Knights-of-Labor">rose to nearly a million in 1886</a>, including tens of thousands of black and women workers. In the same year, the movement for the eight-hour working day pushed forward the cycle of strikes, boycotts, and protests. It reached its height in May 1886, when tens of thousands of workers across the country struck simultaneously for eight hours.</p> <p>Workers pressed their case at the ballot box as well as in the workplace. Local labor parties sprang up to contest elections at local, state and federal levels. The radical economist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George">Henry George</a> ran for the mayoralty of New York on the United Labor Party ticket in 1886. He came a respectable second to the Democrat, Abram Hewitt, and beat the Republican candidate into third place—one <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/roosevelt_theodore.shtml">Theodore Roosevelt</a>.</p> <p>Across the United States, workers elected labor mayors, state legislators and even congressmen in Washington DC. The two-party system briefly faced challenges that have seldom been seen since. In this strange time, Eleanor Marx, the daughter of Karl Marx, and her husband Edward Aveling <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/eleanor-marx/works/wcia.htm">could argue</a> that “the example of the American working men will be followed before long on the European side of the Atlantic. An English or, if you will, a British Labour Party will be formed, foe alike to Liberal and Conservative.”</p> <p>We are certainly not at&nbsp;<em>that</em>&nbsp;stage yet. The <a href="https://go.berniesanders.com/page/content/join-us/">campaign of Bernie Sanders</a> in 2016, which saw a self-proclaimed socialist come agonizingly close to the Democratic Party presidential nomination, may have given new strength to the American left. A widely-cited Harvard University poll in 2016 may have found that most younger Americans now <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/get-rid-of-capitalism-millennials-are-ready-to-talk-about-it">prefer socialism</a>—whatever they think it means—to capitalism. But an electorally successful labor party is not likely to emerge in the next few years. If it does, it will take more time and require enormous energy on the part of the left, forces within the unions, and a wide cross-section of American workers.</p> <p>Yet we should not discount the possibility of a labor upsurge in the meantime. The grievances that are leading teachers to strike in state after state are shared by millions of public and private workers across the country. Like teachers, these workers have less and less to lose by industrial action, and falling unemployment means that finding replacements for them becomes more difficult. International events might further fan the flames that the teachers have set alight. Strikes by Amazon workers in <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-spain/spains-amazon-workers-call-two-day-strike-over-wages-rights-idUSKCN1GP13L">Spain</a>, for example, could spread to the <a href="https://theconversation.com/modern-capitalism-has-opened-a-major-new-front-for-strike-action-logistics-89616">great logistics clusters</a> of the United States and set off a chain reaction across the American heartland—much as the railroad workers did in 1885.</p> <p>There is, of course, a cautionary side to this tale. The Great Upheaval of 1885-87 ended in defeat for the unions and for the new labor parties. When railroad workers struck again in 1886, after Gould reneged on his promises, they lost. In May 1886, anarchists at Chicago’s Haymarket Square were accused of throwing a bomb at police. The events that followed set off America’s first ‘<a href="http://www.chicagohistoryresources.org/hadc/intro.html">Red Scare,</a>’ and the labor movement became one of its main victims. The Knights of Labor shed hundreds of thousands of members. The labor parties soon disappeared or were absorbed into the Democrats and Republicans. The labor upsurge of 1885/86 became the headlong retreat of 1886/87. Historians now see the Great Upheaval of 1885-7 as a great step forward, followed by an even greater step back.</p> <p>There are things we can all do to ensure that the rebellion of 2018 does not end in the same way. You can join the strike wave. You can show your face and your solidarity at the nearest picket line, or the nearest pro-strike protest. You can donate to strike funds, tweet support, sign petitions, and get involved in any movement that supports the strikers and tries to unite the different strikes under the same banner of political change. Each time you do these things, it becomes more likely that future historians will refer to the Great Rebellion of 2018 as a landmark in the renewal of American unions, and not as another episode in their long-term decline.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ernest-anemone/badass-teachers-and-future-of-american-democracy">Badass teachers and the future of American democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alex-nicoll/intimidation-new-normal">Intimidation: the new normal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Trade unions Steven Parfitt Transformative nonviolence Activism Economics Tue, 01 May 2018 19:12:48 +0000 Steven Parfitt 117556 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It’s a fact—welcoming works https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-j-dax/it-s-fact-welcoming-works <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New Mexico has reduced the number of deportations far below the level of other US states.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MichaelDax.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Jorge Taborda, holding back tears, hugs Maribel Lucero after a press conference and mass on Saturday, June 17, 2017 at the Holy Cross Retreat Center. Taborda is being housed at the retreat center after his wife was detained and deported back to Colombia.&nbsp;Credit: <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/its-working-fewer-deportations-where-sanctuary-policies-are-in-place-20180411?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180413&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180413+CID_50f5c2f2793543158c0ee3652bc94f44&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=this%20ar">Josh Bachman/Sun-News via YES! Magazine</a>. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</p> <p>A year after the Santa Fe City Council adopted in February 2017 a resolution strengthening its welcoming and non-discrimination policies toward immigrants, the federal government launched a series of audits demanding verification from local small businesses that their employees were eligible to work in the country. In response to this blitz, advocates and city officials held a press conference in early March calling out an attempt to disrupt business, wreak havoc, and create a culture of fear and panic.</p> <p>“Today, children will wake up at home wondering if there will be a knock on their door; parents will go to work wondering if there will be a knock at the door of their place of employment; families will wonder if they’ll have one more meal together,” said then-Mayor Javier Gonzales, who, following President Trump’s election, became an outspoken proponent of cities enacting sanctuary and non-discrimination policies. “That is not what our country has ever been about, but it is what this administration is trying to do by dividing our communities. All of us in our community know that one of the best values Santa Fe incorporates every day is the value of welcoming people.”</p> <p>And that value of welcoming is not just compassionate talk. There is proof that sanctuary policies are working, keeping residents safer than in places that collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement tactics.</p> <p>According to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/08/ice-arrests-went-up-in-2017-with-biggest-increases-in-florida-northern-texas-oklahoma/">a new study from Pew Research Center</a>, nationwide deportations made by ICE in 2017 increased 30 percent from the previous year. But these increases are not distributed evenly. In regions where city and state governments worked hand in hand with ICE, deportations have increased more than 75 percent. In regions where sanctuary policies are more prevalent, increases have remained relatively low.</p> <p>Along with California, New Mexico has emerged as one of the most welcoming states for undocumented immigrants. And it’s not just the capital, Santa Fe. Across the state, immigrant rights groups and faith communities are working alongside local governments in innovative ways to resist the Trump administration’s deportation efforts. Not only have these efforts succeeded, but they have provided a blueprint for other towns, cities, and states to emulate.</p> <p>Santa Fe adopted its first sanctuary resolution in 1999. It was a reaction to the new Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which threatened undocumented immigrants with lengthy bans. This first resolution was largely symbolic—a declaration of the city’s values, stating only that the city would not use its own resources to aid federal immigration officials.</p> <p>Nearly two decades later, following Trump’s election and xenophobic rhetoric, city leaders and immigrant communities were activated once again.</p> <p>Mayor Gonzales appeared on CNN, Fox News, NPR, and other news outlets just a week after the election explaining why Santa Fe would continue its welcoming policies toward immigrants and would resist any large-scale deportation efforts.</p> <p><em>Somos un Pueblo Unido</em>, a state-wide immigrant rights organization based in Santa Fe, held a meeting for its members a week following the election to provide a space for people both to express their fears and brainstorm ways of strengthening policies to better protect them. “What’s great is that when you are membership-based, the solutions are so deeply rooted in the realities of lived experiences,” says Marcela Diaz, Somos’ executive director. She has been with the organization for 20 years and helped the city with the 1999 resolution.</p> <p>Over the next three months, Somos un Pueblo Unido worked with city council members, the ACLU of New Mexico, and other stakeholders to create a&nbsp;<a href="http://files.constantcontact.com/b6dfe469001/1b734d6e-e8e4-41ec-971c-bcc1576a5829.pdf?ver=">legally defensible document&nbsp;</a>that would provide meaningful protection for immigrant families. The new policies bar city employees from inquiring about or disclosing information about residents’ immigration status, deny federal immigration agents access to non-public areas of city property, direct staff to improve language access on all government documents and programs, and mandate outreach to employers and community members to educate people on their civil rights and the city’s new policies.</p> <p>While these are considered sanctuary policies, over the course of the drafting process, the word “sanctuary” was removed from the resolution. There is no legal definition of sanctuary, and advocates reasoned that the word could become a lightning rod for the Trump administration.</p> <p>Even so, when the council unanimously adopted the welcoming, non-discrimination resolution in February 2017, the room exploded in cheers and applause. Everyone seemed to feel the weight of the occasion. “As a native Santa Fean, I’m proud to be on the right side of history,” said city councilor Renee Villarreal.</p> <p>Unlike the resolution from 1999, this one wasn’t merely a statement of values, but a prescription of policies for the city to implement.</p> <p>As people celebrated, Diaz said, she was thinking about what lay ahead: “Our work begins now.”</p> <p>Over the past year the new policies have been put in place. There’s still work to be done, Diaz said, especially in the realm of language access, but has not received any complaints from members about the city not living up to its stated values.</p> <p>Additionally, Villarreal said the city will start to coordinate with the county, school district, and local community college to ensure each entity is working together in a complementary fashion.</p> <p>The city and groups like Somos hold know-your-rights workshops. Significantly, many of these trainings are peer-to-peer and allow the kind of firsthand information sharing that attorneys cannot always provide.</p> <p>“We do a lot of peer-to-peer because it’s just different,” said Diaz. “The difference is that there are some organizations and some attorneys—and rightly so—that say ‘stay calm, don’t run.’ We know people that have run and have gotten away, so it’s weird for us to say don’t run.”</p> <p>Somos does work with attorneys and groups like the ACLU to offer legal advice. But because a lot of important information comes from other members as they encounter ICE and Border Patrol, peer-to-peer is often most effective. As Diaz explained, “We’re not telling you to run—we’re just saying these are the consequences.”</p> <p>Because there is no playbook for the crackdown on undocumented immigrants currently taking place, Somos un Pueblo Unido has had to be nimble and adapt to shifting ICE tactics. Through its member network, the organization can quickly disseminate information efficiently when ICE agents enter a community.</p> <p>When ICE began launching audits back in February, Somos and other organizations throughout the state were forced to act quickly. Two days after the press conference where Gonzales decried ICE’s disruptive actions, Somos co-sponsored a know-your-rights workshop with the city, the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association, and the Hispanic and Green Chambers of Commerce. The workshop was specifically designed for employers to learn what they are legally required to disclose during an I-9 audit and how they could best protect their employees. Despite just a couple days’ notice, more than 50 businesses showed up.</p> <p>“We’re playing whack-a-mole,” said Diaz, referring to the fast-paced, random nature at which they are encountering new threats. “But that’s what sanctuary for us is—helping people understanding what’s going on and sharing resources. All of the answers are not necessarily going to be there. We have to be nimble, we have to figure out how to attack each tactic as it comes.”</p> <p>Villarreal is also encouraged by the proactive way in which Santa Fe has faced these new threats head on. “It’s a sign of the activism in New Mexico,” she says. “That we have very strong immigrant rights organizations that work well with governments is a large reason why we’ve been successful.</p> <p>Not all governments, however. Santa Fe’s immigrant community knows to avoid the state probation office and opt to deal with any legal business at the county jail. Why? Even though Santa Fe County does not cooperate with ICE, the state of New Mexico under Republican Gov. Susana Martinez does.</p> <p>To be clear, members of Somos un Pueblo Unido are in the thick of a battle against the federal government. For these people, wins can seem temporary, while losses last longer and are felt more acutely. They come in the form of people being deported and families being torn apart. Despite the difficulty in feeling successful, though, New Mexico has proved to be a national leader in resisting deportation.</p> <p>According to Pew’s analysis of data provided by ICE, 143,470 people were arrested during 2017, compared to 110,104 in 2016. (Trump’s first year in office pales in comparison to the 297,898 arrests during President Obama’s first year.)</p> <p>ICE compiles its data based on 24 different regions that largely follow state boundaries. In 2017, Miami (which includes all of Florida), Dallas (which includes the northern half of Texas and Oklahoma) and St. Paul (which includes Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Nebraska) saw the biggest jump in arrests made by ICE with increases of 76 percent, 71 percent, and 67 percent, respectively.</p> <p>San Antonio (central-southern Texas), Houston (southeastern Texas) and San Francisco (Northern California, Hawaii and Guam) saw the lowest increases at 1 percent, 5 percent, and 9 percent, respectively. But those numbers can be misleading. In raw numbers, the Houston region saw the second highest number of deportations, and San Antonio ranked fifth.</p> <p>On the other hand, ICE’s El Paso region, which includes west Texas and all of New Mexico, saw a modest growth in the numbers of arrests at 12 percent. But in raw numbers, the region remains the third lowest of all ICE regions with only 1,892 arrests last year.&nbsp;That still ranks above Baltimore (1,666 arrests) and Buffalo, New York, (1,494 arrests), which both saw larger increases last year of 34 percent and 27 percent, respectively.</p> <p>Considering that New Mexico is a border state, its ability to minimize the number of residents deported stands out.</p> <p>An&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ilrc.org/local-enforcement-map">analysis conducted by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center&nbsp;</a>provides useful context. Mapping every county across the country, ILRC created a 0-7 scale to determine the extent to which counties do or do not work with ICE with 0 representing the highest level of cooperation and 7 representing the lowest level of cooperation.</p> <p>Counties with a rating of 0 either work closely with ICE or have entered formal agreements under which local law enforcement officers are essentially deputized as federal immigration agents. On the other side of the scale, counties with a rating of 6 or 7, like Santa Fe, have comprehensive “sanctuary” protections in place to block local resources from being used to aid ICE.</p> <p>According to ILRC, California laws passed last year turned every county in California into a 6 or 7. Oregon and Vermont also stand out with pro-immigrant policies prevalent across each state. New Mexico is the only other state where most counties have policies that favor protecting immigrants. Of the state’s 33 counties, 22 rank as a 4 or higher.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ilrc.org/sites/default/files/resources/rise_of_sanctuary-lg-20180201.pdf">In a similar report</a>, ILRC also looked at how county-level policies changed after Trump took office. In New Mexico, every county that ranked as a 4 or higher strengthened their policies over the past year. The same is true of every California county, along with many in Oregon. On the reverse side, counties in ICE-collaborative regions like Miami, St. Paul, and Buffalo largely decreased protections for immigrants, likely contributing the increased arrest rates.</p> <p>While sanctuary policies can be credited for part of New Mexico’s success, the state has also built a supportive culture around its immigrant communities. Nowhere is this more true than its second largest city, Las Cruces, which sits just 40 miles north of the Mexico border.</p> <p>In response to raids in February 2017, NM CAFé (an acronym for Comunidades en Acción y de Fé), a faith-based community organization and affiliate of the PICO National Network, led a protest in downtown Las Cruces, blocking parts of Main Street for 45 minutes. The group was joined by local faith leaders, and the next day a group of eight state senators and local representatives signed a letter to Gov. Martinez calling on her to bar ICE from entering sensitive areas like schools, churches, hospitals, and courthouses to calm the sense of anxiety running through the community.</p> <p>“We wanted to push back against this narrative that ICE just gets to come in our communities and kidnap people from their homes,” said Johana Bencomo, a community organizer with CAFé. “We wanted to make sure it was something the community knew about.”</p> <p>In many communities, civil disobedience could be divisive. But in Las Cruces, it seems to be energizing. Anxiety persists, acknowledged Bencomo, but “it hasn’t paralyzed people. If anything, it’s woken up many other people.”</p> <p>Late last year, the city of Las Cruces adopted its own non-discrimination resolution.</p> <p>CAFé also organized its members to pressure the state’s two senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, to vote against a Dreamers bill that included $25 billion in border security funds. In February, Udall and Heinrich joined California’s Sen. Kamala Harris as the only dissenting votes. In addition to its policy work, CAFé embraces organizing strategies similar to Somos’, such as holding know-your-rights workshops and teaching employers and employees what to expect from I-9 audits.</p> <p>CAFé has also created a rapid response network that allows people to alert organizers when immigration raids are taking place. Staff and volunteers serve as operators, and once claims are verified, the organization can send email or text message blasts.</p> <p>And when all else fails, CAFé turns to Father Tom Smith, director of the Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla, just south of Las Cruces.</p> <p>In May 2017, Father Smith took in Jorge Taborda as his first sanctuary case, although Smith prefers the term “Francisican hospitality.” Taborda arrived with his 16-year-old son, who is a U.S. citizen, after his wife was deported to Colombia. And since October, Smith has taken in a second person, Lorena Rivera.</p> <p>&nbsp;“We are called by the gospel and the scriptures to welcome the aliens, to care for those in need,” Smith explained.</p> <p>With room enough for only four people, Smith acknowledges that he alone cannot make a difference on a large scale. And while ICE has agreed not to enter sensitive areas like churches, if federal agents come with a search warrant, he cannot stop them. He said that his work is intended to “raise consciousness.” He allows media access to both Taborda and Rivera and also brings in school groups to learn from their experiences. “They listen to their stories, and it helps change their opinion because they’re hearing it directly from that person,” Smith said.</p> <p>“Father Tom has been a godsend to our community,” Bencomo said. “He has shown the kind of boldness and courage our community members need.”</p> <p>“We are building a really strong counter-narrative that is only enhancing Las Cruces’s culture,” Bencomo affirmed.</p> <p>Despite the work being done by New Mexico communities to keep their residents safe, the Trump administration is determined.</p> <p>The Justice Department is suing California over its new laws that bar private employers as well as state and local jails from cooperating voluntarily with federal immigration officials. The federal government maintains it has complete authority over immigration issues.</p> <p>In Texas, the state legislature passed a law banning sanctuary cities. An injunction had been granted, but a federal appeals court ruled in March that the law could take effect. The court battle will continue.</p> <p>Meanwhile, construction of Trump’s border wall is set to begin in New Mexico as well as parts of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authorized the federal government to pay for potential deployment of up to 4,000 National Guard troops for the border mission through September. Arizona and Texas have committed hundreds of troops so far. Many fear that the further militarization of the border will serve only to cast immigrants in a negative light.</p> <p>With the national landscape more fraught than ever, immigrant rights groups in New Mexico are busy.</p> <p>Somos un Pueblo Unido has helped facilitate meetings to bring community members together with the law enforcement community and recently conducted a training for 90 Farmington police officers on the benefits of not checking immigration status, which they have ceased doing. Somos was also involved in McKinley County’s decision to cease its cooperation with ICE, and it helped dissuade Luna County, west of Las Cruces, from entering into a deputizing agreement with the agency. In Albuquerque, the election of a progressive mayor has meant a non-discrimination resolution in the state’s largest city is making its way through the city council.</p> <p>The thought of continuing at this pace for another three years of a Trump term is daunting, but Diaz is encouraged by the experiences of the past year. “What it takes is giving people the space to stand up for themselves.”</p> <p>Bencomo agreed. “I believe in the power of an organized community,” she said. “I hope we can keep building power so that we can continue to protect more families.”</p><p><em>This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/its-working-fewer-deportations-where-sanctuary-policies-are-in-place-20180411?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180413&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180413+CID_50f5c2f2793543158c0ee3652bc94f44&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=this%20ar"><strong>YES! Magazine</strong></a> under the title “A Year Later, Fewer Deportations in Cities That Adopted ‘Welcoming’ Policies.”</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rachel-steinhardt/welcome-to-america">Welcome to America?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/how-politicians-and-media-made-us-hate-immigrants">How politicians and the media made us hate immigrants </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Michael J. Dax Activism Thu, 26 Apr 2018 20:52:49 +0000 Michael J. Dax 117460 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sacred activism: a movement for global healing https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/martin-winiecki/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our natural sense of interdependence has been replaced by an addictive focus on personal short-term profit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Leila Dregger_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Participants in the&nbsp;<em>Defend the Sacred</em>&nbsp;gathering on Odeceixe beach in Portugal, August 12 2017. Credit: Copyright Tamera Institute/Yuval Kovo. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Humanity is at the pinnacle of a historic death cult. Late last year, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a dramatic “<a href="http://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/">warning to humanity</a>” over biodiversity loss due to overconsumption of resources. They agreed that if we continue “business as usual,” we’ll shortly approach a point where it will be too late to shift our apocalyptic trajectory; worldwide ecosystem collapse will be inevitable.</p> <p>In its compulsion for unending growth, capitalism has developed a vampiric mechanism of planetary proportions, sucking the lifeblood out of the Earth’s body. In its addiction to mining, oil drilling, deforestation, the exploitation of billions of lives and the mental enslavement of humanity, today’s global economic system precisely embodies&nbsp;<a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/seeing-wetiko-on-capitalism-mind-viruses-and-antidotes-for-a-world-in-transition/" target="_blank"><em>Wetiko</em>, an Algonquin word for “cannibalism</a>” that illustrates the insanity we’ve fallen prey to. Wetiko is the psycho-spiritual “disease of the white man” which makes amnesiacs of us—our natural sense of basic interdependence with other beings is obliterated and replaced with an addictive focus on personal short-term profit.</p> <p>Through an insidious history of colonization, genocide, and imperialism, the Wetiko virus has gradually infected (nearly) all of humanity, brainwashing us into a mode of thought that proclaims that “the Earth is a dead exploitable resource,” “animals and plants have no soul,” “life is a game of competition and fight,” “love always ends in disaster,” “either we kill our enemies or they will kill us,” “we will be punished for our mistakes” and so on. </p> <p>Under the spell of this subconscious conditioning, we are sleepwalking towards an abyss, lacking the psychological and spiritual capacities needed to make sense of and respond to the crisis we’re facing. With our collective survival on the line, we need a wholly different vision of ourselves and our relation to the living world that’s able to awaken our primordial love for life and our desire to serve it without reservation. Only with a unifying narrative that addresses the human disconnection at the root of our global crisis will the many social, political and ecological movements converge into a relevant power for global system change.</p> <p><strong>The seeds of Standing Rock.</strong></p> <p>What is sacred? It might seem cynical to speak about something “sacred” after millennia of unspeakable atrocities committed in its name. Yet, living in a civilization that has defiled virtually everything, emptied this world of meaning and processed it into commodities, our longing for the sacred might, after all, be the crucial guide out of our dead end.</p> <p>When about 30 members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe confronted the fossil fuel industry and the U.S. government, setting up a camp at their burial ground which was to be bulldozed for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, they did so to “defend the sacred.” Ladonna Bravebull Allard, founder of the Sacred Stone Camp affirms, “We stood up because we had no other choice. Water is life. If there’s no water, we will die.”</p> <p>Such “sacred activism” comes as a deep re-membering:&nbsp;<em>We are of this Earth. There is no salvation outside of it.</em>Patriarchal religions told of some out-of-Earth entity making covenants with exceptional people and asking us to renounce this world. Yet the original covenant of all people is&nbsp;<em>with the Earth</em>&nbsp;and is therefore of an Earthly, sensual nature. Activism doesn’t become “sacred” merely because it works “on behalf of” something sacred; but by recognizing, honoring, embodying and celebrating the inherent sacredness of all that lives—which isn’t anywhere beyond this world, but right here. </p> <p>Sacred activism challenges us to make a choice at every moment, to decide for life, for solidarity and for trust despite the temptation of an overwhelming field of fear, greed and hatred. It was this clear orientation that fueled the resistance at Standing Rock – and drew in people from all directions to join it. Representatives of over 300 Indigenous cultures, black bloc anarchists, environmentalists, spiritual seekers and over 2500 army veterans banded together beyond their usual ideological divisions, because they were united by something more fundamental than ideologies – a shared spiritual center.</p> <p>Standing Rock inspired similar resistances globally. Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota People, writes in February 2018, “People all over the world are now beginning to understand that [water] is a living spirit: it can heal when you pray with it and die if you do not respect it. (…) Standing Rock has marked the beginning of an international movement that will continue to work peacefully, purposefully, and tirelessly for the protection of water along all areas of poisonous oil pipelines and across all of Mother Earth.”</p> <p>Around the world, movements are arising towards decentralizing power, culture and economies, leaving the mega-systems of nation states and globalized corporations behind and building a society based on autonomous regions in which people can reclaim their sovereignty while caring for each other and the Earth again. There are remarkable movements in the Global South, such as the Indigenous Zapatista movement in Mexico, the Rojava revolution in the Kurdish zones of northern Syria, the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil, peace communities, such as San José de Apartadó in Colombia and many more. In the Global North, we see a revival of socialist ideals and the emergence of municipalism.</p> <p>It’s worth noting that this revolution is feminine in essence. Women are the heart of many of these movements. From Rojava to Chiapas, from Standing Rock to Barcelona, we’re seeing the resurgence of feminine power fostering community, self-determination, healing and care for the Earth, shaking the foundations of patriarchal dominance.</p> <p>How can this revolutionary impulse succeed? Trump defeated the Standing Rock movement, Erdogan is cracking down on Rojava and Colombian peace communities are severely threatened by paramilitaries. Running up against a globalized trillion-dollar economic, political and military system, every group and place resisting will face the same destiny as long as they remain on merely the local, regional or even national levels. The victory over capitalist globalization can, logically, only be global. In other words, either we form an unbreakable global alliance or we’re bound to fail. Yet, in this struggle, failure is not an option.</p> <p><strong>A starting point for a global alliance?</strong></p> <p>As I see it, a global alliance bringing together the many movements in the North and South, and mobilizing the many millions wanting radical change, could emerge around the following five shared thematic areas:</p> <p>1) Fierce nonviolent resistance against the fossil fuel industry</p> <p>Stopping the fossil fuel industry before it’s too late is the first demand for our collective survival. As people stood up against the pipeline at Standing Rock, people must come together and stand up everywhere to both impede new fossil fuel projects and shut down existing ones. At the same time, let’s increase the pressure on municipalities, countries, companies and banks to divest from fossil fuels and end subsidies. </p> <p>The divestment movement reached a historic milestone in the first days of 2018 when New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced his city would divest from fossil fuels and sue leading oil companies over climate change. Activist and author Naomi Klein, who assisted the announcement, comments that “What felt politically impossible yesterday suddenly seems possible.”</p> <p>2) Transition to decentralized, clean energy and large-scale ecosystem restoration</p> <p>Let’s establish regenerative energy systems based on the inexhaustible sources of sun and wind. We must ensure the transition will be decentralized, instead of staying stuck in the corporate framework. Let’s organize to create a decentralized infrastructure for energy-autonomous cities and regions.</p> <p>Additionally, let’s rehabilitate ecosystems worldwide, as desertification, droughts, wildfires and misery aren’t only the results of carbon emissions but also of the destruction of ecosystems and natural water cycles. By creating systems of local rainwater retention, we no longer only need to adapt to climate change, we can actually restore and rebalance our destabilized climate.</p> <p>There are powerful examples to follow, such as India’s “Water Gandhi” Rajendra Singh and his NGO&nbsp;<a href="http://tarunbharatsangh.in/">Tarun Bharat Sangh</a>&nbsp;that mobilized villagers in Rajasthan to restore thousands of square kilometers of degraded land, through which they’ve revived several rivers, rebalanced rainfall, ended extreme weather events and secured an abundant self-sufficient water and food supply for about 100,000 people in less than 25 years. Following a&nbsp;<a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">New&nbsp;</a><a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">Water&nbsp;</a><a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">Paradigm</a>, let’s organize in communities united around watersheds for natural and decentralized water management wherever we live. “<a href="https://www.rainforclimate.com/">Rain for Climate</a>,” a movement initiated by the Slovakian hydrologist Michal Kravčík, offers a corresponding global action plan.</p> <p>3) Ethics of universal solidarity</p> <p>To truly heal this planet, we need the power of community, which is much more than simply a political coalition. Whenever people come together around a shared goal and practice solidarity, they connect with a power greater than the sum of their individual efforts. Thus, they’re unified and driven by meaning, trust and possibility, able to overcome any obstacle.</p> <p>We must recognize the crucial role of community, not just as an accidental side effect of camps or occupations, but as a vital aspect of post-capitalist society and so consciously engage in building and maintaining it. Thereby, politics becomes a matter of social design, because the divisions we’re suffering in our movements, most of the time, result from a lack of trust and solidarity among human beings. </p> <p>We all carry a wound that expresses itself as fear or anger, attack or retreat in one situation or the other. So far, this wound has mostly been more powerful than people’s will for change. Systems of domination have prevailed by exploiting this human weakness, sowing discord among activists and setting them against each other.</p> <p>A planetary community of sacred activists relies on living, breathing trust among its members. It will grow in power to the extent that we cultivate universal solidarity, truthful communication and mutual support. Instead of propagating moralistic heroism, let’s create places of encounter and new forms of coexistence that will allow us to heal our wounds and rebuild trust.</p> <p>4) A common focus on an emerging vision for humanity</p> <p>The world seems ready for radical change. The majority of the population in the West no longer supports the dominant economic and political system and is turning away from it in what journalist Chris Hedges calls the “invisible revolution.” Recent years have seen massive outbreaks of public anger and longing for a different society. Yet, little has changed. According to the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, we’re stuck in a state which most recognize as beyond insane, simply because no one can see a credible alternative.</p> <p>The necessary global shift begins by radically reimagining our civilization. If we have an authentic vision for a nonviolent and regenerative way of life, a culture of solidarity and trust, we’ll be able to midwife the global transition. This isn’t anything we can make up; a true vision is something fundamentally different from a constructed idea, wishful fantasy or ideology.</p> <p>As we abandon the mainstream mentality of dominant culture, we also overcome the drought of creativity which blocks people from imagining an alternative. We recognize that our spirit is deeply creative and that we always carry vision—this is why we’re alive. When a vision touches our heart and we allow it to guide our life, we’re driven by our deepest purpose and have enormous energies at our disposal. Yet we carry vision not only individually but also collectively. </p> <p>As Ladonna Bravebull Allard of Standing Rock puts it, “The shared vision for humanity exists, whether we see it or not.” Our task is to become receptive for it, to see it, make it visible and activate it, using all means of communication, so that our collective imagination will no longer be driven by dreams of downfall, but elevated by the possibility of worldwide healing and unification.</p> <p>5) A different principle of power</p> <p>The fight between capitalism and those defending life is a power struggle. We need to seize power, but we need a different kind of power than the one usually deployed by revolutionaries. We have no chance of trying to overcome a globalized system of violence by constructing a counter-force through mass mobilization and fight alone. Many attempts to overthrow the dominant systems didn’t originate from power, but powerlessness, because activists let themselves be corrupted by the fear and hatred those systems propagated.</p> <p>Native American activist Winona LaDuke writes, “Part of the mythology that they’ve been teaching you is that you have no power. Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul. (…) Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.”</p> <p>Despite terrible injuries, all life still automatically strives towards healing, regeneration and convergence, as this is necessary for its continuity. In nature, we find universal patterns at work, which operate according to what sociologist and futurist Dieter Duhm calls the “sacred matrix.” He writes:</p> <p>“The sacred matrix is the cosmic pattern which forms the basis for the organization of life. It steers the information and energies necessary for the evolution and maintenance of life. When the individual connects with this guidance, channels for healing open up. When humanity organizes itself in accordance with the sacred matrix, channels for global healing powers open up.”<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Beyond all alienation and division, there’s something all beings have in common, something we all deeply love. This something carries no name and is beyond description, but it is what people of all ages have experienced as “sacred.” When the veil of separation falls, we face the animated, eternal and truly sacred character of existence. </p> <p>When people enter into this resonance, they experience healing, regeneration and convergence and often find themselves under great protection. Studying and learning to live according to the principles of sacred power will allow our movements to succeed in ways that previously looked impossible. The key to this power doesn’t primarily lie in external activities and strategies, but in a conscious shift of the whole way we live, think, speak and act – from the matrix of fear and violence to the sacred matrix.</p> <p><strong>Utopia or oblivion?</strong></p> <p>Ultimately, our success will result from unprecedented collaboration between the different organs of the emerging global alliance. A key part of this is to establish experimental centers that concretely model post-capitalist societies on a small scale, developing social and ecological structures that invite in and no longer systematically block off the healing powers of life. Such centers (at Tamera, we call these “<a href="https://www.tamera.org/healing-biotopes-plan/">Healing Biotopes</a>”) as well as still-existing Indigenous communities could provide all those wanting to step out of the current system with the necessary knowledge to create functioning communities of trust and cooperation.</p> <p>More and more places could break out of the dominant system, creating autonomous regions, and so give rise to a new system based on a local sovereignty rooted in global interdependence. While social movements slow down the pace of destruction through their resistance, they could also restore ecosystems and implement the infrastructure for post-capitalism. </p> <p>Inventors could contribute new technologies to an ever-increasing number of regenerative communities and regions, donors could support them financially, journalists could provide the necessary public attention and allied progressive governments could create “free zones” for them to operate in. Guided by a shared global vision, an ever-increasing number of people would help birth a new era. Once a global alternative becomes realistic for a critical number of people, we would have created the conditions for the dominant system to implode and give way to a new one.</p> <p>This is no longer only a dream. As dystopian scenarios become imminent, “utopia” remains as the only realistic way out. We mustn’t forget that it has always been through existential necessity, vision, community and surrender to spirit that people have made the apparently impossible possible. Let’s come together to build a world where creativity, cooperation and mutual support become the foundations of a sacred way of life.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/news/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing/">Kosmos Journal</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Sacred activism: the story of Tamera</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/culture-shift-redirecting-humanity-s-path-to-flourishing-future">Culture shift: redirecting humanity’s path to a flourishing future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-catastrophe-only-cure-for-weakness-of-radical-politics">Is catastrophe the only cure for the weakness of radical politics? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Martin Winiecki Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Love and Spirituality Tue, 24 Apr 2018 20:06:42 +0000 Martin Winiecki 117458 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Intimidation: the new normal https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/alex-nicoll/intimidation-new-normal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Increasingly, powerful people use threats, bribes and other tactics to avoid public scrutiny.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AlexNichools.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="212" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/16210667@N02/6903382761">Flickr/Craig Sunter</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The allegations that <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/stormy-daniels-describes-her-alleged-affair-with-donald-trump-60-minutes-interview/">Stormy Daniels had an affair with President Trump</a> are being cast in the media as just another Trumpian scandal, a sexy side-plot to the larger spy novel of Russiagate. News coverage has focused on the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/us/politics/stormy-trump.html">salacious nature of the story</a> in an attempt to highlight Trump as a singular bad actor who is far outside the accepted norms of the rest of society.</p> <p>In reality, his behavior is frighteningly normal among the wealthy and powerful: intimidation is increasingly common among a whole class of politicians and business people worldwide. <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/11/28/no-death-no-taxes">Silicon Valley investor and Palantir founder</a> Peter Thiel, Harvey Weinstein, the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/us/harvey-weinstein-harassment-allegations.html">movie producer and alleged sexual predator</a>, and Erik Prince, <a href="https://www.wired.com/2011/12/blackwater-rebrand-academi/">founder of Academi (formally known as Blackwater)</a>, are all high-profile examples of such behavior in the USA.</p> <p>Media critics Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi have coined the term “<a href="https://soundcloud.com/citationsneeded/episode-22-trumpwashing-how-the-media-uses-trump-to-launder-our-criminal-past">Trumpwashing</a>” to describe how media outlets often tend to misattribute systemic issues to the character flaws of a single individual, in this case the US President. But this tendency obscures the extent and importance of what’s really going on. We live in a <a href="https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/a-guide-to-statistics-on-historical-trends-in-income-inequality">historically unequal world</a> in which the most powerful use a wide variety of tactics to protect their wealth and reputations. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/apr/07/global-inequality-tipping-point-2030">As inequality worsens</a> it’s essential to catalogue and understand their playbook.</p> <p>The first tactic in this playbook is to gain silence by buying loyalty, usually through offers of employment. After their alleged affair, Trump suggested that Daniels should appear on his NBC show <em>Celebrity Apprentice</em>. This may have been a ploy to continue their contacts, but it also would have established a relationship under which she would have been dependent on him for money. This is a pattern for Trump; during his <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trump-a-playboy-model-and-a-system-for-concealing-infidelity-national-enquirer-karen-mcdougal">alleged affair with model Karen McDougal</a> he offered to buy her an apartment in New York City outright, an offer he also made to Daniels.</p> <p>Harvey Weinstein also used offers of employment and monetary gain to keep his alleged crimes hidden, assaulting and harassing women while they were working with him on one of his movies or as employees of his company. As one of Hollywood’s most famous producers he could hold his victims’ careers hostage. Because their financial wellbeing and career reputation were directly tied to him they were less likely to speak out.</p> <p>While most employers are not nearly as abusive, they have a similar level of financial control over their employees. <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/at-will-employment-overview.aspx">Almost all non-union private employees in the US</a> work under at-will contracts, which means that they can be fired for any reason except their membership in a protected class such as race or religion. In a country where only <a href="https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/financial-security-0118/">39 per cent &nbsp;of people can cover a financial emergency of $1,000</a> this means that employers have a major influence over the loyalty of their workers. If you want to keep your job, you’d better not complain either internally or externally.</p> <p>If silence can’t be bought through this kind of intimidation it can be guaranteed through legal means. Daniels was <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-lawyer-arranged-130-000-payment-for-adult-film-stars-silence-1515787678">paid $130,000 to sign a non-disclosure agreement</a> (or NDA) binding her to stay silent about Trump. She was only able to break her silence because of legal technicalities, though Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, has subsequently <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/16/politics/trump-cohen-federal-court-stormy-daniels/index.html">filed a $20 million suit against her</a>. While it appears that sloppy legal work might allow Daniels to tell her story, most NDAs are either too watertight or insufficiently high-profile to justify the dangers of breaking their terms.</p> <p>In fact such agreements have become an <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Papers.cfm?abstract_id=2401781">increasingly common tool</a> for powerful people to guarantee silence about any unsavory or unflattering information. Most are so broadly worded that they can <a href="https://hbr.org/2018/01/ndas-are-out-of-control-heres-what-needs-to-change">cover anything that would portray a company or its executives in a negative light</a>. NDAs may not <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/10/legal-agreements-sexual-assault-ndas/543252/">legally cover up illegal action</a>, but their strong language and broad definition certainly scare employees away from trying to challenge those in the hierarchy above them. Even if such a challenge were to materialize, few employees can afford the cost of the lawsuits involved.</p> <p>When incriminating information does hit the public eye, wealthy people have other legal ways of punishing those who speak out. Lawyer <a href="https://www.gq.com/story/charles-harder-gawker-lawyer">Charles Harder</a> is famous for doing this, and recently joined Trump’s legal team for the Stormy Daniels’ case (he also worked briefly with Harvey Weinstein but was <a href="http://variety.com/2017/biz/news/harvey-weinstein-lawyer-new-york-times-lawsuit-1202590441/">fired in October 2017</a>). Harder made his name during <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/133806/peter-thiels-revenge-gawker-neither-justice-philanthropy">Peter Thiel’s revenge campaign</a> against the media website, Gawker.</p> <p>After Gawker subsidiary Valleywag <a href="http://gawker.com/335894/peter-thiel-is-totally-gay-people">publicly outed Thiel as gay</a> and continued to cover his activities, Thiel compared the company to <a href="http://gawker.com/5259805/peter-thiel-valleywag-is-the-silicon-valley-equivalent-of-al-qaeda">“terrorists.”</a> In 2011, Aron D’Souza, an Oxford Law Student, met with Thiel to discuss potential legal strategies to punish Gawker. <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanmac/this-is-the-man-who-helped-peter-thiel-demolish-gawker-mr-a?utm_term=.dn6KwWP89#.fiG75vyoJ">D’Souza suggested that Thiel finance lawsuits against the website</a> and then coordinated with Harder to implement this strategy.</p> <p>Harder worked on multiple suits against Gawker, which was <a href="http://gawker.com/how-things-work-1785604699">finally bankrupted in a suit with Hulk Hogan in 2016.</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/26/business/dealbook/peter-thiel-tech-billionaire-reveals-secret-war-with-gawker.html">Thiel spent over $10 million</a> on the Hogan lawsuit, and <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/mr-a-peter-thiel-destroy-gawker-report-2018-2">invested $45 million in D’Souza’s investment firm</a>. Those with close to unlimited resources can easily manipulate the legal system in their favor.</p> <p>Another example is Erik Prince, the founder of the Academi (Blackwater) investment firm, who <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/congresswoman-claims-intimidation-blackwater-founder/story?id=15059013">threatened Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky with a lawsuit</a> after she called for an investigation of his company. Prince’s lawyer sent Schakowsky a letter accusing her of making “false and defamatory statements” because she spoke of his emigration to the United Arab Emirates as an attempt to flee from prosecution.</p> <p>Prince’s lawyers also brought up Schakowsky’s husband’s <a href="https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-08-31-congresswoman-husband_x.htm">indictment for $2.3 million in fraud</a>, for which he served five months in prison. It’s an example that highlights two other common tactics of intimidation: the use of disparaging information to silence those who speak out and the use of money to bury stories completely if that doesn’t work.</p> <p>In the case of Daniels, the right-wing media has focused on her career in porn and erotic dancing in an attempt to discredit her. The most egregious of these attempts has come from the National Enquirer, which is owned by <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/03/the-national-enquirers-fervor-for-trump">close Trump associate David Pecker</a>. The Enquirer has published <a href="https://www.nationalenquirer.com/search/?search=stormy+daniels">two articles about her on their website</a>, both of which use photos of Daniels in racy outfits. <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trump-a-playboy-model-and-a-system-for-concealing-infidelity-national-enquirer-karen-mcdougal">Pecker’s magazine also bought former-model Karen McDougal’s story</a> about her own alleged affair with Trump, declined to publish it, and then put her under a Non Disclosure Agreement in order to keep the story from running elsewhere.</p> <p>The Enquirer was also instrumental in Harvey Weinstein’s attempts to silence his accusers. In 2016, the magazine’s Chief Content Officer (Dylan Howard) <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/harvey-weinsteins-army-of-spies">shared incriminating information</a> with Weinstein that one of its reporters had received about the entertainment mogul, and then declined to run the story. <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/harvey-weinsteins-army-of-spies">Weinstein sent a private army of spies from organizations such as the Israeli company Black Cube</a> to gain as much information as possible about his accusers, ranging from their current media contacts to potentially incriminating information from their pasts. <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/harvey-weinsteins-army-of-spies">An agent even posed as a wealthy donor to women’s rights foundations</a> in order to get close with the actress Rose McGowan, who one of Weinstein’s key accusers.</p> <p>If none of these other forms of intimidation are successful in buying silence, there’s always the threat or actual use of physical violence. Daniels says that <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/stormy-daniels-describes-her-alleged-affair-with-donald-trump-60-minutes-interview/">a stranger threatened her after trying to sell a story about her alleged affair with Trump</a>. In a sworn deposition to a US Federal court, <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/blackwater-founder-implicated-murder/">an anonymous Academi/Blackwater employee alleged that Prince either murdered or facilitated the murder of people</a> at the company who were cooperating with federal investigators. This tactic has become less common in most workplaces, but it has deep historical roots in the US—most famously with <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/147619/pinkertons-still-never-sleep">the Pinkertons</a> and their violent anti-union activities.</p> <p>Prince, Trump and Weinstein are only the most obvious and public faces of intimidation. Behind them is a deeper and more systematic process of normalizing threats and other tactics in order to silence anyone with information that embarrasses the powerful. A small industry of lawyers and private security firms has sprung up to protect the ultra-rich from the consequences of their illegal or immoral actions.</p> <p>That we even have access to these few stories is the exception rather than the rule. In each case, a dedicated group of journalists and whistleblowers were willing to risk their careers, and perhaps even their lives, to get the truth out. There are surely many other examples where intimidation has already succeeded in curbing dissent, especially in the case of abusive employers.</p> <p>Faced by such problems, <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-me-too-campaign-was-created-by-a-black-woman-10-years-ago_us_59e61a7fe4b02a215b336fee">the #MeToo movement provides a roadmap forward</a>. It proves that highlighting specific stories, analyzing the ways they’re connected to broader societal issues, and then applying these analyses to our own lives can have a major impact. Weinstein might have lost his company and his power, but more significantly, the conversation about sexual harassment and abuse has spread far around the world.</p> <p>If we can spread this more systemic approach to other oppressions in our day-to-day lives then we can break their power as well. This is not to diminish the specific impacts of sexism and sexual violence but to tie them to a larger analysis of power and a process of personal and societal transformation. Resisting intimidation, wherever it comes from, is a good place to start. &nbsp;</p><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 Alex Nicoll Activism Sun, 22 Apr 2018 22:23:40 +0000 Alex Nicoll 117279 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How do you tell the kids that Grandma is in jail for resisting nuclear weapons? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/frida-berrigan/how-do-you-tell-kids-that-grandma-is-in-jail-for-resisting-nuclear-wea <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Wait, these nuclear weapons…They are war things?” Seamus asked. “Yep, they are war things bud.” “Good for grandma.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><em>This article was first published in&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/kings-bay-plowshares-resisting-nuclear-weapons-racism/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FridaBerrigan3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></span></span></p><p class="image-caption">The seven members of the Kings Bay Plowshares, who entered the Georgia naval base on April 4 2018 to protest&nbsp;nuclear weapons, white supremacy and racism. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Kings Bay Plowshares. All rights reserved.</p> <p>“Our grandma is in jail,” Madeline tells a woman wrestling a shopping cart at Target.</p> <p>“She went over a war fence and tried to make peace,” Seamus adds helpfully. “They arrested her, and she is in jail now.”</p> <p>“Where?” the woman asks, looking from them to me in disbelief and maybe pity.</p> <p>“We don’t remember,” the kids say, suddenly done with their story and ready to make passionate pleas for the colorful items in the dollar section over the woman’s shoulder.</p> <p>“Georgia,” I say, but I don’t have a lot of energy to add detail to my kids’ story. They hit all the high points.</p> <p>“There’s a lot going on these days,” she says. I agree, and we move on into the store and our separate errands.</p> <p>I was happy not to say more at that moment, happy to avoid a sobbing breakdown at Target, happy to wrestle one little bit of normal out of a very abnormal day.</p> <p>My mom, Liz McAlister, who turned 78 in November, had been arrested deep inside the King’s Bay Naval Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Along with six friends, she carried banners, statements, hammers and blood onto the base. They started their action on April 4: the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.</p> <p>Their statement made connections between nuclear weapons, white supremacy and deeply embedded racism. It is a long statement, but given that they were carrying it into a free-fire zone—where military personnel are authorized to use deadly force—there was no particular need for brevity: “We come to Kings Bay to answer the call of the prophet Isaiah (2:4) to ‘beat swords into plowshares’ by disarming the world’s deadliest nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine. We repent of the sin of white supremacy that oppresses and takes the lives of people of color here in the United States and throughout the world. We resist militarism that has employed deadly violence to enforce global domination. We believe reparations are required for stolen land, labor and lives.”</p> <p>They walked onto King’s Bay Naval Station just hours after&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/police-shooting-brooklyn-crown-heights.html">Saheed Vassell</a>&nbsp;was shot and killed in a barrage of bullets by New York City police officers, just hours after&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article207935124.html">hundreds of demonstrators</a>&nbsp;filled the streets of Sacramento for another day, shouting “Stephon Clark, Stephon Clark, Stephon Clark” and demanding accountability after the young father of two was killed by police officers on March 18. These seven white activists know that when you are black in this country, your own corner, your grandmother’s own backyard, is a free-fire zone more dangerous than any military base.There is indeed a lot going on these days.</p> <p>The statement continues: “Dr. King said, ‘The greatest purveyor of violence in the world (today) is my own government.’ This remains true in the midst of our endless war on terror. The United States has embraced a permanent war economy. ‘Peace through strength’ is a dangerous lie in a world that includes weapons of mass destruction on hair-trigger alert. The weapons from one Trident have the capacity to end life as we know it on planet Earth.”</p> <p>Kings Bay is the largest nuclear&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Submarine_Base_Kings_Bay">submarine base</a>&nbsp;in the world at about 16,000 acres. It is the home port of the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet’s Trident nuclear-powered submarines. There are eight in total, two guided missile submarines and six ballistic missile submarines. These submarines were all built in Groton, Connecticut—right across the river from our home in New London. Each submarine, my mom and her friends assert, carries the capacity to cause devastation equivalent to 600 of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima, Japan.</p> <p>“Nuclear weapons kill every day through our mining, production, testing, storage and dumping, primarily on indigenous native land. This weapons system is a cocked gun being held to the head of the planet. As white Catholics, we take responsibility to atone for the horrific crimes stemming from our complicity with ‘the triplets’ [of evil]. Only then can we begin to restore right relationships. We seek to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons, racism and economic exploitation.”</p> <p>That is not the end; you can read the whole statement and their indictment of the United States on their&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/1558500837566350/">Facebook group</a>. These sorts of actions—called Plowshares— have a nearly 40-year history, since my father and uncle and six others broke into the King of Prussia plant in Pennsylvania in 198o to “beat swords into plowshares.” They struck at nosecones with hammers and marked the weapons with blood to reveal the human costs and mess and suffering the weapons are built to wreak in the world.</p> <p>My father participated in five of these Plowshares actions in his lifetime and helped organize countless others. Committed conspirers, steeped in active nonviolence, have carried out more than 100 of these actions since 1980. This is my mom’s second action. She and her current co-defendant Clare Grady, were part of the 1983 Griffiss Plowshares in upstate New York.</p> <p>My parents estimated that they spent 11 years of their 27-year marriage separated by prison, and it was mostly these actions that kept them apart and away from us. Countless life events in our family—birthdays, graduations, celebrations of all kinds—were stuttered by the absence of one of our parents. I say this with pain and loss, but no self-pity. Dad was able to attend my high school graduation, but not my brother’s. We went straight from my college graduation to visit my dad in jail in Maine. </p> <p>I missed all the raging keggers, sweaty dance parties and tearful goodbyes that marked the end of college for my friends to sit knee-to-knee with my father in a cramped and soulless room. On chairs designed for maximum discomfort, I tried to share my momentous day and all my 22-year-old big feelings while ignoring the guards and the room crowded with a dozen others doing the same thing. We wrote thousands of letters. They often crisscrossed each other so that there was a constant weaving of story and sharing across the miles.</p> <p>So, when I explained that grandma was in jail to my kids—11-year-old Rosena, 5-year-old Seamus and 4-year-old Madeline—I felt the weight of a lifetime of missing and provisional family experiences, frequently lived in prison visiting rooms and through urgently scrawled letters.</p> <p>I tried to figure out a way to talk to them that would make sense and, in thinking it through, I realized that none of this should make sense to anyone! Nuclear weapons? Absurd! Police brutality and white supremacy? Senseless! Plowshares actions with their symbolic transformation and ritual mess-making? A foolhardy act of David versus Goliath proportions!</p> <p>So, I didn’t try to make it make sense. I just forged ahead, grateful that they had some context: We had participated in the Good Friday Stations of the Cross organized by Catholic Worker friends at our local submarine base a few days earlier, and—the night before—we had gone to hear a dramatic reading of Dr. King’s “<a href="http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html">Letter from a Birmingham Jail</a>.”</p> <p>“Hey guys, know how we went to the sub base on Friday? Grandma was arrested in a place like that late last night. She is in jail now. She and her friends broke onto the base to say that nuclear weapons are wrong. Remember how Dr. King talked about just and unjust laws?” They nodded and remembered that King said “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” I told them that Grandma thinks that nuclear weapons—things that can destroy so much life on our planet—shouldn’t be built and protected and paid for when so many people are hungry, so many kids don’t have good schools to go to, so many people don’t have good homes. I went on and on.</p> <p>“Wait, these nuclear weapons…They are war things?” Seamus asked.</p> <p>“Yep, they are war things, bud.”</p> <p>“Good for grandma,” he said, and that was the end of our serious conversation.</p> <p>Mom and her friends are charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass and two felonies: possession of tools for the commission of a crime and interference with government property.</p> <p>The kids and I didn’t talk about the kind of jail time that could mean for their grandma. It is all I am thinking about right now, but they moved on, imagining out loud and with a lot of enthusiasm how grandma got by the attack dogs and police officers they had seen at the Groton Submarine Base. They were sure there was a similar set up in Georgia. “Grandma needed a ladder and a cheetah,” said Madeline. “A cheetah is the only animal that can outrun dogs and police officer’s bullets.”</p> <p>I am pretty sure no cheetahs were involved in the Kings Bay Plowshares, but I am happy my daughter sees her grandmother as a fierce and powerful anti-war activist astride a wild cat.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/social-movements-need-imagination-which-is-why-i-m-not-buying-my-kids-">Social movements need imagination, which is why I’m not buying my kids any more toys</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/to-remain-in-prison-for-rest-of-my-life-is-greatest-honor-you-could-g">To remain in prison for the rest of my life is the greatest honor you could give me: the story of Sister Megan Rice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/john-dear/life-and-death-of-daniel-berrigan">The life and death of Daniel Berrigan</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 Frida Berrigan Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 19 Apr 2018 18:56:44 +0000 Frida Berrigan 117278 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Do we have the right to financial rebellion? A conversation with Enric Duran https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/niki-seth-smith/do-we-have-right-to-financial-rebellion-conversation-with-enric-duran <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need to practice economic disobedience so that radical alternatives can flourish.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/nikisethsmith.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Enric Duran Giralt, anti-capitalist activist. Credit: <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0</a> via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33043672">Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p> <p class="Default">It’s not easy to get in touch with <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enric_Duran">Enric Duran</a>. Dubbed the ‘Robin Hood of the Banks’ by the mainstream media, the Catalan activist defrauded the Spanish banking system of nearly half a million euros in the period 2006 to 2008. He used the money to fund a range of local and global initiatives aimed at building alternative structures outside the state.</p> <p class="Default">In 2013 he skipped bail and has since been on the run within the EU, living what he calls a “nomadic” existence. For many, Duran is a living symbol of the power of civil disobedience. For others, including the Spanish government, he’s a naive criminal. Either way, his ideas around the right to resist state power and the importance of building autonomous financial systems have gained fresh relevance today, both through the upheavals in Catalonia and the rapid growth of the cryptocurrency sector.</p> <p class="Default">I’ve been chatting to him for some time on the secure messaging service Telegram and we eventually set up a connection through the open source conferencing programme Jitsi. With his black beard and heavy-set eyebrows and a gap between his front teeth, Duran looks like a typical 41-year old Mediterranean man. Behind him is a framed print of a tulip, reminiscent of a hotel room. I smile as I ask him where he is, and he smiles as he responds that he can’t tell me. “It doesn’t need to be known in any public intervention,” he explains. This is a typical response from a man who seems to view all of his personal actions within the frame of achieving social change and what he calls “integral revolution.”</p> <p class="Default">“Integral revolution means comprehensive transformation from below of all aspects of life like culture, economic, social, personal, ecological,” he says. “We achieve this by empowering communities from below to build a new society, new systems that are not based on the state or capitalism.” It’s the familiar goal of prefigurative politics: building a new world in the shell of the old.</p> <p class="Default">In order to achieve this goal, Duran helped set up the Catalan Integral Cooperative, a loose network of cooperative ventures. He has never revealed how much of the loan money was funnelled into projects related to the CIC, preferring to say his “action with the banks” had a “direct consequence” on its foundation. <a href="http://commonstransition.org/the-catalan-integral-cooperative-an-organizational-study-of-a-post-capitalist-cooperative/">Today</a> the cooperative facilitates everything from barter markets to housing projects and stores, with over two and a half thousand members taking part in its local exchange groups.</p> <p class="Default">“It’s clear that you can't build this kind of alternative if you don't break the laws of the state,” Duran says. “We need to practice economic disobedience in a way that supports these alternatives.” Duran has many inspirations, including the Zapatista movement, the revolutionary political and militant rebels who have established a network of autonomous communities in southern Mexico.</p> <p class="Default">I ask him if he ever had any doubts during the three years where he took out 68 different loans from banks across Spain, from car loans to credit cards, with no intention of paying them back. He shrugs. “No, I had no doubts. I feel I did the right thing, it was powerful and I had to do it…I had been a full-time activist since I was 20, I was quite detached from my family life since I was very young. So in my case perhaps it was more easy.”</p> <p class="Default">He understands that personal courage is needed to commit acts of civil disobedience and has consistently used his own story to encourage others to follow suit. In 2012, after a public prosecutor along with 16 banking institutions called for him to serve an eight-year sentence, Duran posted a <a href="https://vimeo.com/37035293">video</a> called “a mass invitation to civil disobedience.” In it he justifies his position, drawing on the right to rebellion where governments fail to meet their citizens’ human rights, as well as pointing to the corruption of the legal system. He cites “the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/aug/26/spain-constitutional-cap-deficit">September 2011 Spanish constitutional reform</a> to benefit the banks…without citizen consultation” and “the lack of legal action upon the speculative ‘disappearance’ of millions of Euros in the financial world,” emphasising the human cost of reckless misconduct in the banking system and consequent austerity policies.</p> <p class="Default">According to <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2125186">a study</a> on the world’s constitutions, roughly a fifth of countries have some kind of legally enshrined right to resist. In his video, Duran quotes the American revolutionary Marquis of Lafayette: “When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is the most sacred of rights and the most essential of our duties.” Spain has no such legal provision, which is pertinent to the current constitutional disputes around the Catalonian independence movement. On October 1 last year, 43 per cent of the electorate turned out to participate in an illegal independence referendum, with 90 per cent of votes backing secession from Spain.</p> <p class="Default">The operation intended to stop the vote quickly <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/catalan-referendum-police-clashes-violence-900-injured-government-independence-vote-banned-latest-a7978166.html">descended into violence</a>, with police firing rubber bullets and beating voters with batons, injuring hundreds. Carles Puigdemont, the leader of Together for Catalonia, fled the country along with several other separatist leaders, many of whom face decades in prison for their involvement. Puigdemont was arrested in Germany and was recently <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/former-catalan-leader-carles-puigdemont-calls-for-dialogue-with-madrid-after-german-court-decision/">released on bail.</a></p> <p class="Default">“What’s going on in Catalonia is very interesting,” says Duran. “There’s a big population that are trusting less [sic] the laws and the state as it is right now. Most of them want to create a Catalonian state that is within the establishment, but they [the Spanish government] won't let them do it. And that brings the need to build transversal sovereignty in daily life.” While the Catalan Integral Cooperative has no official link with the independence cause, Duran believes that the existence of a strong network of autonomous community projects in the region has a more general influence. “I think the future will show that this experience has been important for the Catalan independence movement,” he says. “There is a role for integral revolution in this process. For sure I would like to be there…but now my experience of exile is extending to more and more people.”</p> <p class="Default">Duran admits he has no hard proof for this claim. It’s easy to dismiss his thinking as utopian. Yet dreaming big and focusing on financial rebellion have led him to achieve a substantial amount over the last decade. After leaving Catalonia, he founded the global cooperative FairCoop. Like the CIC, it allows small and independent producers to trade outside of banking systems, but this time on an international level through the use of cryptocurrency.</p> <p class="Default">In 2014, Duran bought 10 million FairCoins, roughly twenty per cent of the entire supply, in order to set up the FairCoop. He chose the coin because he liked the name and judged it to be the most suitable for building an ethical currency system. “The FairCoop ecosystem is not just a currency network,” Duran explains, “it is creating an alternative society where the currency is a tool for this.”&nbsp; Today there are hubs, or ‘local nodes’ as they’re called, in dozens of countries around the world, with most activity in Spain and Greece.</p> <p class="Default">Yet the law is catching up to the crypto world. Having long been surrounded by legal muddy water, the industry’s astronomical expansion in 2017 has led to regulatory frameworks being established across the world. In March, FairCoin was <a href="https://fair-coin.org/en/bittrex-de-lists-faircoin-centralized-power-structures-cannot-control-decentralized-currency-backed">delisted from Bittrex</a>, a major US-based trading platform, for refusing to answer questions apparently intended to gather information and check the coin’s legality. “FairCoop doesn't have a legal form,” says Duran. “We said we're not centralised, there’s no company behind us, so we couldn't answer what they were asking. It was a political statement.”</p> <p class="Default">After the delisting, the market price of FairCoin plummeted. When I ask him about this, Duran reminds me with a twinkle in his eye that the FairCoop community agree its own price democratically, unrelated to the capitalist system. “It’s very important to understand that the crypto currency world just shows the market price, but this is not our world. Our world is building an alternative economy and alternative society. We want a technology that works according to our values, so people don't get more power over others.” But not everybody will be happy with the price drop. Holders of the coin can still buy FairCoop products at a good rate, but trading with euros or any other currencies&nbsp;outside of the coop<strong>&nbsp;</strong>now looks like a very bad idea.</p> <p class="Default">The Bittrex decision highlights the challenge of building a new world in the shell of old. Sometimes the two just don’t match up. Still, Duran is used to taking risks. In fact, his latest venture is the <a href="https://bankofthecommons.coop/">Bank of the Commons</a>, a platform for investing in cooperative initiatives, using financial tools to strengthen the eco-system of like-minded projects around the world.</p> <p class="Default">I ask Duran if he misses anything about his old life before the bank action. “Sometimes I feel I'm travelling so much it can be a bit tiring. It’s a way of living that’s very intense, so you need to be in very good health to do it.”&nbsp; He tells me about his mother, who is the one member of his family who supported his actions and was politicised by them. It was his mother who collected the <a href="https://cloud.fair.coop/en/enric-duran-wins-human-price-award">Human Rights Award</a> he received in 2016 from the Barcelona Film and Human Rights Festival, previously given to Julian Assange. The festival called for his return to Catalonia, referring to the longstanding ReturnWithFreedom campaign.</p> <p class="Default">Duran’s return to Catalonia doesn’t seem likely, at least in the foreseeable future. In any case, he has insisted many times that energy around the campaign for justice be directed instead to encouraging more acts of civil disobedience, emphasising the importance of financial rebellion. “We might have problems, but to be really free we need to act on what we believe in,” he says, “Be brave, do it, but try to share it with people in your area or globally.” </p> <p class="Default">&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="/ourkingdom/niki-sethsmith/could-republican-ideas-provide-framework-for-new-economy">Could republican ideas provide the framework for a new economy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/maria-askew/priceless-moments-how-capitalism-eats-our-time">Priceless moments: how capitalism eats our time</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sam-cossar-gilbert/five-ways-to-transform-our-economies">Five ways to transform our economies </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 Niki Seth-Smith The role of money Activism Economics Sun, 15 Apr 2018 16:00:00 +0000 Niki Seth-Smith 117277 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What Standing Rock gave the world https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jenni-monet/what-standing-rock-gave-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Indigenous struggle that goes hand in hand with protecting the Earth was made visible for everyone.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JenniMonet3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A winter blizzard descends on the camps just outside of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The gathering has been the largest meeting of Native Americans since the Little Bighorn camp in 1876. Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images via YES! Magazine.</p> <p>&nbsp;At the height of the movement at Standing Rock, Indigenous teens half a world away in Norway were tattooing their young bodies with an image of a black snake. Derived from Lakota prophecy, the creature had come to represent the controversial Dakota Access pipeline for the thousands of water protectors determined to try to stop it.</p> <p>It was a show of international solidarity between the Indigenous Sami and the Lakota. “They got tattoos because of the Norwegian money invested in the pipeline,” said Jan Rune Måsø, editor of the Sami news division of Norway’s largest media company, NRK.</p> <p>Rune Måsø said the story about the tattoos was just one of about a hundred that his team of journalists covered over the course of the months-long pipeline battle in North Dakota. One of them, “The War on the Black Snake,” was awarded top honors at a journalism conference held in Trømsø in November. That story revealed large investments Norwegian banks had made to advance the $3.8 billion energy project, spurring a divestment campaign by the Sami Parliament.</p> <p>The backstory can be told simply. As early as April 2016, Indigenous activists protested<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/this-land-is-our-land-all-sides-dig-in-as-pipeline-nears-the-river-20161106" target="_self">&nbsp;the pipeline’s threat to the Standing Rock Sioux’s primary water supply,</a>&nbsp;the Missouri River. While battles were fought in federal courts, representatives of hundreds of Indigenous groups from around the world—the Maori, the Sami, and the Sarayaku, to name a few—arrived. Temporary communities of thousands were created on the reservation borderlands in nonviolent resistance against the crude oil project. </p> <p>Police arrested more than 800 people, and many water protectors faced attack dogs, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and, once, a water cannon on a freezing night in November. Last February, armored vehicles and police in riot gear cleared the last of the encampments. Recently, investigative journalism by The Intercept has documented that the paramilitary security firm TigerSwan was hired by DAPL parent Energy Transfer Partners to guide North Dakota law enforcement in treating the movement as a “national security threat.”</p> <p>Oil now flows through the pipeline under the Missouri. But this Indigenous-led disruption, the awakening resolve that was cultivated at Standing Rock, did not dissolve after February. Rather, it spread in so many different directions that we may never fully realize its reach. The spirit of resistance can easily be found in the half-dozen or so other pipeline battles across the United States. Beyond that, the movement amplified&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/standing-rock-joins-the-worlds-indigenous-fighting-for-land-and-life-20160930" target="_self">the greater struggle worldwide:</a>&nbsp;treaty rights, sacred sites, and the overall stand to protect Indigenous land and life.</p> <p>To be sure, post-colonization has always demanded acknowledgment of Indigenous autonomy. It’s what spurred months of international advocacy when Haudenosaunee Chief Deskaheh attempted to speak before the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1923. He wanted to remind the world that European colonizers had honored Iroquois Confederacy nationhood upon entering treaty agreements under the two row wampum.</p> <p>The stand at Standing Rock, then, was not anything new—just more modern.</p> <p>Google the words “the next Standing Rock” and you get a smattering of circumstances, mostly posed in the form of a question: Bears Ears, Line 3, Yucca Mountain. “The Next Standing Rock?” the headlines ask.</p> <p>The story of White Clay, Nebraska, is indicative. When the last tipis came down at Standing Rock, Clarence Matthew III, a middle-aged Sicangu Lakota man better known by his camp nickname, Curly, spared little time migrating to the South Dakota–Nebraska border. There, another fight for justice was mounting, for families living on the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This one focused on a decades-long dispute over beer sales targeted at Native American customers mostly prone to alcohol addiction.</p> <p>Demands turned to broader issues: investigation of dozens of unsolved crimes in White Clay against Native Americans. “Once we got down there, they started telling us about the problems they’ve had, more than just alcohol, the murders, the rapes, and everything that was on the bad side of that alcohol problem,” Matthew said. “It just broke my heart to hear all that.”</p> <p>Matthew had been caretaker of one of the main communities at Standing Rock, and he settled right in at Camp Justice at the edge of Pine Ridge. He was there with his “water protector family,” others who have adopted camping as an active form of protest.</p> <p>For all the momentum that the resistance at Standing Rock brought, the Indigenous rights movement in the 21st century faces increasing challenges. Tribal nations tread cautiously under the administration of Donald Trump. Internationally, the militarized protection of extractive energy projects and theft of land persist, despite glaring media attention paid to the rising number of Indigenous peoples killed or jailed for their activism in the face of it.</p> <p>In a final push for re-election last fall, Standing Rock’s Dave Archambault II gave what would be his last interview as chairman to tribal radio station KLND. Archambault used the airtime to speak matter-of-factly about how the movement had shifted the tribe’s potent public image away from the reservation. “It used to be cool to be Indian; now it’s cool to be from Standing Rock.</p> <p>“This movement was significant, not just for Standing Rock, but for all of Indian Country and around the world. We made some noise and now we’re starting to see other Indigenous communities rise up and say, Let us all speak now, and it’s pretty powerful and moving,” he said.</p> <p>Less than a week later and on the same day that the state of North Dakota accepted a $15 million gift from Energy Transfer Partners, Archambault was unseated by former council member Mike Faith, who has said publicly that he believes the overall movement hurt Standing Rock’s economy and neglected daily life for tribal members.</p> <p>The difference of opinion between the two leaders is a conflict that often lies at the heart of tribal community: protecting the Earth or protecting the Indigenous peoples.</p> <p>On the eve of Thanksgiving 2017, when the Keystone pipeline ruptured and spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in neighboring South Dakota, the newly elected Faith remained notably silent while water protectors responded with outrage, most loudly, closest to home.</p> <p>&nbsp;“Ironically, this week most Americans will be sitting down and giving thanks when last year at this time my people were being shot, gassed, and beaten for trying to keep this very thing from happening,” Chairman Harold Frazier from the neighboring Cheyenne River Sioux tribe said in a statement. Like Archambault and other tribal leaders, Frazier was arrested for participating in the Standing Rock occupation.</p> <p>Leadership in the Indigenous world is not only a difficult balance, but also dangerous. In Honduras, activist Bertha Zuniga Cáceres is fighting for Indigenous rights in one of the most militarized regions in the world. She is the daughter of Berta Cáceres, the Indigenous Lenca woman who was assassinated after leading a successful campaign to halt construction of the Agua Zarca Dam. Now she is seeking justice for her mother’s death.</p> <p>The 26-year-old Cáceres is also campaigning to suspend all U.S. military aid to Honduras. In July, she survived an attack by a group of assailants wielding machetes. Just weeks earlier she had been named the new leader of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, the nonprofit organization formerly led by her mother.</p> <p>“Many organizations, many NGOs, many Indigenous groups are struggling in how to sustain the work that they are doing in the face of these attacks,” said Katharina Rall, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.</p> <p>Last year, after the military-style assaults on the camps at Standing Rock, Human Rights Watch expanded its agenda to include a program focused on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/this-moment-at-standing-rock-was-decades-in-the-making-20160916" target="_self">the environment as a human right.</a>&nbsp;“The fact that we now have an environment and human rights program at our organization is a reflection of this reality that a lot of people face,” Rall said.</p> <p>Meantime, the organization Global Witness reports that it has never been deadlier to take a stand against companies that steal land and destroy the Earth. In 2016, the watchdog group found that nearly four activists a week are murdered fighting against mining, logging, and other extractive resource development.</p> <p>As disturbing as this reality is, it is unsurprising then to recall the military-style violence at Standing Rock: the rows of riot police pointing their guns at unarmed activists standing in the river; tanks shooting water in freezing temperatures at a crowd of people gathered on a bridge. In this one regard, Standing Rock was not unique in the world. It had become crucially important. Americans saw the global struggle faced by the estimated 370 million Indigenous people—the violence, stolen resources, colluding corporations and governments that go hand in hand with protecting the Earth.</p> <p>Sustaining this awakening is the next great task. Climate change poses one of the most serious reminders of why the sacred fires ignited at Standing Rock must continue to burn: Indigenous peoples and their knowledge and value systems matter.</p> <p>At November’s COP23 climate conference in Bonn, Germany, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim was dressed in traditional Mbororo regalia when she stood in a conference hall demanding that Indigenous knowledge systems be properly acknowledged in Paris Agreement negotiations. The girl who once tended cattle in the region of Chad bordering northeastern Nigeria has now become a bridge for her people and government officials making decisions impacting the fragile ecosystem of Lake Chad, the lifeline for the Mbororo.</p> <p>“Traditional knowledge has kept us from century to century to be in harmony with Mother Earth,” Ibrahim said. “These knowledges will make for all the difference, but we cannot wait years and years, because climate is changing, and it’s impacting the Earth.”</p> <p>Other members of the Indigenous Caucus at Bonn say inserting traditional knowledge into the climate talks doesn’t go far enough. Jannie Staffansson, a representative of the Saami Council, wants what Chief Deskaheh had petitioned to the League of Nations nearly a century earlier: sovereign recognition for Indigenous Peoples on an international scale. It would allow equity at the negotiating table—a level playing field to fairly deal with the consequences of a warming planet in the face of land grabs and natural resource extraction.</p> <p>“Why is it always that Indigenous peoples need to pay for other people’s wealth?” said Staffansson. She paused to check the Snapchat account she had been using to engage with a young Sami audience while at COP, a demographic similar to the teens who got tattoos of the black snake.</p> <p>“I had friends that went to Standing Rock,” said the 27-year-old. “I was envious of their trip to support self-determination. Self-determination and a just transition is what we have to take into account.”</p> <p>“We need climate justice in everything we do.”</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/decolonize/what-standing-rock-gave-the-world-20180316?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180316&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180316+Version+A+CID_de7353e921641a2965b31c38caaca5db&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=her%20article%20for%20The%20De">YES! Magazine</a>.</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/jenni-monet/climate-justice-meets-racism-standing-rock-was-decades-in-making">Climate justice meets racism: Standing Rock was decades in the making</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/why-indigenous-civil-resistance-has-unique-power">What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/sheriffs-refuse-to-send-troops-to-standing-rock-as-public-outrage-mounts">Sheriffs refuse to send troops to Standing Rock as public outrage mounts</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 Jenni Monet Transformative nonviolence Activism Wed, 11 Apr 2018 19:36:08 +0000 Jenni Monet 116766 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to build a progressive movement in a divided country https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Since we can expect more polarization ahead, how can we use its heat and volatility to create something useful?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published in&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-build-progressive-movement-polarized-country/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NinaEliasoph_4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Two supporters of Donald Trump in&nbsp;Prescott, Arizona. Credit: Wikimedia/Twins of Sedona. CC0.</p> <p>Whether it’s assault rifles, racial justice, immigration or fossil fuels, the US is rocked by conflicting narratives and rising passions. In a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/democracy-poll/&amp;usg=AOvVaw2I5FCxXmJPFFn4FNc-1yVj">recent national poll</a>, 70 percent of Americans say the political divide is at least as big as during the Vietnam War.</p> <p>In December, I completed a year-and-a-half book tour in over 80 towns and cities in United States. From Arizona to Alaska to North Dakota to Georgia, I heard a worry in common from people active in struggles for justice. They talk about the political polarization they see around them.</p> <p>Many assume that polarization is a barrier to making change. They observe more shouting and less listening, more drama and less reflection, and an escalation at the extremes. They note that mass media journalists have less time to cover the range of activist initiatives, which are therefore drowned out by the shouting. From coast to coast activists asked me: Does this condition leave us stuck?</p> <p>My answer included both good news and bad news. Most people wanted the latter first.</p> <p><strong>The bad news about divisiveness.</strong></p> <p>We are not dealing with a passing fad or temporary trend. The research of a trio of political scientists found that political polarization follows the curve of economic inequality. For decades after World War II, white male inequality in the United States was relatively low and governance was largely bi-partisan in spirit. But, as income inequality began to polarize, so too did our politics. Not surprisingly, perhaps, by 2015, income inequality was greater than at any other point in U.S. history, according to economists Jeffrey Gale Williamson and Peter Lindert. The tax bill passed in January will add even more fuel to the fire.</p> <p>Progressives need to breathe deeply and make our peace with the reality. Division expresses an economic arrangement, and it’s not something we can fix through urging more civil discourse. Even though we’ll want to use our&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/8-skills-of-a-well-trained-activist/">conflict resolution skills</a>&nbsp;in order to cope, we can also expect more drama at the extreme ends of our polarizations, and more&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/5-ways-movements-can-handle-threats-attacks/">ugliness and violence</a>.</p> <p>Even some of the people who carry progressive values like anti-oppression can be expected to become harsher and more dogmatic, as if inspired by the witch-hunting Massachusetts Puritans of yore. </p> <p>The dynamic of polarization is contagious—it doesn’t confine itself to tweeting public officials, radio talk shows and political junkies. I believe there’s little point in blaming our progressive movement comrades who pick up the infection around us. Instead, it helps to remember that this trend is much, much bigger than we are. We might as well forgive ourselves and each other, and focus on the positive openings that are given to us in this period.</p> <p><strong>The good news about polarization.</strong></p> <p>In the 1920s and ‘30s, the United States and European countries polarized dramatically. In Italy and Germany, fascists were marching and communists were organizing for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Even on Europe’s northwest periphery, Sweden and Norway faced the most extreme polarization they’d ever had, complete with Nazis marching in the streets.</p> <p>The outcomes of polarization for those four countries were, however, very different. In Germany and Italy, Hitler and Mussolini came to power. In Sweden and Norway democratic socialist movements&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-swedes-and-norwegians-broke-the-power-of-the-1-percent/">pushed their economic elites</a>&nbsp;off their pedestals and invented the egalitarian Nordic economic model.&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/did-the-norwegians-have-a-revolution/">Saying goodbye</a>&nbsp;to their old class-ridden days of poverty, Swedes and Norwegians generated historically new levels of equality, individual freedom and shared abundance.</p> <p>The contrasting outcomes could not be more dramatic. All four countries experienced extreme polarization in the 1920s and ‘30s. Two fell into disaster, and two climbed out of poverty and oppression to the top tier of progressive national achievement. From these examples we can see that polarization may guarantee a big political fight, but it doesn’t determine whether the outcome will be dictatorship or democracy.</p> <p>U.S. history also shows that polarization does not determine outcomes. In the United States in 1920s and ‘30s, the Ku Klux Klan was riding high as well as a growing Nazi movement. On the radical left, movements grew as well. The outcome was not fascist dictatorship, but instead Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” Out of that polarization came the most progressive decade of the first half of the 20th century in the United States.</p> <p>Fast forward to the divided 1960s, which boiled over into the ‘70s, when environmentalists, feminists and LGBT people joined the ferment initiated by the civil rights and other movements of the ‘60s. Once again the Nazis grew along with the Ku Klux Klan, while on the left we remember the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Nevertheless, in the midst of strong polarization, the United States made its greatest progress in the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p><strong>Letting the heat work for progress.</strong></p> <p>While book touring in England, I stayed with a metal sculptor who showed me his blacksmith’s hearth, essential for creating the beautiful designs that filled his studio. I saw a useful metaphor: Progressives need polarization like blacksmiths and artists need heat to make cold hard metal flexible enough to change its shape.</p> <p>Heat creates volatility, in metal and in society. It breaks up crystalized patterns. It makes possible something new to replace the rigid oppressive structures that express themselves through sexual and racist violence, endemic poverty alongside extreme wealth, environmental destruction, political corruption and militarism.</p> <p>Since we can expect more polarization ahead, how can we use its heat and volatility to create something as serviceable as a horseshoe, or even a sculpture of beauty? We can give ourselves a head start by learning what worked in previous periods of polarization and strengthening them for our context.</p> <p>Because planning is an empowering practice, I’ve organized what’s worked for others into a kind of roadmap, consisting of five stages. There is some reason to the sequence, but not enough to be rigid about it.</p> <p><strong>A roadmap to transformation.</strong></p> <p><em>1. Tell people you meet that we are creating a plan.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>Acquaintances may believe you are simply ‘a protester’ or like to hang out with your activist friend—they may not know it’s even possible to create a plan to work together to get ourselves out of this mess. According to the American Psychological Association, 63 percent of Americans say that concerns about the nation’s future are a major source of stress in their lives.</p> <p>Planning is on the side of positivity, capability and empowerment. Tell people how those are showing up in your life by participating in the plan.</p> <p><em>2. Build the infrastructure of the new society.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>Governmental dysfunction in the United States is becoming ever more obvious. Tourists come back with tales of wonder from Scandinavia, while people stateside see inept responses to disasters like lead poisoning and Hurricane Katrina. The Pew Research Center found that only 19 percent of Americans trust the government to do the right thing.</p> <p>A century ago the Nordics also had low trust. Organizers supported them to work together through cultural groups and co-ops, empowering themselves to meet each others’ needs. Americans may be ready for this: The same&nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/economist-intelligence-unit-downgrades-united-states-to-flawed-democracy-2017-1">Pew study</a>&nbsp;found that 55 percent believe ordinary Americans would “do a better job of solving problems” than elected officials.</p> <p>Make the most of this opportunity to&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/preparing-next-movement-moment-smucker-hegemony/">reach “beyond the choir,”</a>&nbsp;building groups and institutions with people who didn’t previously know each other. Increasing your range of connection may be easier if people know you are thoughtful about everyone.</p> <p><em>3. Build movements through bold nonviolent direct action campaigns.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>Teenagers in Florida instinctively knew what most adults in the gun control lobby refused to accept—<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/where-the-gun-control-campaign-went-wrong/">it takes bold direct action to open doors</a>. To keep the doors open, the teens will learn,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/election-campaigns-one-off-protests/">it takes direct action campaigning</a>. In the process they may turn the lobby into a movement.</p> <p>Most Swedes and Norwegians came to realize that the economic elite ruled their countries and that their parliaments were pretend democracies. Loving efficiency, they preferred to skip the middlemen and go straight to the top, by focusing their campaigns on the owners rather than the politicians. Making this shift in the United States will help each movement to become sharper and clearer, more visionary, and—by refusing to be co-opted by a political party—more ready to align with others to build a movement of movements. They may also, as did the Nordics, stay close to the alternative infrastructure being built on a local level.</p> <p><em>4. Gain unity among movements around a broad vision of what will replace dysfunctional and unjust institutions.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many Nordics understood that politicians’ promises of small reform steps were inadequate, even insulting—something incrementalist Hillary Clinton discovered in the 2016 U.S. election. The large majority of Americans who tell pollsters that the country is “headed in the wrong direction” increasingly match their words with their deeds and stay away from the polls.</p> <p>The Nordic democratic socialists succeeded because their vision was radical, showed deep respect for the people and made sense at the same time. One example was promising universal services instead of programs for the poor.</p> <p>Few people want to go with you if they don’t know where you’re going. Nordic movements grew partly because organizers explained the destination. By sharing the vision, organizers showed they respected people more than manipulative politicians. Fortunately, in the United States, the Movement for Black Lives has already&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/a-vision-for-black-lives-is-a-vision-for-everyone/">offered a vision</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.solutionaryrail.org/">more</a>&nbsp;are&nbsp;<a href="http://itsoureconomy.us/issues/">emerging</a>. When there is vision, stronger movements may grow out of nonviolent direct action campaigns.</p> <p><em>5. Build a movement of movements powerful enough to dislodge the 1 percent from dominance.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>That’s what the Swedes and Norwegians did. Movements worked together to raise the level of nonviolent struggle to that point, even though their opponents tried to repress them with violence. Movements cooperated because they saw that their individual goals were opposed by the same force—the economic elite.</p> <p>This is just as true in the United States, where the aspirations of both white and black workers, women and sexual minorities, immigrants and activists for climate justice, students and gun reform activists are all frustrated by the 1 percent. Cooperation for deep struggle becomes more likely when we create a vision in common that speaks to diverse interests.</p> <p>So, where are we with this roadmap? The good news is that people are hard at work on the second and third steps already. As we gain confidence, we’ll tackle the fourth as well, which will increase our credibility and invite the gain in numbers that makes the fifth possible.</p> <p><strong>What about polarization?</strong></p> <p>I lived in Norway 25 years after the struggle that resulted in a power shift. I observed a remarkably peaceful society with a high degree of consensus. The whole political spectrum had shifted significantly to the left—the politics of the Norwegian right-wing was to the left of America’s Democratic Party. The overall direction of the economy was decided by the people as a whole. They enjoyed lively debates about the issues of the day, confident that the majority’s decisions would be carried out without corruption. And they hoped some day, without spending much money on it, to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/feb/22/norway-winter-olympics-success">win a lot of Olympic medals</a>.</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/george-lakey/reaching-trump-supporters-with-promise-of-vision">Reaching Trump supporters with the promise of vision</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/why-are-danes-so-happy-because-their-economy-makes-sense">Why are the Danes so happy? Because their economy makes sense</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">Scorn wars: rural white people and us</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 Trans-partisan politics Activism Thu, 05 Apr 2018 19:33:26 +0000 George Lakey 116800 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Where are all the leaders? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/where-are-all-leaders <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today marks the 50<sup>th</sup> anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination—a good time to reflect on leadership and moral courage.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/leadership.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Martin Luther King at the podium of the Concord Hotel, Kiamesha Lake, New York, March 25 1968. Credit: Rabbinical Assembly Archives, New York. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Ten days <a href="https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/martin-luther-king-jr-is-assassinated">before he was shot to death</a> on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. answered questions from the audience at the old Concord Hotel in New York’s Catskill Mountains. It was his final public appearance before he arrived in Memphis to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDl84vusXos">deliver the words</a> that seemed to presage his own assassination: “I have been to the mountaintop,” he said, “and though I may not get there with you, we as a people will get to the Promised Land. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”</p> <p>The Concord was located just down the road from where I live in the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht_Belt">Borscht Belt</a>” of Sullivan County—the place where Jewish comedians from Danny Kaye to Jerry Seinfeld honed their skills and now the site of a <a href="https://rwcatskills.com/">shiny new casino</a>. King wasn’t upstate for the slot machines or the jokes of course; he was there to speak about leadership at a meeting of the <a href="https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/">Rabbinical Assembly</a>—an annual convention of orthodox Jewish leaders—though he was introduced by the radical Rabbi <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Joshua_Heschel">Dr Abraham Joshua Heschel</a> who was celebrating his sixtieth birthday.</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/assets/public/resources-ideas/cj/classics/1-4-12-civil-rights/conversation-with-martin-luther-king.pdf">his opening remarks Heschel spoke</a> about the need for a particular kind of leader in the struggle for justice, freedom and equality:</p> <blockquote><p>“Where does moral leadership in America come from today? The politicians are astute, the establishment is proud and the market place is busy. Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel?”</p></blockquote> <p>In <a href="https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/assets/public/resources-ideas/cj/classics/1-4-12-civil-rights/conversation-with-martin-luther-king.pdf">the wide ranging question-and-answer session</a> that followed, members of the audience probed King on who he actually ‘represented’ in the black community, how racism and anti-Semitism were connected, whether activists should seek alliances with members of the ‘establishment,’ how issues like war and poverty intersect, and how he navigated the different tactics of nonviolence and Black Power—all issues that resonate just as loudly in politics and social activism today.</p> <p>Heschel answered his own question by calling King “a voice, a vision and a way,” though even in the 1960s this overestimated the influence of a single individual. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people ask ‘what would King do if he was still alive’ or ‘who’s the next Martin Luther King.’ These questions are invidious. There was only one, and he was killed fifty years ago today. New leaders are all around us if we have the foresight to see them, but they may not fit a standard template or occupy positions of formal power.</p> <p>Think of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2018/mar/24/emma-gonzalezs-powerful-march-for-our-lives-speech-in-full-video">Emma Gonzalez</a> from Parkland High School in Florida for example, who electrified the crowds on Pennsylvania Avenue during the March For Our Lives in Washington DC last week, or Rio de Janeiro councilor <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/breno-bringel/marielle-franco-and-brazils-future-hope-or-barbarity">Marielle Franco</a> who was murdered in Brazil on March 14, or the many leaders of <a href="https://blacklivesmatter.com/">Black Lives Matter</a>, or the hundreds of thousands of less famous examples that you could name in your own communities.</p> <p>We can’t clone leaders and we shouldn’t try, but we can encourage and protect them from co-option and attacks. Against that background it’s more useful to ask what <em>kind</em> of leader was Martin Luther King, what kept him from being silenced or captured by vested interests, and what conditions encouraged his remarkable personal example—all things that we can learn from more broadly. What is it that distinguishes visionaries and change agents from the parade of overpaid administrators that pass for leaders in most government positions, political parties, businesses and charities today?</p> <p>I’d start with <em>authenticity and moral courage, </em>which are difficult to describe but you know them when you see them—or rather when you <em>feel</em> them. In the few times I’ve encountered visionary leaders that’s how they’ve come across, as people who combine all forms of intelligence into one and strive to ‘be the change they want to see.’ It’s an emotional connection as well as one of strategy or politics. These are leaders who have something that you and I don’t, and who use it to inspire courageous action among large numbers of other people.</p> <p>Inspiration creates waves of change that go way beyond a particular policy or party platform or incremental reforms. King had that quality. So did nonviolence trainer and theorist <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/timothy-gee/remembering-gene-sharp-philosopher-of-non-violent-action">Gene Sharp who Timothy Gee remembered recently</a> on openDemocracy. Sharp inspired large-scale nonviolent uprisings the world over but he never lost his sense of humility and grounding, his open mind, his willingness to listen, and his commitment to make time for others however famous he became or however ‘unimportant’ they might be.</p> <p>Sharp, King and other civil rights leaders like <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-RoVzAqhYk" target="_blank">Fannie Lou Hamer</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://ellabakercenter.org/about/who-was-ella-baker">Ella Baker</a> represent the mirror image of the fakes and faux radicals who rise to the top in most areas of life today. New York Times columnist <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/opinion/sunday/spicer-anthony-scaramucci-mooch-trump.html">Maureen Dowd gave a perfect description</a> of such people’s <em>in</em>-authenticity when describing ex-Trump spokesman <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Scaramucci">Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci</a>: “a self-promoter extraordinaire and master salesman who doesn’t mind pushing a bad product—and probably sees it as more fun.”</p> <p>By contrast—and here’s the second important marker—visionary leaders are deadly serious about <em>accountability</em>—the willingness to hold yourself responsible for your actions and be held to account by others, even if you outrank them. Any movement that wants to achieve large-scale change has to motivate a great body of people into action, so leaders have to be willing to share power rather than accumulating it to themselves.</p> <p>That’s one of the lessons learned by the current iteration of King’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign">Poor People’s Campaign</a> led by Reverends&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/06/29/woe-unto-those-who-legislate-evil-rev-william-barber-builds-a-moral-movement/?utm_term=.26562dc1d5bd">William J. Barber</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thenation.com/authors/rev-dr-liz-theoharis/">Liz Theoharis</a>, which has adopted a more decentralized and distributed leadership model. It’s the opposite of current realities in which leaders spend more time avoiding accountability than embracing it, especially if it comes from the bottom up or the outside in.</p> <p>Behind every institutional scandal is a failure in accountability, when individuals or groups of leaders look the other way, bow to pressure, accept financial inducements or cover up mistakes. Their moral clarity and courage fails them at crucial moments, and the higher you rise in a hierarchy the stronger the temptations become. That’s because the costs of falling are that much greater.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/joms.12177">2016 article in the Journal of Management Studies</a> called “Why the Assholes are Winning,” Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer describes how proximity to wealth and power can lead to “moral rationalization and decoupling” when the boundaries between honesty and deceit, altruism and self interest are seemingly dissolved. That’s a lesson that business figures like <a href="https://gizmodo.com/mark-zuckerberg-declines-invitation-to-testify-in-uk-b-1824103772">Mark Zuckerberg</a> still have to learn. Visionary leaders accept it and act accordingly.</p> <p>Accountability is also a key to my third marker of leadership which is <em>self-sacrifice</em>. Prototypical leaders are everywhere, but few of them make it to positions of formal power and influence, and many of those who do are muzzled or co-opted along the way through a process of elite capture. The reasons are pretty obvious, especially in times of rising precarity and repression when the risks of speaking out are so much higher.</p> <p>Remember <a href="https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-29/quote-day-larry-summers-elizabeth-warren-insiders-dont-criticize-other-insiders">the advice that establishment economist Larry Summers gave to now-Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2009</a>?</p><blockquote><p>“You have a choice. You can be an insider or an outsider. Outsiders can say what they want but people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don’t criticize other insiders.”</p></blockquote><p>Visionary leaders find ways through these dilemmas by accepting the costs of that outsider status but maintaining various kinds of dialogue and interaction with those on the inside of mainstream institutions—much as King did with President Johnson and his Administration in the 1960s. That’s why such examples are instructive; they show how the trend towards co-option can be countermanded through a mix of continuous self-reflection, external accountability, intellectual clarity, sacrifice and moral courage.</p> <p>Self-sacrifice is important because leadership positions (even informal ones) bring with them potential personal benefits which can act as another platform for co-option—prizes and awards, foundation grants, seats on corporate boards, power over staff and supporters, and access to the revolving doors of the establishment. Setting these things aside in order to stay focused on the mission of a movement and honor the democratic structures of decision-making and accountability requires a willingness to say no to these temptations—just as King did when he <a href="https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/1014.html">turned over his Nobel Peace Prize money to the civil rights movement</a>.</p> <p>An unbroken line stretches from before King to <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/24/us/martin-luther-king-granddaughter-trnd/index.html">his oldest granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, who also spoke at the March For Our Lives</a>, but such leaders remain the exception rather than the rule. Closing that gap is partly a matter of structures and training and incentives—or at least more security and protection since so many of them have been targeted or killed—but mostly an issue of moral courage, which is something that exists inside each one of us but is normally suppressed.</p> <p>Goodness knows we need many more such people to help us find our way out of the mess we’ve created for ourselves. Where are all the leaders? Just as Heschel said 50 years ago, “The politicians are astute, the establishment is proud and the market place is busy.” We can look to others for inspiration and example, but if we really want to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King we should look to ourselves.</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/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/timothy-gee/remembering-gene-sharp-philosopher-of-non-violent-action">How to start a revolution - remembering Gene Sharp</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign">The Great Society versus the Poor People’s Campaign</a> </div> </div> </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 leadership transformative leadership Michael Edwards Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 03 Apr 2018 22:17:56 +0000 Michael Edwards 116977 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Whatever happened to civil society? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/vern-hughes/whatever-happened-to-civil-society <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the last 40 years the architecture of voluntary citizen action has been transformed. Why aren’t we fighting back?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Vernhughes.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.iisd.ca/">http://www.iisd.ca</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>At the annual meetings of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Economic_Forum">World Economic Forum in Davos</a>, ‘civil society’ is referenced in virtually every presentation and fireside conversation. The world, it seems, no longer consists of two sectors—public and private, state and market—there is a third: NGOs and INGOs, charities and philanthropists, human rights watchdogs, aid and development agencies and global environmental campaigns to name but a few. The ‘Third Sector’ has arrived, and Its CEOs now mingle seamlessly with those from banks, energy companies, media giants and government agencies.<br /> <br /> The problem with this embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO. Just 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact.<br /> <br /> The absence of public debate is partly attributable to the complexity of the social sector and its diverse forms and purposes. Some parts of the sector identify as NGOs while others rely on informal social bonds and practices. Some have representative ‘peak’ bodies but many do not. Some identify as part of a Third Sector but most are unfamiliar with this term. Fewer still understand themselves to be part of the ‘civil society’ that is now routinely referred to in UN management-speak and business discourse.<br /> <br /> The principal factor, however, in driving both the transformation of the social sector and the relatively low level of critical public debate about it has been the global rise of the managerial class and its capture of much of the not-for-profit world. In the wake of the 1960s/1970s social movements, governments invested heavily in a plethora of welfare state programs and services, and universities churned out an army of social science practitioners with an insatiable demand for things to manage.</p> <p>Not-for-profits and charities were easy pickings, so voluntary associations of all kinds were transformed into instruments of service delivery, ‘community representation’ and ‘therapeutic welfare’ in the public interest. Traditional bodies such as the <em>Red Cross</em>, the <em>YMCA</em>, church missions and voluntary health societies fell like dominos to ‘management capture’ and quickly became unrecogniseable to those who knew them a generation before. </p> <p>To be sure, there was resistance to this process, but it was sporadic, weak and disorganised, much like the resistance of indigenous cultures to colonising empires. The victorious managerial class had no interest in trumpeting its takeover of these voluntary associations, or in promoting critical discussion of this process; hence the conspicuous lack of public scrutiny of the not-for-profit sector and its transformation. That is, until now.</p> <p>In Australia, there are <a href="http://www.nla.gov.au/sites/default/files/starterkitcommunity.pdf">700,000</a> voluntarily-formed community organisations. Of these, just 35,000 or five per cent are run by professional managers; the other 95 per cent are entirely voluntary in character, with no paid staff. Should any Australian not-for-profit be invited to Davos, you can be certain that it would be one of the small minority that are run by paid managers.&nbsp; The rest don’t register on the radar screens of public and private sector executives. The five per cent do almost all of the public talking about civil society, and impose their own self-understanding and culture on the sector as a whole.<br /> <br /> Furthermore, outside of these 700,000 formal community organizations there’s a vast array of additional social forms—family and kinship networks, neighbourhoods, friendship circles and informal support groups. These too are part of civil society, as are faith and religious associations and a broad range of micro-economic units constituted as family businesses, family farms, and household production and trading entities. </p> <p>This vast array of social relationships and associations is what constitutes civil society. It is made up of the things we do as ‘civilians’, freely and voluntarily, in association with others, outside of the state and the market. Social well-being is largely determined in and through our relationships in this civil sphere, which are personal and horizontal in nature. By contrast, state-citizen relationships are vertical and coercive, while business-customer interactions are (usually unequal) monetary exchanges. </p> <p>Our experience of love, care and belonging are formed by our relationships in the civil sphere, not by the state or the market. Our lives are subsequently shaped, battered and sometimes improved by the state and the market, but the primary formation of our unique selves and our values is the work of civil society.<br /> <br /> Given the importance of civil society to our personal and social life, how is it possible that the Great and the Good at Davos can confuse all this with the CEOs of NGOs? In fairness, they are reflecting wider trends that have been developing for decades, and which have privileged the NGO component of this universe. This is not an accident. When the larger NGOs began speaking the same language as the managerial elites of the public and private sectors, they were embraced as long lost cousins. The rest of civil society—the &nbsp;dispersed and anonymous mix of relational ties and associations that shape our personal and social lives—is &nbsp;invisible to politicians, governments and public policy elites. </p> <p>Ironically, the official recognition of civil society by these elites is an impediment to civil society’s regeneration. Instead of re-discovering the diversity of civil society and its importance for nurturing personal and social well-being, the Great and the Good have embraced a reductive, hollowed-out, managerial definition while ignoring the continued incursion of states and markets into the civil sphere of life. <br /> <br /> The fact is that centralised states and concentrated markets are corroding civil society and colonizing the all-important voluntary and relational components of social life. In higher-income countries, many not-for-profit organisations have been turned into service delivery instruments for the state. In lower-income countries, a large proportion of NGOs have become instruments for the delivery of foreign aid. In both settings, transactional dealings have overturned relational models of functioning. NGOs drawn into these processes have become corporatised beyond recognition and detached from their founding purpose and culture.</p> <p>What then is to be done? One thing is clear: regulation is not the answer. Government regulators tend to be drawn from the same managerial culture that has overtaken the not-for-profit sector, and they have a habit of reproducing that culture in their diagnoses.<br /> <br /> Nor is reform likely to come from established political movements of Left or Right. In the transformations of the last 40 years civil society was ignored across the political spectrum. It had few defenders against the colonisations of state and market. For its part, the Left was quite comfortable with the capture of civil society by the post-1970s managerial class, because this generation of managers tended to identify with the political Left: the capture of civil society was one component of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudi_Dutschke">Rudi Deutschke's</a> now largely completed “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_long_march_through_the_institutions">Long March through the Institutions</a>.” </p> <p>But the Right was equally comfortable with the rise of the managerial class: it embraced extensions of managerial culture across charities, universities, philanthropy, religious and sporting bodies under the promise of more 'efficiency', leaner management and better business discipline in areas thought to need these changes. In a very real sense, Left and Right combined in driving the anti civil society revolution.<br /> <br /> It is now clear that the regeneration of civil society can come only from civil society itself—from &nbsp;citizens, volunteers, residents, carers, neighbours, parents, activists, mentors and donors—whose &nbsp;agency and participation in social life is voluntary, associational and relational in character, and is therefore free from vested industry interests. But can such a diverse universe get organised and mobilised sufficiently to do the job?</p> <p>For a long period civil society itself was poorly conceptualized and lacked a self-generated leadership capable of articulating its critical importance to personal and social well-being. This made it very vulnerable to capture by the managerial class in the four decades that followed the 1970s. In part, the decentralized and diffuse nature of civil society made it difficult to connect and organise its various constituent parts. </p> <p>Today, in an age of distributed networks and powered by the internet, the costs and logistical difficulties of linking disparate components together have more chance of being overcome. It may be possible to connect vast social constituencies anchored in communities, with deep pools of cultural and intellectual resources, and extensive networks of networks, without imposing centralized direction or top-down regulation. </p> <p>Intellectually, it is possible to conceptualise a common voice and agenda for civil society around the authentic representation of itself in the public arena and a reversal of the power transfers from civil society to states and markets that have characterized much of the last century. Technologically, it is now much more feasible to activate this common voice and agenda.<br /> <br /> Imagine the collective power of civil society if it organised itself in pursuit of this agenda. It would have the elites at Davos quaking in their boots.</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="/transformation/genevieve-lebaron-peter-dauvergne/not-just-about-money-corporatization-is-weakening-a">Not just about the money: corporatization is weakening activism and empowering big business</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ir-ng-houghton/five-disempowering-traits-that-international-ngos-must-drop">Five disempowering traits that international NGOs must drop</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 Transformation Civil society Vern Hughes Activism Sun, 01 Apr 2018 20:00:08 +0000 Vern Hughes 116975 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Decolonizing birth https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-sunshine-manning/decolonizing-birth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Indigenous women are taking back their power as life-givers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Sunshine.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">This portrait of Zintkala Mahpiya Win Blackowl and her daughter, Mni Wiconi, was created by Indigenous photographer Tomás Karmelo Amaya on Nov. 16, 2016, moments before a women’s meeting at Oceti Sakowin.&nbsp;Credit:&nbsp;Tomás Karmelo Amaya/YES! Magazine.</p> <p>Zintkala Mahpiya Win Blackowl didn’t plan to have her sixth baby in a tipi on the windy plains of North Dakota during a historic resistance. Thousands of people had gathered for months in camps sprawled along the northern borderlands of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to protest the Dakota Access pipeline. But Blackowl already knew that she would birth her babies outside of a hospital, in the comfort and safety of a sacred space.</p> <p>“So much of how women experience birth today has to do with how we are socialized,” says Blackowl, 36, whose first five children were born at home with the aid of certified and traditional Indigenous midwives. “We are told that you have to be hospitalized, that doctors know best, and that you can trust them with your life.”</p> <p>In August 2016, having traveled from her home in Ashland, Oregon, to the Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation borderlands, she felt overwhelmed by the energy of the movement. Blackowl is Sicangu Lakota and Ihanktonwan Dakota, with origins and ancestral ties in the Dakotas, but she had spent most of her adult life in Oregon and Idaho. “I was pregnant, and I hadn’t been home [to the Dakotas] for 12 years,” she says, “but I saw that I was capable of coming to Standing Rock, and I had a responsibility to provide that support. It was about responsibility to my people.”</p> <p>When she returned to the resistance camps in the fall, Blackowl was in her third trimester. Early on Oct. 12, while everyone slept, she delivered her daughter alone in her tipi, not long after her husband left to get female relatives. The baby girl was born without complication and in perfect health. She was named Mni Wiconi, “Water of Life.”</p> <p>The arrival was a momentous event in the camps. But also in the larger Indigenous birth movement as Native American women take back their roles as life-givers and birth-workers and reclaim rights to their bodies, their traditions, and their birthing experiences. Interest is growing, from Indigenous certified nurse midwives—14 total, today, trained at the the American College of Nurse-Midwives—to mothers educating themselves and choosing to have unassisted births at home.</p> <p>Measuring the complexity and scale of this grassroots movement is impossible, but evidence is plentiful. The Facebook page Indigenous Midwifery was launched in December 2013 and has since grown to almost 10,000 followers. Several popular artworks honoring traditional birth and motherhood, most notably by ledger artist Wakeah Jhane of the Comanche, Blackfeet, and Kiowa tribes, have been exhibited at the Smithsonian and the Santa Fe Indian Market.</p> <p>Since the late 1800s, Native Americans’ lives largely have been dictated by federal government policies designed to stamp out traditions and create dependency on white institutions. Many traditions and ceremonies were outlawed, and families were separated as Native American children were forcibly removed from their homes to be placed in Indian boarding schools, where their language and culture were forbidden. Then, in 1955, the federal Indian Health Service was established to manage the health care of Native Americans. Birth became a medicalized affair and was, more often than not, directed by white male obstetricians.</p> <p>But that morning in Standing Rock, intersecting movements for Indigenous self-determination and human rights created the backdrop for an extraordinary traditional birth with women at the helm.</p> <p>“A lot of the time in hospitals, people don’t approach women in a way that says to them that they are the center of the birth, or in a way that gives the woman control,” says Nicolle Gonzales, 36, a Navajo nurse midwife from New Mexico who was nearby when Blackowl gave birth. “When a woman is birthing, it’s her space, and we have to honor that space. But nobody tells you that.”</p> <p>Gonzales traveled to Standing Rock to show solidarity and to help provide culturally responsive and respectful care for women at camp. While working as a nurse for two years in an IHS hospital in New Mexico, Gonzales recognized a need for better prenatal and birthing care for Indigenous women, and this inspired her to pursue training as a midwife.</p> <p>Gonzales is a mother of three and the founder and executive director of the Changing Woman Initiative, a nonprofit organization in Santa Fe working to renew Indigenous birth knowledge. The initiative is planning a culturally centered clinic and birth center committed to providing family-centered care where the woman is the decision-maker.</p> <p>“Indigenous midwifery is not a new thing,” Gonzales says. “It has always been here. We’re just beginning to bring those Indigenous perspectives forward again.”</p> <p>In the span of just a century on reservations, Indigenous women were stripped of their power as matriarchs, once foundational to their communities—as knowledge keepers, decision-makers, and birth workers. Native American communities overall had been threatened by genocidal government policies from the early colonies to the 1970s. At least 25 percent of Native American women who received care in IHS hospitals were involuntarily sterilized, according to a 2000 American Indian Quarterly report.</p> <p>But Indigenous women are trying to regain that power. Jodi Lynn Maracle, 33, a traditional doula from the Tyendinaga Mohawk nation, says the effort is fivefold. “We talk about reclaiming language, and ceremony, and tradition, but it’s also about reclaiming our bodies and our relationship to our bodies, especially as women.”</p> <p>Maracle is mother to a 3-year-old boy. She is a doula with training from the Seventh Generation Midwives in Toronto and from the Six Nations Birthing Centre. She is pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Buffalo in New York, centering her research on Haudenosaunee midwifery and birth work.</p> <p>“During the boarding school era, there weren’t many choices for Indigenous people,” Maracle says. “Today, there are so many choices. I think the empowerment is just in having people say that you have a choice.”</p> <p>Women who choose to have their babies in hospitals still have ways to incorporate traditions. Simple adjustments can be made during birth: singing traditional songs; facing the bed toward the east, where the sun rises; squatting versus lying down; or cleansing the area with sage or other traditional medicines. The key is for women to ask a lot of questions and to educate themselves as much as possible about their options before, during, and after birth.</p> <p>Yet reaching back to traditions, or decolonizing birth, is not so straightforward in many Indigenous communities. Some tribes have fewer teachings intact today, and it may not be as simple as asking an elder. Women may have to consult historical records or reach out to sister tribes, and above all, re-establish a relationship with their bodies and intuitive power as women.</p> <p>After the births of each of her children, Blackowl chose to root her newborn babies to the physical world by burying their placentas in the ground—a tradition tied to Lakota/Dakota birth. During the Standing Rock resistance, Blackowl buried the placenta that nurtured Mni Wiconi near the place of her birth, at the height of a movement for Indigenous self-determination.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/decolonize/decolonizing-birth-women-take-back-their-power-as-life-givers-20180305?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180309&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180309+CID_25d7f264a4aecad6f740d55ac868995c&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=Decolonizing">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/chelsea-macmillan/living-prayer-at-standing-rock">Living prayer at Standing Rock</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-hendrick/love-and-reason-how-should-we-raise-our-children">Love and reason: how should we raise our children?</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 Sarah Sunshine Manning Activism Care Culture Love and Spirituality Thu, 29 Mar 2018 19:42:13 +0000 Sarah Sunshine Manning 116631 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will Cuba become a test case for a post-postmodern future? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gregory-leffel/will-cuba-become-test-case-for-post-postmodern-future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Metamodern mindfulness offers a new way of thinking about the ideological conflicts of the past. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GregLeffel5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Umberto Boccioni, 1913,&nbsp;<em>Dynamism of a Cyclist</em>, Gianni Mattioli Collection, on long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Umberto_Boccioni,_1913,_Dynamism_of_a_Cyclist_(Dinamismo_di_un_ciclista),_oil_on_canvas,_70_x_95_cm,_Gianni_Mattioli_Collection,_on_long-term_loan_to_the_Peggy_Guggenheim_Collection,_Venice.jpg">Public Domain via Wikimedia</a>.</p> <p>Last month I was invited to speak with students and faculty at a theological colloquium in the Cuban coastal city of Matanzas. This is a new moment for Cuba, and I imagine that the next time I travel there I won’t find the same country I visited this time around.</p> <p>In April, Cuba’s National Assembly will <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-election/cuba-holds-one-party-vote-as-post-castro-era-looms-idUSKCN1GN05H">elect a new president</a>, who, likely for the first time since the 1959 Revolution, will not be a Castro (though Raul Castro will <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/26/opinion/cuba-castro-election-democracy.html">retain party and military leadership</a> for now). As the revolutionary generation passes away, other post-Castro changes are in the air too, including the eventual relaxation (post-Trump) of US sanctions on direct investment and travel, and with it the gradual incorporation of the world’s last functioning socialist nation into the global financial system.</p> <p>Little may change in the short-run, but ultimately Cuba will face serious questions about how to protect the gains of its revolution. Will the country follow China’s mixed socialist-capitalist one-party path toward economic integration? Will it evolve into a multi-party liberal democracy? How will Cuba defend an educated, egalitarian society—one that proudly ‘puts people at the center’—from rising inequality? The colloquium left me wondering how the next generation of civil society leaders will navigate Cuba’s opening to the wider neoliberal world.</p> <p>Of course, this challenge isn’t unique to Cuba. Progressive leaders everywhere are struggling to create a coherent vision for a world of freedom, equality and human flourishing. Specifically, they are frustrated with postmodernism’s inability to articulate a positive political challenge to the false promises of neoliberal development, and are looking beyond it for <em>post</em>-postmodern alternatives that aren’t locked into conventional left/right, socialist/capitalist dichotomies.</p> <p>What might such a post-postmodern consciousness look like? Two young Dutch cultural scholars, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WPYFvB2DIc">Timotheus Vermeulen and Robbin van den Akker</a>, believe they have found it in a growing &nbsp;trend that they call <a href="https://www.rowmaninternational.com/book/metamodernism/3-156-2ecae72f-85e3-46f0-9128-185c40366816">‘metamodernism’</a>—a concept that has struck a chord with a wide audience since their landmark paper <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/jac.v2i0.5677?scroll=top&amp;needAccess=true">“Notes on Metamodernism”</a> was published in 2010. But what does it mean?</p> <p>Vermeulen and van den Akker argue that the way the world <em>feels</em> to us—our sensibility about the world order—changed profoundly in the first decade of the new millennium. They describe this feeling as a shift in ‘affect’ (our emotional reactions), and a change in the cultural logic we use to sort the world out. Think of this as a shift in our collective ‘structure of feeling,’ or as <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/modern-social-imaginaries">Charles Taylor</a> calls it, our ‘social imaginary.’</p> <p>This mood shift is partly circumstantial: 9/11, the Great Recession, the Iraq war, accelerating climate change, mass-migration, structural racism, inequality, and worker precarity have greatly undermined our confidence in social, economic and political institutions. For a generation raised on the glitter of globalization in the booming 1990s, the inept, even corrupt, performance of virtually every public and private institution since then has crushed their hopes. They sense that all that is solid melted into the air a long time ago; that uncertainty, complexity and chaos are the new normal; and that our cultural and social reflexes tell us that something ominous is happening to the world.</p> <p>Vermeulen and van den Akker discern this shifting affect in the aesthetics of a rising generation of artists who are looking for a way beyond postmodernism. They find it, first, in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Sincerity">‘new sincerity’</a> of writers like <a href="http://www.davidfosterwallacebooks.com/about.html">David Foster Wallace</a>, <a href="http://www.zadiesmith.com/about-zadie/">Zadie Smith</a> and <a href="https://www.mcsweeneys.net/pages/about-dave-eggers">Dave Eggers</a>; the band <a href="http://arcadefiretube.com/arcade-fire/">Arcade Fire</a>; <a href="https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1CHWL_enUS713US713&amp;q=wes+anderson+movies&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj535yr9oDaAhVJzlMKHZuICvUQ1QIIuwEoAA&amp;biw=1440&amp;bih=809">Wes Anderson’s</a> ‘quirky’ film style; and even the American hit TV series <a href="https://www.nbc.com/parks-and-recreation">“Parks and Recreation.”</a> These artists directly <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/11/sincerity-not-irony-is-our-ages-ethos/265466/">confront postmodern irony</a>, cynicism and social disengagement with a fresh commitment to authentic feeling and relationships.</p> <p>They also find it in a return to romanticism that is rooted in human reconciliation with the earth and with a return to more hopeful, utopian visions—for example, in the architecture of Swiss design firm <a href="https://www.herzogdemeuron.com/index/projects/complete-works/226-250/230-elbphilharmonie-hamburg/image.html">Herzog and de Meuron</a> and a return to <a href="http://www.adammillerart.com/fullscreen/video/">figurative and narrative painting</a>. Vermeulen and van den Akker’s analysis is echoed in the US by <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-is-metamodernism_us_586e7075e4b0a5e600a788cd">Seth Abramson</a> who blogs about the metamodern condition at the <em>Huffington Post</em>.</p> <p>Along with a near universal disillusionment with the current order, these artists, writers and activists perceive a deepening realism and seriousness about the condition of society among long-comfortable westerners who once took their ease for granted, but who now realize that even they can be crushed by unaccountable global power structures (as self-centered as this may seem to the rest of the world). Their great fear is nihilism; their greatest desire is to find a source of hope and a new political narrative to guide them into a better future.</p> <p>Such efforts express a popular longing to escape postmodernism’s cultural logic and its council of despair that surrendered the world to neoliberalism—its ‘end-of-everything’ cynicism, sarcasm and irony; its bottomless critique, crippling political passivity and infatuation with cultural ‘power’.</p> <p>Instead, they see the re-appearance of values that the postmoderns disrespected as merely ‘modern’—things like sincerity in place of irony, commitment instead of detachment, and a depth (versus surface) sense of reality; a return of historical consciousness (the belief that the future can be better than the past); a willingness to create big-picture theories of the world or new ‘metanarratives;’ and a renewed belief in ‘progress’ and transcendent visions—something, that is, to believe in and fight for.</p> <p>Underlying this new structure of feeling is a deeper philosophical turn and a richer historical sensibility. Metamodernism abandons notions of history as an orderly, evolutionary sequence of cultural ‘beads-on-a-string’ that cancel each other out as each period passes by. Instead, it argues that past forms of consciousness are really not past at all.</p> <p>In the west, for example, elements of the medieval, theological consciousness still sit alongside those from modern (theoretical) and postmodern (critical) consciousness, remaining simultaneously present and mutually influential. When combined rather than pitted against each other, the most productive elements of each form of consciousness can be re-assembled to create a rich array of resources to direct our emerging social, political and economic development.</p> <p>In metamodernism, the prefix ‘meta’ is not used to mean ‘after’ or ‘above’, though it does carry a soft meaning as somehow ‘transcendent’ or ‘beyond.’ But drawing from the Greek philosophical term <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaxy">metaxy</a>,</em> ‘meta’s’ hard meaning is to be ‘in-between’, a mediation between two poles. To be metamodern is to practice a form of mindfulness that refuses the zero-sum game that pits one form of consciousness against another.</p> <p>Instead, one moves back and forth between different poles in order to look for integration rather than contradiction. To think metaxologically means to stand among the ‘isms’—socialism, capitalism, collectivism, individualism, theism and atheism—and allow them to interact and interpret each other, rather than standing with one ‘ism’ against the others.</p> <p>In this way, metamodern mindfulness interrogates, and seeks to resolve, opposites that subdivide our individual consciousness and alienate us from each other: identity/universality, local/global, nihilism/meaning, cynicism/trust, detachment/commitment, materialism/spirituality, nature/culture, hierarchy/anarchy, markets/politics, and so on down the list. The point is not that we can resolve these opposites into neat new packages, but that by constantly interrogating one in terms of the others we can generate new meanings and richer possibilities.</p> <p>How is all this relevant to Cuba? At the colloquium I attended, a University of Havana psychologist put Cuba’s social ferment like this: “Given our high levels of education, Cubans have a first-world sensibility but live in third-world poverty.” The young are left frustrated. Instead of the revolution they dream of Miami, and unless something changes many of them will move there.&nbsp;</p> <p>If, or when, Cuba cautiously opens to outside investment and global integration, will its civil and political leaders take advantage of this new metamodern mood to reframe their country’s expectations and paths to the future? There will be many ‘opposites’ to resolve that &nbsp;other countries are struggling with—property rights versus personal rights for dignity, subsistence and security, for example, or reconciling socialist collectivism and capitalist individualism, two very different structures of feeling.&nbsp;</p> <p>Metamodern mindfulness offers a new way of thinking about the ideological conflicts of the past—a new frame through which to assess class conflict, egalitarianism, liberal freedoms and religious values—and the possibility of new syntheses within and between these things. For Cuba to perfect its revolution rather than abandon it or see it consumed from the outside, a re-definition of the kind of utopia it desires is necessary, along with a new mood of sincerity and commitment to build and sustain it.</p> <p>Cuba once captured the left’s imagination. It can do so again for a new generation of leaders if it succeeds in lifting its people out of poverty while preserving the human gains of its revolution, but this time it will be different. Latin America, locked in its seemingly eternal cycles of left/right conflict, can certainly use new models that work in practice. And maybe Cuba’s giant neighbor to the north will learn something too.</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/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 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-christianity-finished-as-source-of-inspiration-for-progressive-soci">Is Christianity finished as a source of inspiration for progressive 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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Cuba Gregory Leffel Liberation Activism Culture Economics Sun, 25 Mar 2018 20:31:31 +0000 Gregory Leffel 116839 at https://www.opendemocracy.net With marijuana now legal, Los Angeles goes further to make amends for the war on drugs https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kevon-paynter/with-marijuana-now-legal-los-angeles-goes-further-to-make-amends-for-wa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How one city is repairing the damage caused by marijuana prohibition for the people who’ve been most affected.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KevonPaynter.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Marijuana&nbsp;displayed in West Hollywood on the first day of recreational sales on January 2, 2018. Credit: Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images via YES! Magazine.</p> <p>Decades of marijuana prohibition in California are coming to an end thanks to ballot initiative Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.sccgov.org/sites/ceo/Pages/adult-marijuana-act-AUMA.aspx">Approved by a majority of voters</a>&nbsp;in November 2016, Prop 64 reduces criminal penalties for various marijuana-related offenses for adults and juveniles and allows marijuana entrepreneurs to participate in the recreational sale of cannabis to adults.</p> <p>Yet Californians didn’t just legalize marijuana. In Los Angeles, the City Council went one step further, enacting some of the most progressive criminal justice reforms in the country to rectify the disproportionate effect the war on drugs has had on minority communities.</p> <p>“We are L.A. We are leaders. We take on the tough issues,” City Council<a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-marijuana-rules-20171205-story.html">President Herb Wesson said</a>&nbsp;Dec. 6 right before the bill passed, reported the Los Angeles Times.</p> <p>Proposition 64 legalizes a marijuana industry that experts estimate will add&nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/california-weed-marijuana-legalization-2016-9">$4 billion</a>&nbsp;to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-california-pot-20170129-story.html">$7 billion</a>&nbsp;to the state economy that, if California were its own country, would be sixth largest in the world. And within that huge economy, L.A. has become the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dailynews.com/2017/09/14/la-in-the-spotlight-as-it-races-to-legalize-local-marijuana-industry/">world’s largest market</a>&nbsp;to approve the sale of recreational cannabis.</p> <p>California was on the front lines of the war on drugs for decades. The state experienced nearly 500,000 marijuana arrests between 2006 and 2015, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/California_Marijuana_Arrest_Report_081816.pdf">Drug Policy Alliance</a>.</p> <p>The&nbsp;new ordinances in L.A. create a “social equity” tier of applicants who will receive priority for licenses to own and operate marijuana businesses. These are people who have past convictions for marijuana-related crimes, or who live in an L.A. neighborhood that was a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-marijuana-equity-20171020-story.html">verifiable</a>&nbsp;target of enforcement during the drug war. It’s an attempt at restorative justice for the minority communities most negatively impacted by marijuana prohibition.</p> <p>The law takes effect even as Attorney General Jeff Sessions&nbsp;<a href="https://www.apnews.com/19f6bfec15a74733b40eaf0ff9162bfa">reverses U.S. Justice Department guidance</a>&nbsp;to leave enforcement of marijuana laws to the states. It’s unclear yet what effect new federal policies would have.</p> <p>L.A. resident&nbsp;<a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/11/california-prop-47-helped-african-americans-161101172049495.html">Donnie Anderson</a>&nbsp;plans to remain vigilant during the<em>&nbsp;</em>city’s implementation of the rules. As chairman of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.californiaminorityalliance.com/">California Minority State Alliance</a>, Anderson advocated for the social equity program that they hope will play a major role in deciding which marijuana businesses will be allowed to open.</p> <p>“The difference is justice is at the forefront,” Anderson says.</p> <p>Anderson and Virgil Grant own MedEX, a medical cannabis dispensary in South L.A.&nbsp;<a href="http://blog.margolinlawrence.com/do-i-need-to-be-a-pre-ico-to-qualify-for-las-priority-licensing">Since 1996, when medical marijuana was legalized in California, 135</a>&nbsp;shops have been licensed to sell cannabis to patients.</p> <p>According to the proposed rules, medical dispensaries will be first in line to receive a license to expand into recreational sales. However, Anderson and Grant and other groups like California NORML and the NAACP fought to ensure people with previous convictions wouldn’t be disqualified.</p> <p>&nbsp;“[They] fought for cannabis to make sure we can build generational wealth from this plant,” says Walter Lance Edwards, who has a past drug-related conviction and plans to open a cannabis delivery service.</p> <p>Anderson is helping Edwards obtain a fair shot at reaping the rewards of an industry that experts predict will bring in over&nbsp;<a href="https://merryjane.com/news/california-los-angeles-approves-controversial-cannabis-regulations-legalization">$50 million in local tax revenue</a>&nbsp;in 2018.</p> <p>“We’ve been the ones going to prison for it,” Edwards said. “Now it’s time for us to own it and operate it in a business.”</p> <p>As the nation’s attitudes<strong>&nbsp;</strong>toward marijuana shift—eight states have legalized recreational pot so far—Anderson believes the social equity program offers minorities in L.A.<strong>&nbsp;</strong>a&nbsp;chance at justice, equity, and fair development<em>.</em></p> <p>“It’s about those who’ve been harmed by the failed war on drugs,” Anderson says. “Our goal is about the socio-economics, and that’s what social equity really means.”</p> <p>Because federal law still prohibits marijuana,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-jerry-brown-marijuana-banking-plan-20171217-story.html">federally insured banks won’t lend</a>&nbsp;to marijuana businesses or handle cash from the proceeds of marijuana sales. This would place Edwards and other would-be entrepreneurs on unequal footing when competing with well-funded cannabis operations that have pockets&nbsp;deep enough not to need the assistance of commercial banks.</p> <p><a href="https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/craig-bannister/la-approves-plan-help-cannabis-convicts-open-pot-shop">L.A.’s plan is to waive or defer fees and provide startup loans</a>&nbsp;at low interest rates to create equal opportunities for social equity applicants. It’s a move Edwards calls “a good start.”</p> <p>Another component of the new regulations would ensure that people with low incomes, residents of neighborhoods heavily affected by marijuana arrests, or those who have been convicted of marijuana-related crimes make up at least half of the workforce in the city’s new<strong>&nbsp;</strong>cannabis businesses. Both Edwards and Anderson grew up in South L.A. neighborhoods that were hotspots for drug arrests.</p> <p>“I’m still rising out of the ashes from this, and the effects are still here,” Edwards says.</p> <p>In ’82 and ’83 you saw Black “fathers in the household, mothers working,” Anderson says. The war on drugs, he says, “took the man, took the woman, and put the children in foster care. It created a warfare that I’ve never seen in my lifetime and I never want to see it again.”</p> <p>Edwards says that over the years, as good industrial jobs abandoned the neighborhood, few options were left other than selling marijuana. “What do you got to do to feed your family?” he says. “It’s by all means necessary.”</p> <p>Decades of independent studies confirm Edwards’ firsthand experience—while people of every race are equally likely to buy, use, and sell drugs, Black people are more than&nbsp;<a href="https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/141027_iachr_racial_disparities_aclu_submission_0.pdf">three</a>&nbsp;times as likely to be charged, convicted, and harshly sentenced.</p> <p>Instead of crackdowns, under the new equity program, the L.A. city council set up a<strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong>neighborhood health fund that will direct a portion of city revenue from taxing marijuana businesses to pay for community beautification, addiction treatment, youth extracurricular education, and mental health services in areas affected by the war on drugs.</p> <p>Taxes from legal cannabis will also go to community-based legal service providers that have already helped at least&nbsp;<a href="http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/Prop64-Filings.pdf">4,500</a>&nbsp;people petition to have their convictions for low-level nonviolent crimes, such as drug possession and petty theft, changed from felonies to misdemeanors.</p> <p>That reclassification of most drug- and theft-related crimes is a result of Proposition 47, which went into effect in 2014. As a result, the number of drug arrests in Los Angeles County has dropped by a third and, according to the Washington Post, it’s led to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2015/10/10/prop47/?utm_term=.544f1e3d1979">hundreds of thousands</a>&nbsp;of people applying to get their previous drug convictions revised or erased.</p> <p>Eunisses Hernandez, policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, organizes expungement clinics where translators and attorneys working pro bono help 50–100 people file the paperwork to remove those convictions.</p> <p>“They’re coming, many of them with months or years of struggling to get a job or housing, and just that weight is really heavy, and you can sense that weight in the room,” Hernandez says.</p> <p>What’s happening in L.A. and across California echoes a movement to atone for harsh penalties during the war on drugs. At least nine states, including Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont, have passed laws expunging or reducing marijuana convictions,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/marijuana-overview.aspx">according to the National Conference of State Legislatures</a>, even while the sale, transportation, or possession of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.</p> <p>Getting those stains removed from their records is something most people expected never to happen after their experiences during the years of marijuana prohibition.</p> <p>“People leave [the expungement clinics] crying because they never thought they could get these offenses taken care of—especially for free,” Hernandez says.</p> <p>“The point of this is to repair the damages caused by marijuana prohibition … for the people who’ve been most severely impacted,” she says. “We wanted to be that resource to repair those harms.”</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/with-marijuana-now-legal-la-goes-further-to-make-amends-for-the-war-on-drugs-20180118?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180119&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180119+CID_957f50d47bd51c3187274340c496fa36&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=R">YES! Magazine</a>.</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="/drugpolicy/ezekiel-edwards/in-us-war-on-drugs-equal-justice-under-law-rings-hollow">In the US war on drugs, “equal justice under law” rings hollow</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy/9-things-we-ve-learned-from-50-year-war-on-drugs">9 things we’ve learned from a 50-year war on drugs</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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> </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 Activism Care Culture Thu, 15 Mar 2018 20:43:28 +0000 Kevon Paynter 115787 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Great Society versus the Poor People’s Campaign https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What can we learn from contrasting efforts to combat poverty and injustice in 1960s America?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SarahFreemanWoolpert6.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">President&nbsp;Lyndon B. Johnson&nbsp;meets with&nbsp;Martin Luther King, Jr.&nbsp;in the White House Cabinet Room, 18 March 1966. Credit: Yoichi Okamoto (Public Domain), via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMartin_Luther_King%2C_Jr._and_Lyndon_Johnson_2.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p> <p>A dramatic scene is unfolding this month in Washington, D.C. Angry activists march and chant outside the White House demanding an end to the violence that’s killing America’s youth. Politicians squabble and point fingers, assigning blame and deepening divisions. A chasm has opened within the Democratic Party, exposing the disconnect between wealthy, white party elites and the hardships faced by poor people in small-town America.</p> <p>This story is not, however, about high schoolers pressuring for gun reform or Congressional deadlock on passing the national budget. It’s the story of <em><a href="http://www.arenastage.org/shows-tickets/the-season/productions/the-great-society/">The Great Society</a></em>, a theatrical performance which premiered at The Arena Stage in Washington in February 2018. The play tells of President Lyndon Johnson’s vision of <a href="http://www.pbs.org/johngardner/chapters/4c.html">poverty reduction</a> through massive government programs aimed at improving access to basic needs like education and health care, and the interplay between Johnson’s efforts and the struggles of civil rights leaders for racial and economic equality.</p> <p>Written by <a href="http://www.robertschenkkan.com/">Robert Schenkkan</a> and directed by <a href="http://theatre.ucsd.edu/people/faculty/acting/KyleDonnelly/index.htm">Kyle Donnelly</a>, the play explores how, as the Vietnam War escalated, Johnson felt forced to divert funding from anti-poverty programs to the war effort, as protesters demonstrated outside the White House in outrage at the killing of young Americans for a seemingly-endless conflict.</p> <p>While Johnson’s vision of “The Great Society” was initially <a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/At_Canaan_s_Edge.html?id=uAa2Znbml_sC">supported by Martin Luther King Jr</a>. and other civil rights leaders, it was later denounced as top-down and out of touch with the realities that faced the American poor. This eventually led King to declare a different approach to addressing economic inequality by announcing a <a href="http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_poor_peoples_campaign/">“Poor People’s Campaign”</a> led by the poor themselves. He was assassinated shortly thereafter, and the Campaign is often regarded as a major unfinished part of King’s work.</p> <p>The play could not have opened at a more opportune moment. Indeed, much of the drama on the Arena Stage can be seen unfolding in US politics today. The show depicts the growing sense of anger and urgency that was felt among youth activists and organizers as the corruption and in-fighting surrounding the Great Society prevented funds from reaching people in need.</p> <p>This is mirrored today in the explosion of grassroots organizing around injustice and inequality that’s taking place across the country, including the <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/02/22/parkland-survivors-started-movement-when-they-took-gun-violence-heres-how-happened/361297002/">youth-led mobilization</a> around gun violence that captured national attention during February 2018. It also coincides with the <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/poor-peoples-campaign-revives-king-dream-challenging-class-divide/">re-launch of King’s Poor People’s Campaign</a>, led by Reverends <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/06/29/woe-unto-those-who-legislate-evil-rev-william-barber-builds-a-moral-movement/?utm_term=.26562dc1d5bd">William J. Barber</a> and <a href="https://www.thenation.com/authors/rev-dr-liz-theoharis/">Liz Theoharis</a>, which re-traces King’s steps through communities across the country and is gearing up for 40 days of mass civil disobedience in May.</p> <p>Examining the reasons behind the failure of Johnson’s Great Society and how King’s Poor People’s Campaign embodied a different vision provides important historical context that is often omitted from the narrative surrounding the Civil Rights Movement. It also puts the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign into perspective, illuminating the ways in which today’s grassroots organizing both follows in the footsteps of the past and tries to overcome some of the challenges that social movements have faced.</p> <p><strong>Understanding the split between Johnson and King’s approaches to inequality.</strong></p> <p>When President Johnson originally proposed the idea of the Great Society, King welcomed it—he was excited about the idea of uplifting the poor, and saw poverty as a crucial issue underlying racial inequality in the United States. In pursuit of this vision, Johnson sought to wage a “War on Poverty” by passing the <a href="http://acsc.lib.udel.edu/exhibits/show/legislation/esea">Elementary and Secondary Education Act,</a> <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Medicare-United-States-health-insurance">Medicare and Medicaid</a>, and the <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act">Voting Rights Act</a> of 1965.</p> <p>Yet in February of that year Johnson initiated <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/operation-rolling-thunder">airstrikes on Vietnam</a>, enlarging America’s military presence in the country and diverting billions of dollars away from anti-poverty programs. Even before this diversion, King saw that the Great Society espoused an inherent contradiction—reliant as it was on powerful, predominantly white lawmakers devising solutions. Eradicating economic inequality would threaten the power of wealthy elites, but those elites were the same people charged with devising the programs. King became more critical of the broader economic system itself, and how capitalism creates and upholds the structures of inequality.</p> <p>One example of the Great Society’s flawed programs is embodied in its approach to education through the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, whose resources were largely diverted to wealthy, white suburbs and not the inner cities that were in greatest need. Chicago’s <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/richard-daley">Mayor Richard Daley</a>, a prominent figure in the Democratic Party at the time, received substantial funding from the Johnson administration for poverty reduction but focused the money on white government workers in the city who were Daley’s political supporters, with no real benefits reaching the urban poor. Chicago Superintendent Benjamin Willis was <a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Unraveling_of_America.html?id=nOd_ka8KakYC">accused of earmarking</a> some of the $32 million for non-poor white children rather than the children of the poor.</p> <p>Senator <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/robert-f-kennedy">Robert Kennedy</a> was critical of the local implementation of poverty reduction through the Great Society program, and he was not alone. Riots and demonstrations erupted around the country as people demanded economic opportunities for survival. In the summer of 1965, a riot broke out in <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/watts-riot-begins">Watts, California</a>. King spoke at the rally before it turned hostile. A man in the audience <a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/At_Canaan_s_Edge.html?id=uAa2Znbml_sC">shouted at him</a>, “All we want is jobs! We get jobs, we don’t bother nobody. We don’t get no jobs, we’ll tear up Los Angeles, period.”</p> <p>Similar feelings spread across urban America. While Johnson denounced the riots and supported the imposition of ‘law and order’ by police, King was confronted with the reality of economic hardship that was pushing people to the brink. He began to criticize Johnson’s approach to poverty reduction and the war in Vietnam, and started to develop an understanding which united the <a href="http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy">“Triple Evils”</a> of poverty, racism and militarism—a trio he articulated in his speech at the <a href="http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_beyond_vietnam/">Riverside Church</a> in Manhattan on April 4 1967.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube,” King said in his speech, “So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”</p> <p><strong>Inspiring the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign.</strong></p> <p>Much of King’s vision for a movement that was led by the poor, for the poor is embodied in the contemporary revival of the Poor People’s Campaign. The problems that emerged in the split between Johnson and King—including political corruption, the draining of domestic resources for social services by militarism, and divisions within the Democratic Party’s leadership—are just as relevant today.</p> <p>The current Campaign focuses on four central issues: racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation, three of which King focused on during the original movement. But it’s not only ideological similarities that tie the two Campaigns together. Reverend Barber is retracing the same route that King took through impoverished communities, holding <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/us/politics/politics-religion-liberal-william-barber.html">“barnstorming” events</a> along the way to hear people’s personal stories and spread the word about joining the movement.</p> <p>In a single day in March 1968, King barnstormed the state of Mississippi, traveling from small impoverished towns to Hattiesburg. Rev. Barber’s barnstorming drew even larger numbers than King did. King spoke to a crowd of 600 people in Chapel Hill, but only two signed up for the journey to Washington. In October 2017, hundreds of people volunteered to risk arrest after Barber’s barnstorm event in Binghamton, New York.</p> <p>On February 12, 2018, leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign marched with fast food workers in the $15Now movement in Memphis, Tennessee. Marchers walked the same route taken by workers in the <a href="http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_memphis_sanitation_workers_strike_1968/">1968 sanitation worker strike</a>, when 1,300 people walked off their jobs demanding the right to join a union, higher safety standards and a living wage. For the 50th anniversary of the strike, a crowd of low-income, non-unionized workers led clergy, union workers and allies, while sanitation workers who had been part of the 1968 strike spoke to the crowd alongside fast food workers demanding changes in the racism and poverty that plague Memphis to this day.</p> <p>In several ways, the Poor People’s Campaign of today is poised to overcome some of the challenges that stifled the movement fifty years ago. One key difference is the dispersal of power to state and local chapters. When King organized the campaign in 1968, staff at the <a href="http://nationalsclc.org/about-us/history/">Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)</a> were tasked with organizing most of the logistical details, including the planning of caravans to travel simultaneously across the country to Washington. Today’s movement incorporates more decentralized local branches of organizers, and embodies a more horizontal leadership structure behind the scenes.</p> <p>Of course, the contemporary campaign has the advantage of being a product of a longer history, one in which King’s personal transformation in how best to combat poverty eventually led to the grassroots mobilization which is mirrored around the United States today. King’s journey to launch the original Poor People’s Campaign—illustrated through the arc of his relationship with President Johnson and the Great Society—tells an important story about the power of local organizing in comparison to a top-down policy approach to social change. It also shows how grassroots movements respond to shifting circumstances like escalating tensions, public outrage and political deadlock by shifting leaders away from an ineffective establishment.</p> <p>During 2018, the Poor People’s Campaign holds the potential to pick up where King’s left off by addressing many of the same problems he faced in the 1960s—while elevating the voices of the poor across the country through mass mobilization for systemic change. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen">A renewed Poor People’s Campaign revives King’s dream of challenging class divides</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-reconciliation-and-redemption-are-central-to-countering-wh">Why reconciliation and redemption are central to countering white supremacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns">Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns?</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 Kyle Moore Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Activism Economics Tue, 13 Mar 2018 20:32:28 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert and Kyle Moore 116491 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Three more ways to build solidarity across our differences https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani-hannah-rollins/three-more-ways-to-build-solidarity- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For most people divisive rhetoric isn’t new; they’ve been developing ways to counter it for years.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Peroandkiran2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/28720644722">Flickr/Matt Brown</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a>.</p> <p>In 2017 we reported on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">the work we’ve been doing with the Skills Network in south London</a> to nurture less siloed communities in the context of the post-Brexit debate. Reactions to that article encouraged us to go one step further in deepening our learning with other groups trying to build collective forms of support and social justice. For most people divisive rhetoric isn’t new; they’ve been developing ways to counter it for years. Here are three more lessons from our experience.</p><p><strong>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>We have more in common than divides us, but our situations are never equal.</strong></p> <blockquote><p><em>”You’ve got to remember when you bring all these people together in the beginning…they’ve got to have someone to shout at…Both sides have got to be equal. It’s got to be a level playing field otherwise it doesn’t work…(to do this) you need to create a ‘them and us’ situation...But the goal is to work towards the ‘us.’” </em>(Steve Scott, long-term Groundswell activist)<em></em></p></blockquote> <p>When we started Skills Network we were keen to focus on our shared experiences and values. We wanted the space to feel safe and positive, to ‘enact’ our ideal world, so we played down differences between us. But as we developed as a cooperative, frustrations at these differences came out in unexpected, sometimes disruptive ways, forcing us to think about more explicit ways to confront them.&nbsp; </p> <p>The reality is that there <em>are</em> inequalities between people—financial and in terms of status, confidence to voice opinions, general life opportunities and expectations. These differences are often internalised, glossed over by well-meaning attempts to ‘bridge divides’ and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/17/jo-coxs-widower-awed-by-scale-of-uk-events-to-remember-his-wife">‘build communities.</a>’ It’s difficult to get the balance right between acknowledging them and letting them define the group, but some groups manage this balancing act better than others.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="http://groundswell.org.uk/">Groundswell</a>, for example, facilitates peer-to-peer support and advocacy around homelessness, and for many years has been training local councils and other organisations in user involvement.&nbsp; The organisation started in the 1990s as a movement "very explicitly campaigning for the homeless and roofless–engaging with people who were having those experiences and following their agenda"&nbsp;as Simone Helleren from Groundswell puts it. Over time it grew into a network of smaller groups doing localised ‘self-help’ which started to advocate for more fundamental changes to policies and attitudes around housing. </p> <p>Groundswell recognised the crucial importance of taking the knowledge and anger of people at the sharp end of inequality seriously. The group pioneered the ‘Speakout’ model which brought together self-help groups, people experiencing homelessness, and people working in the sector to learn from each other through workshops and debates. These events brought homeless people into direct dialogue with policymakers and gave them an opportunity to express their opinions. </p> <p>Allowing space for those who had experienced homelessness to share their feelings with those responsible for making and implementing housing policy helped the group to move past these divisions and laid the groundwork for years of productive collaboration. Over time speakouts evolved into citizens’ juries which were at the centre of the group’s radical inquiry into UK housing policy: the <a href="http://lcu.iopan.co.uk/publications/the-homeless-peoples-commission.pdf">Homeless People’s Commission</a>. The key was to confront, not suppress, the injustices and inequalities that divide people, and to build connections and communities that eventually overcame them.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Create frameworks that recognise we <em>all</em> have things to give and take.</strong></p> <blockquote><p><em>“The difference between traditional charity and timebanking? It’s the power thing, isn’t it? It’s more equal. You get to feel good about yourself by giving and remembering ‘oh yeah I am actually quite good at things.’ And you get help back as well -rather than one set of people are always the givers and then the other lot are the passive beneficiaries.” </em>(Alison Paule, Paxton Green Timebank Coordinator).</p></blockquote> <p>We initially thought at Skills Network that a flat pay-rate and shared decision-making would ensure everyone’s contributions felt equally valued. But ‘conventional’ hierarchies kept creeping into our dynamics.&nbsp; Searching for learning from other organisations in South London, we discovered <a href="https://www.rgtb.org.uk/">Rushey Green</a> and Paxton Green Timebanks. The timebanking movement seeks to create ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/edgar-cahn/empathy-democracy-and-economy">operating systems’</a> which consciously facilitate exchange and support in a way that makes clear that “nobody is better than anybody else.<em>”</em> They do this by focusing on ‘proactive’ time as the principal unit of currency<strong>.</strong></p> <p>For every hour participants ‘deposit’ in a timebank they can ‘withdraw’ the equivalent in support when they need something—“ironing or accounting…an hour is an hour.” In this context being ‘in need’ is not stigmatizing or shameful—it’s a normal part of everyone’s life.</p> <p>Timebanks globally have different characteristics. In south London, they bring together individuals who live very near each other but otherwise are worlds apart. Paule notes that “it quite surprises people to start with, probably more so for the posher people – ‘oh these are different people that I don’t usually interact with!&nbsp; And they are quite nice actually."<em>&nbsp;</em>One older woman member described the effects of a friendship that had grown out of her involvement:<em> </em></p> <blockquote><p><em>“My friend who subsequently has died, she actually lived down the bottom of my road and I would never have listened and talked to her. She was afro-Caribbean, from Jamaica…I would never had actually been able to [sighing] comprehend, understand certain aspects of other people lives if it wasn’t for her.” </em></p></blockquote> <p>But these new relationships and insights don’t happen overnight. They evolve very gradually as people engage in mutual support.&nbsp;<em>“</em>When you first get involved it may be quite passive” according to Robert, a member of both timebanks, “just coming along (to an event), drinking a cup of tea. But the aim is to give people the opportunity to grow, to get more involved.”</p> <p>This framework acknowledges that some people have had knock-backs in their lives and may need support in taking the lead on something—perhaps from something “really small like (starting) a knitting group…helping them think through the steps…Where do you want to have the group? What day of the week? What time? We’ve got spare kettles, tea, biscuits.”</p> <p>The careful, slow work that happens within timebanks may seem insignificant to the untrained eye, focusing as it does on tiny interactions and exchanges and incremental shifts in people’s understanding of themselves and each other. These shifts are difficult to capture and count, but they can have profound resonance because they break down the sense of difference that those involved often have about each-other.&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p><em>“It felt very different, completely different from anything that had been going on before. You started to feel as if you have got some value to give. And lo and behold somebody is giving you something that you never expected.” </em>(Marilyn, Paxton Green member)</p></blockquote><p><strong>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong><strong>Having an equal conversation is a deliberate, political act.</strong></p><p>Even a single conversation in which people feel like they are interacting as equals can help to shift the status quo in hierarchies, but it’s a challenge, and one that often overwhelmed us at Skills Network. ‘<a href="https://leftroots.net/organizing-transformation-best-practices-in-the-transformative-organizing-model/">Transformative organising</a>’ approaches (which came out of community organising in the US) have taught us a lot about how to do it better. It starts by acknowledging the entrenched hierarchies that play out in all our interactions, but which are often more obvious to those with less power who are used to subtly deferring to, agreeing with or apologising to those who have more. </p> <p>These approaches use specific techniques to slowly equalise these hierarchies, like ‘<a href="http://www.intentionalpeersupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Peer-Support_A-Systemic-Approach.pdf">Intentional Peer Support,</a>’ which was developed in the 1990s as a challenge to top-down mental health services but has since become a wider method in community organising. Core to this method is the disruption of the tendency to replicate unequal ‘helping’ dynamics by building awareness of the power roles we all fall into, and by finding ways to be more aware of our own tendencies and assumptions. </p> <p>Their listening and questioning techniques help people engage with each other with real curiosity and openness, and form connections across divides, shifting from notions of ‘helping’ towards ones of ‘learning together.’ Key to transformative approaches is the conviction that they form a continual and relentless process, and one that will keep being slightly undone by the rest of the world—meaning the job is never ‘done.’ </p> <p>Many people are looking for new ways to heal divides and that’s heartening. But enacting these sentiments in a long-lasting way is complex and challenging, especially when some people face very real resource shortages and others may have internalised very different notions of their power. If we are to come together across the entrenched divisions and disillusionment that many people are feeling, our starting point is clear: engage as equals. </p> <p>That means a continuous, ever-evolving process in which we must all be self-aware and open to being challenged again and again. It involves challenging the structures and values that set up inequalities between us through our daily interactions and with everyone we meet. Our plea is for people who have been relatively inoculated from the effects of divisive rhetoric and policy to really try and ‘see’ the inspirational alternatives that are already being enacted around them—and bring their knowledge and skills to this existing, slow, un-photogenic, but potentially transformative experience.&nbsp;&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/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 even"> <a href="/transformation/kylie-noble/we-re-movement-not-just-magazine">“We’re a movement, not just a magazine”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/amber-massie-blomfield/austerity-inequality-and-arts">Austerity, inequality and the arts</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 Kiran Nihalani and Peroline Ainsworth Hannah Rollins Activism Care Culture Sun, 11 Mar 2018 19:48:20 +0000 Hannah Rollins and Kiran Nihalani and Peroline Ainsworth 116589 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Horizontalising international NGOs: can it be done? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/robin-le-mare/horizontalising-international-ngos-can-it-be-done <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Alternative structures are available—if we have the courage to adopt them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Robinlemare.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">OXFAM-GB Offices in Cowley, UK. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/293718525">Flickr/allispossible.org.uk</a>.&nbsp; <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a></p> <p>For over 20 years I was employed in the London office of one of Britain’s larger, Charity Commission-registered aid organisations that funded ‘development’ across Africa, Asia and Latin America. It was always more geared toward long-term assistance but developed a short-term emergency section.</p> <p>Each country programme had a mandate to respond to emergencies within their own country, but the agency as a whole never had the huge warehousing capacity of Oxfam or Save the Children. Rather, it found niches that others missed, such as nurse training for patients’ mental trauma, which were as valued by their recipients as the tents, food, medicine and water systems that were delivered by the big guys.&nbsp;</p> <p>This meant that we didn’t take part in the piranha-like feeding frenzies that were seen in Haiti, Rwanda and other emergencies when aid organisations flooded in. Some of them were opportunists who had the financial backing and arrogance to go with it. Others had dubious ulterior motives such as those with an evangelical religious zeal. How any country could govern or control them all was beyond me, especially when its population had recently suffered huge trauma on the back of a longer history of imposed boundaries, colonialism and the destruction of indigenous institutions.&nbsp;</p> <p>For many years my employer, like most similar organisations, lacked trust in any but their own. They appointed only Europeans to senior positions like country directors, accountants and specialists in education and agriculture. The appointment of the first non-European as a country director in The Gambia caused much in-house consternation and comment from peers, including over his remuneration.</p> <p>The job had been advertised with full expatriate salary along with free housing and other perks. As the person selected as most-qualified he should have received all these things, but because he was a national of the country it was decided that he should be on local wages. A negotiated settlement was reached. A European continued as his senior accountant for several more years.&nbsp;</p> <p>By the time I left the agency much had changed, but an orthodox understanding of how such organisations should operate continued. That orthodox model required an organisational and corporate in-country presence, which meant having a large office in the capital city complete with communications and office equipment far superior to anything in government.</p> <p>This infrastructure included stand-by generators, a fleet of vehicles (each with the organisation’s logo and/or that of the funding agency for projects), and a large staff to service and support the whole behemoth. Housing markets were affected by the inflated prices foreigners were able to pay. Despite the rhetoric of ‘participation’ and ‘bottom up’ development, this model was based on a hierarchical management structure wedded to ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_framework_approach">Logframe Analysis</a>,’ which came out of military strategising.</p> <p>When I (as the London based liaison person) joined the team in Somaliland, a country recovering from the trauma of civil war, there were three foreign staff and about 15 locals. Some sensible adjustments to the orthodox model had already been made including a taxi rental system using local owners instead of importing new vehicles, and stronger links with long-established local and national institutions for managing common resources and conflict resolution. We broadened our terms of reference to focus on assisting partner organizations in social survey techniques, improved soil and water resource infrastructure, governance, accounting and reporting skills.</p> <p>Within our partner organisations were former civil servants, teachers and accountants from institutions that had collapsed in the civil war, and I’d like to think we helped them to strengthen their ability to set objectives, develop practical strategies approved by their members, and convert plans into project proposals to submit for financial assistance.</p> <p>Our head office defined a spending ratio that required at least 80 per cent of each budget to be spent in the beneficiary community, and the remaining 20 per cent on administration, research and other in-country activities, but there was always scope for some ‘creative accounting’ to disguise how much was really spent at the center. When our finance manager questioned this it started a year-long discussion about the costs and benefits of orthodox approaches and we decided to replace the existing system with a minimal, horizontal structure.</p> <p>All the support staff like drivers, guards and office personnel agreed to take alternative livelihoods (like 100 sheep and goats) instead of cash-based redundancy. The notion of ‘being made redundant’ had no linguistic translation in the society we were living in because no one is ever truly ‘redundant.’ One dispute was taken to arbitration and settled by community elders. Foreign staff contracts were not renewed. The director reduced his contract to half-time and mine fell to one-third.</p> <p>After this reorganisation our team was comprised of three national staff who lived in their own houses, were paid mileage when they used their own vehicles for work (as is common in the UK and US), and were supplied with high-quality laptops for work. It was cheaper for the director to live at home in Bangalore, India, with his family and make quarterly visits to the Horn of Africa to review and approve budgets than to draw on expatriate housing and other benefits.</p> <p>He conducted discussions and seminars with staff and partners as a ‘director of ideas’ instead of the ‘director of people and things,’ and built a network of academic contacts known for their expertise on managing the commons (such as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elinor_Ostrom">Elinor Ostrom</a>, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics), systems thinking, participation, and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_systems_methodology">Soft Systems Methodology</a>.</p> <p>Partners and staff became increasingly skilled at researching the needs and wants of their communities and translating them into funding proposals.&nbsp;In the process, the orthodox, hierarchical &nbsp;model of a large external presence with all of its many implications in terms of power and money was replaced by a smaller horizontal model that, I believe, got far closer to translating the rhetoric of ‘participation’ and ‘sustainability’ into practical action. By developing new relationships and strengthening the independent capacities of other organisations, the core team of three was able to expand its geographic reach and impact.</p> <p>On their visits to our head office in London, country directors would ask me about the unorthodox model we were crafting in Somaliland. I described it as best I could, but usually to glazed expressions of incomprehension on their faces. ‘How can you operate without offices, vehicles, drivers and so forth,’ they asked?</p> <p>Each of them had the authority to travel to join our ‘director of ideas’ during one of his quarterly visits, but none did so, though some were only a one-hour flight away. Nor did the International Director of Organisational Development show any interest. Multiply this obtuse, unquestioning attitude across other organisations and it’s clear where some of the weaknesses come from that are being shown up in the current furor around NGOs like Oxfam and Save the Children, glued as they are to outdated approaches to their work.</p> <p>The model our team had initiated was eventually wrecked by our in-house superiors. All but one of us was replaced, and a big house was chosen for a new office complete with a big new notice board to indicate our presence. Shiny white, new vehicles appeared in the driveway. It was ‘back to square one.’ However, the model we’d crafted made its way to Rwanda, where our director of ideas was asked to assist in translating the rhetoric of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_Reduction_Strategy_Paper">World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers</a> into practice.</p> <p>The result became known as “<em><a href="http://www.rwandapedia.rw/explore/ubudehe">Ubudehe</a>,</em>” a term that describes the long-standing Rwandan practice of collective action and mutual support to solve problems within a community. Its core team was deliberately small, and was designed to be held accountable to several actors at once who all needed to collaborate if there was to be success. The experiment was recognized with the <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=60pe0Gd0lx4C&amp;pg=PA8&amp;lpg=PA8&amp;dq=Ubudehe+UN+prize+for+innovation&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=mWqA3Unh5x&amp;sig=kGpp1IHtqcnxj0jYxLD46uolsi0&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwi5uICp2c3ZAhUynOAKHSBgAV8Q6AEIWjAG#v=onepage&amp;q=Ubudehe%20UN%20prize%20for%20inno">United Nations Public Service Award in 2008</a>.</p> <p>Unfortunately, ten years on this approach remains little known and little practiced in the development industry, which continues to eschew the kind of horizontal, participatory, ‘bottom-up’ philosophy that we developed. This is not because such approaches are impossible or ineffective—that has been proven to be false by our experience and the experiences of others. It’s because international NGOs don’t want to reduce their size and status as deliverers of foreign aid.</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/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/phil-vernon/what-s-it-all-about-oxfam">What’s it all about, Oxfam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">What’s to be done with Oxfam?</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 foreign aid NGOs Robin le Mare The role of money Activism Economics Tue, 06 Mar 2018 21:07:37 +0000 Robin le Mare 116473 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Structures are constructed everywhere, including inside ourselves https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sofa-gradin/structures-are-constructed-everywhere-including-inside-ourselves <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Radical change requires public participation; it isn’t something a vanguard can sort out for the rest of us.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SofaGradin6.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The microscopic structure of paper. Credit: By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) - Own work, via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10688563">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>.</p> <p>So far this year, our social media feeds have been peppered with calls to be vegan <a title="Ⓢ뿱ේ逥鼀縌" href="https://veganuary.com/why/">for the month of Veganuary</a>, use <a href="https://www.facebook.com/LessPlasticUK/photos/a.932138976823207.1073741828.900971596606612/1543590349011397/">less plastic</a>, produce <a href="http://www.greenmatters.com/living/2017/08/09/1B3jXn/zero-waste">less waste</a>, and make countless other lifestyle changes to create a better world. A plastic bag takes 1,000 years to degrade in landfill declares one <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHI6IiP7WDI&amp;t=0m50s">video</a> on my facebook feed, so we should use a fabric bag instead.</p> <p>However, many activists and <a href="https://splinternews.com/how-woke-went-from-black-activist-watchword-to-teen-int-1793853989">woke folks</a> are suspicious of calls to action that focus on individual choices. They <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2017/jul/17/neoliberalism-has-conned-us-into-fighting-climate-change-as-individuals">warn</a> that consumerist activism, personal environmentalism and lifestyle politics are distractions from genuine social justice work. Instead, they tell us to focus on <em>structural</em>&nbsp;change. ‘Lifestylist’ solutions are a waste of time because they fail to address the structural causes of social problems; what’s also problematic is that they’re not accessible to everyone since they require investments of our own time and money.</p> <p>In some ways these critics are right, but in others they’re wrong. The criticism that our own personal behaviours or consumption patterns are irrelevant to broader social structures is mistaken.</p> <p>There are many reasons to be wary of lifestylism. The problem of capitalist co-optation of social justice movements is wide-spread. For example, what was originally <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Fair_trade.html?id=Ek-2AAAAIAAJ">a radical critique of global neocolonial trading systems</a> in the early 1990s has now become commodified as a <a href="http://www.babymilkaction.org/nestle-fairtrade">fairtrade certification logo</a> that large corporations can put on their products even if they are subject to allegations of abusing human rights—though it’s worth noting that there are other fair trade certifications that are a lot more radical than the Fairtrade Foundation’s famous swirly waving person symbol, like the <a href="https://wfto.com/about-us/what-we-do">World Fair Trade Organisation</a> which doesn’t allow corporations to use its logo.</p> <p>Similarly, more radical takes on veganism and related movements—which started out as an ecological critique of <a href="https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/brian-a-dominick-animal-liberation-and-social-revolution">capitalist profit-seeking</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ital">white</a> <a href="http://www.elijahmuhammadonly.com/vegetarians">supremacy</a>—have &nbsp;been overtaken by the sale of vegan salad boxes in high street fast food chains. Lefties are right to reject these co-optations of what were originally radical movements. Simply buying a product that’s branded as ‘organic,’ ‘fairtrade’ or vegan because it makes you feel more ‘ethical’ is not only superficial; in many cases it also helps to fund the same high street corporations that are responsible for the environmental damage and human exploitation that we’re trying to stop.</p> <p>Having said all that, it’s important to recognise that not all forms of lifestylist responses to social problems lack a structural critique. In fact there are radical forms of lifestylism that are firmly based on a critical analysis of social structures and how they can change.</p> <p>A basic textbook definition is that social structure refers to “any recurring pattern of social behaviour or, more specifically, to the ordered interrelationships between the different elements of a social system or society” (that’s from the <a href="http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199533008.001.0001/acref-9780199533008">Oxford Dictionary of Sociology</a>). Many radical people jump to the conclusion that structures live in centralised and formal institutions, so acting for structural change is usually seen as working towards changing laws, regulations or corporate policies.</p> <p>For example, rather than asking every individual member of the public to stop using plastic bags, I’ve heard people argue that a structural approach would have to demand that the government legislates against their use, or ask corporations to stop using and selling them. Another area where this kind of criticism is common is antiracist and feminist work, especially the kind that focuses on unlearning internalised racism and sexism and intercepting the ways in which they affect our personal behaviour.</p> <p>Focusing on the individual, these critics argue, is a distraction from the real, structural problems that are located in the law or in discriminatory corporate practices. But what these critics fail to realise is that structures are also informal, cultural and interpersonal, and they are constructed everywhere.</p> <p>While it’s absolutely true that we need radical legal and policy changes, state institutions and the law are not the only places that are structural. As <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=rtpgMCVSopIC&amp;source=gbs_navlinks_s">cultural marxists</a> and <a href="https://we.riseup.net/assets/71288/richard-day-gramsci-is-dead.pdf">anarchists</a> have been pointing out for a very long time, understanding social structures as exclusively centralised and formal only serves to reinforce the power of the state and of political elites. If we denounce lifestyle activism and instead focus all of our attention on getting corporations and the state to change formal laws and procedures over our heads, then we reduce the majority of the population to passive service users, mere recipients of government and corporate guidance.</p> <p>To continue the example of plastic bags, of course governments write laws that regulate what kind of plastic products we can and cannot consume, but our relationship to plastic and waste goes way beyond the law. We grow up with certain understandings of what freshness or cleanliness mean, with ideas of how much stuff we have the right to consume, and with theories around choice and individualism.</p> <p>These attitudes—like racist and sexist attitudes—are things that governments couldn’t legislate away even if they wanted to, and since the state in its current form was built <a href="https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/the-anarchist-faq-editorial-collective-an-anarchist-faq-03-17#toc10">with the primary aim of protecting capitalist and colonial interests</a>, it will never actually want to. Therefore we are going to need formal <em>and</em> informal structural changes which include, but aren’t limited to, educating the general public about how long it takes plastic bags to degrade, and what alternatives exist. Structural change requires public participation; it isn’t something that some breakaway vanguard elite activist group can sort out for the rest of us.</p> <p>As for asking corporations to implement policies that make the world a better place, I cannot think of a more watered down political project. The existence of for-profit corporations is premised on the systemic exploitation of workers and the environment. Any change they can offer will by definition be tokenistic.</p> <p>If we want systemic change we should abandon corporations, withdraw our support for the mainstream capitalist economy, and build alternatives by setting up, working for and buying from <em>structurally</em> different institutions: non-profit and democratically run workers’ co-operatives, for example, community interest companies and collectives. Only then can we move from reformism to radical change.</p> <p>Besides, unlike waving placards at government buildings from behind a row of police officers in Whitehall, putting your own resources into alternative economies has the direct and tangible effect of taking Pounds, Dollars and hours of labour away from capitalists and putting them somewhere better.</p> <p>Not everyone has the means to buy, work or live differently, a criticism that is often made about lifestylist approaches. Many people are too poor, busy or unwell, and that’s something everyone who puts out calls to action needs to remember. It is suspicious, though, that this criticism is only ever made of social movements that call for lifestylist actions like going vegan or avoiding plastic bags or joining a co-op.</p> <p>Actions that target the government such as protests or direct actions aren’t accessible to everyone either: they also take time, money, specific physical and mental dispositions, patience and know-how. Yet most of us manage not to moralise over them or to condemn those who aren’t able to join in. It’s certainly problematic that it takes resources to change systems, but this is not something that’s particular to lifestylism. If we don’t have love and care for those comrades who are less able to contribute right now, or ever, then our movements are bullshit. This goes for all activist approaches, whatever their target.</p> <p>Let us do what we can to improve the state and the mainstream economy for the short term, <em>and</em> build better, democratic, and more sustainable structures for the future. Targeting states and corporations is more reformist than radical lifestylism, but it isn’t more structural. Structures are everywhere, including in our own lives and personal relationships. It’s time we came to terms with that reality.</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/sofa-gradin/please-call-me-they">Please call me they</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">Is there really a crisis around identity politics on the left?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/why-allies-are-welcome-to-criticise-social-movements">Why allies are welcome to criticise social movements</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 Sofa Gradin Activism Mon, 05 Mar 2018 13:03:43 +0000 Sofa Gradin 116388 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It’s time to take our charities to the cleaners https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/it-s-time-to-take-our-charities-to-cleaners <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Everyone needs a deep clean from time to time. Best to do it before your teeth get infected.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/toothpaste.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/5146809288">Flickr/William Warby</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a>.</p> <p>There was always going to be reckoning. Over the last 30 years charities have become <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43145826">bigger and bolder, richer and more competitive,</a> outside of any honest and open conversation about their role in society, the values they represent, and the standards to which they should be held accountable. The current reckoning just happened to arrive in a certain place and time, focused on Oxfam and Save the Children around issues of sexual harassment and abuse—bad news for them of course but a welcome opportunity to re-examine what the whole sector is about. </p> <p>A consistent theme in the crisis that’s unfolding is that there’s something not quite right about charities today, though exactly what’s wrong is expressed in many different ways. For some the crisis questions <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/18/cousin-founded-oxfam-would-horrified-charity-has-become/">the whole culture of modern charity</a> and the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/call-to-end-taxpayer-aid-for-oxfam-over-cover-up-0zchqhgkq">legitimacy of foreign aid</a>: the sector has become bloated, they say, too big for its boots, and incapable of regulating itself. What happened at Oxfam and SCF was just the tip of the iceberg, so we should stop giving to these charities until they can earn our trust.</p> <p>Others believe that the crisis has been <a href="https://newint.org/blog/2018/02/15/trashing-of-oxfam">dramatically exaggerated for political effect</a> as part of a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/clare-short-attacks-hysterical-media-coverage-of-oxfam-scandal-and-claims-entire-aid-sector-smeared-bbc-week-in-westminster_uk_5a904334e4b0ee6416a2e10e">right-wing plot</a> to undermine certain groups and causes that conservatives oppose. The revelations of sexual harassment and abuse are confined to a small number of cases, they say, though they still need to be urgently addressed. However, these cases raise no broader matters of concern about the charities involved or the sector as a whole. To protect their work and give them the resources they need to strengthen their management and accountability going forward&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/21/keep-giving-oxfam-so-should-you-charity-mark-haddon">we should actually <em>increase </em>our giving</a>.</p> <p>To me the most interesting reactions lie somewhere between these two positions, avoiding both under- and over-reaction and drawing out the wider implications of what we’re learning. It’s those lessons that are crucial if we want to use this crisis as an opportunity to strengthen the sector in the future. Take <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/02/23/what-the-oxfam-sex-scandal-reveals-about-aid-and-power-in-haiti/?utm_term=.ac7e3cfc60b3">this piece</a> in the Washington Post by Jovenel Moïse, for example, the President of Haiti. Moïse says this:</p> <blockquote><p>“Let’s take this ‘Oxfam moment,’ this ugly moment of reckoning, to reflect on the bigger picture. The general paradigm of aid and power…is not a balanced one…Something clearly needs to change...as our country becomes meaningfully developed and our economy becomes strengthened, more of our communities will be lifted&nbsp;from poverty—which means fewer individuals at risk,&nbsp;such as the women who were preyed upon by the Oxfam staff. While we pursue accountability for what occurred in 2011 we must simultaneously pursue long-term, clear-eyed solutions to the root causes. It’s not enough to punish one or two individuals, or to shame an organization. We have an entire cycle to break in order for the vulnerable to become the empowered.”</p></blockquote> <p>Alongside <a href="https://www.redpepper.org.uk/the-aid-industry-is-long-overdue-its-metoo-moment/">other writers</a> in this middle ground, Moïse is saying that harassment, abuse and exploitation don’t happen in a vacuum; they arise in situations of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">power inequality and weak accountability</a>—conditions which characterize relationships between rich and poor countries in the foreign aid system, or those between powerful agencies like Oxfam and the communities they serve (wherever they’re located), or between senior male and junior female staff in the case of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/18/world/europe/uk-brendan-cox-sexual-abuse.html">Save the Children</a>. A failure to confront these inequalities will leave the door open to abuse and exploitation somewhere else or in some other form.</p> <p>So tighter monitoring of charity personnel won’t be enough; a cultural and structural transformation is essential. Since the scandals broke, it’s this recognition that has flowed through calls to combat the “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/20/oxfam-abuse-scandal-haiti-colonialism">white savior complex</a>,” recover charity’s “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/14/oxfam-scandal-charities-international-development">moral core</a>,” make <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/cbcnews-oxfam-allegations-campaign-scrapped-1.4546352">the actions of charities consistent with their words</a>, and uphold the highest ethical standards as the signature of the sector. </p> <p>But even in this middle ground there’s no agreement on what it would really mean to do these things. Should charities <a href="https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/02/oxfams-troubles-began-when-it-became-politically-correct/">abandon politics and advocacy in order to concentrate on providing services</a> to those in need, or should they become <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/phil-vernon/what-s-it-all-about-oxfam">more explicitly political actors</a> because poverty and injustice are always political issues? Should they be larger or smaller, follow business practices or avoid them, pay higher salaries to ‘attract the best’ or lower ones to attract the most committed? There’s no agreement among the public on the answers to these questions. There never has been, because they reflect much deeper differences in politics and culture around the meaning and proper role of charity. </p> <p>That means it’s impossible to develop a code of conduct or a system of accountability around the goals and core activities of charities—they’re just too diverse, but that actually returns the question of ethics to center stage. If we can’t legislate that all charities should do this and not that in terms of their programmatic focus and styles of working, can’t we all agree that whatever they do should be carried out according to a universal set of ethics? </p> <p>I’m not thinking rocket science here: honesty, transparency, accountability, humility, service, equality, independence, respect for people and their dignity, consistency between words and actions, and the empowerment of others so that they are always ‘in the driving seat’ as the Haitian President demands (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/25/aid-agencies-sex-abuse-save-the-children-justin-forsyth">instead of&nbsp; prioritizing your own organizational self-interest</a>). These are things that cross the political and cultural spectrum. They’re also the things that are supposed to mark out charities from other institutions, but they seem to have been compromised in the rush for growth and influence. </p> <p>Though not easy, it’s possible to monitor adherence to these standards across the board, regardless of where a charity operates or the issues on which it works. Filling out the definitions of these things with measurable criteria and case studies would be a useful task for the Charity Commission in the UK and similar bodies elsewhere—things like a maximum ratio between the highest and lowest paid staff members, or a ban on <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2018/jan/12/charities-stop-poverty-porn-fundraising-ed-sheeran-comic-relief">‘charity porn’</a> advertising, or fines for non-disclosure of information in the kinds of sexual abuse and harassment cases that are front and center now. No doubt the wisdom and practicality of these ideas will be disputed, but they could provide a concrete framework for <a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org/">a public conversation about charities that’s much-needed</a>, and which would help to restore public trust. </p> <p>In other sectors like business, government and entertainment you could say that ethics are always going to be negotiated in pursuit of money, sex and power, but there’s no reason why that <em>modus operandi</em> should be replicated in a charity. In fact if charities are <em>not</em> leaders in ethical behavior then what are they for? If I want to bully people and twist the truth I can go into politics; if I want to chase the money and act like a multinational corporation I can go into business. But there’s no point importing these cultures into charities so that they become another vehicle for disguised self-interest or cover-ups and power plays or male violence. </p> <p>It seems to me that as a condition of their existence, and as something for which they should be held legally accountable, charities must live their ethics in everything they do—from the way they treat employees to the images they use in fundraising to the programmatic choices they make. However big they are, that’s the only way that charities will become a force for change at any scale, a force for moral revolution that percolates throughout society from left to right and back.</p> <p>Reading the outpouring of letters and statements that have been published from charity workers since the scandals broke gives me cause for optimism in this sense, even if Oxfam and Save the Children have been hesitant and unconvincing in their responses: in the most elemental of ways, many people in the charity sector are doing precisely what charities <em>should</em> do, despite the attendant risks of intimidation and retaliation: speak up, protect the equal dignity of every person, hold yourself and your organization fully accountable, stand up to bullies, and tell the truth. </p> <p>After all, where does the charitable impulse come from, or civic energy or community-mindedness if you don’t like the other ‘C’ word? Not from wholesale agreement or the hegemony of one set of voices or ideas or approaches. It comes from a much deeper commitment to do the right things in the right ways and see where that leads us. </p> <p>I live in horror of the dentist, but I volunteer to go twice a year for a deep cleaning of my teeth. Of course it hurts for a while, but afterwards I feel refreshed, and free of the accretions of all the things I shouldn’t have been eating, born out of my own lack of discipline in attending to my health and welfare. &nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps the same could be said of charities: they would also benefit from a thorough moral and ethical cleansing to get them back on track. Everyone needs a deep clean from time to time. Best to do it before your teeth get infected.</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/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/phil-vernon/what-s-it-all-about-oxfam">What’s it all about, Oxfam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-francis/courage-of-difficult-women">The courage of difficult women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/rafael-vilasanju-n/sex-and-charity">Sex and Charity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">What’s to be done with Oxfam?</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 Oxfam Save the Children Fund aid Charities Michael Edwards The role of money Activism Economics Mon, 26 Feb 2018 21:06:07 +0000 Michael Edwards 116317 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why positive thinking isn’t neoliberal https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sonja-avlijas/why-positive-thinking-isn-t-neoliberal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By discouraging the use of powerful self-healing and self-development tools we may weaken those who are already disempowered.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Sonja Aviljas2.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/think-positive-optimism-plus-yes-2661191/">Pixabay/Geralt</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p><p class="p1">There is nothing inherently neoliberal about ‘positive thinking’. But neoliberal capitalism is very good at co-opting everything that goes against it, repackaging it and re-selling it for a profit. This is how positive thinking became a recipe for attaining personal success and riches instead of a tool for social transformation.&nbsp;We now need to reclaim it.</p> <p class="p1"><a href="https://www.powerofpositivity.com/10-positive-thinking-books-change-your-life/">Some advocates of positive thinking</a> tell us that an optimistic attitude can take us far. With the right mind-set and enough self-love, anything is possible, so the story goes. Even the least privileged person can accumulate sufficient emotional and psychological strength to confront the cruelties of capitalism, <a href="https://leanin.org/book/">‘lean in’</a> and succeed despite the odds. Your thoughts are your destiny. You need only buy enough self-help books to show you the way to self-realisation.</p> <p class="p1"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chloe-king/dangers-of-radical-selflove">Critics of this approach are furious</a>. They argue that the positive thinking movement is a western, white, middle-class phenomenon which serves to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/may/09/oprah-winfrey-neoliberal-capitalist-thinkers">justify rampant inequality</a>, racism, sexism, and all the other obstacles that people face in modern capitalist societies. They also believe that it feeds neoliberal capitalism and helps it to thrive, because it distracts people from their socio-economic reality by making them believe that their biggest problem in life is their own mental attitude. The underlying message is clear: if you are failing, then it must be your fault. Next time, try harder.</p> <p class="p1">To me, this debate is rooted in an illogical and artificial choice between working on our emotional and spiritual strength and well-being—following which we will somehow become happier and more accepting of the system which is organised to exploit and oppress us; or not working on our emotional wellbeing, and thus feeling even more miserable, disempowered and unable to change things for the better.</p> <p class="p1">In the first scenario, we are blamed for enabling further oppression, both of ourselves and others. In the second we are so exhausted from our daily frustrations and negative emotions that we don’t have the time or energy to work for social transformation.&nbsp;This kind of false binary thinking is unnecessary and unhelpful. But is there a better way forward?</p> <p class="p1">Many western interpretations of eastern thought—which seems to be where many ideas about positive thinking come from—tell us that our minds project the worlds we live in. This implies that people get what they deserve, whether this is due to the content of their conscious or subconscious thoughts. These same interpretations also tell us that we need to accept the world as it is in order to become truly happy and lead a fulfilling life.</p> <p class="p1">As a social scientist and an activist devoted to social transformation, I found such an interpretation of eastern thought unacceptable, but had no clue how to think about it differently. Friends also confessed to me that they were afraid to take up meditation as a wellbeing practice because they thought it would make them accept the status quo, while they really believed in social change.</p> <p class="p1">So as a meditation practitioner I was faced with a moral dilemma. Was I really encouraging the status quo by continuing my practice? Then I discovered initiatives such as <a href="http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/spirituality-reinforce-oppression-and-racism/">Decolonising Yoga</a> which discuss how spiritual thought and practice can reinforce oppression and racism. They made me realise that I was not alone in my discomfort towards the idea of <em>acceptance</em> that is so often associated with spirituality and positive thinking. This was encouraging, so I continued my exploration.</p> <p class="p1">Then I suddenly put all the pieces of the puzzle together while watching <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1877514/">a documentary series</a> on Vietnam in which a number of Buddhist monks, and most notably <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%ADch_Qu%E1%BA%A3ng_%C4%90%E1%BB%A9c">Thích Quảng Đức</a>, were shown burning themselves alive during the 1960s in acts of political protest against the persecution of Buddhists by the American-backed South Vietnamese government of the time. Why would Buddhist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_self-immolations">monks self-immolate for political reasons</a> in Vietnam, or elsewhere, if eastern thought was telling us that our minds were solely responsible for our circumstances?</p> <p class="p1">Wasn’t eastern thought supposed to be about accepting the world as it was? If these monks were willing to die for social change after devoting their entire lives to the spiritual practice of <em>acceptance</em>, there must be something terribly wrong with the western, capitalism-infused interpretation of that word.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">As spiritually developed as these monks were, they were still living in the war-torn Vietnam of the 1960s. War was a fact, just as I will always be an Eastern European woman and my passport and accent will sometimes speak louder than my words, however much I build my own emotional strength and capacity to generate positive thoughts.&nbsp; Oppressive power structures are tangible indeed. But there is also a plethora of <a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/sara_lazar/home">scientific evidence</a> to show that our thoughts influence both our internal and external realities. &nbsp;How can we reconcile these different perspectives?</p> <p class="p1">The idea that we are able to influence some but not all aspects of our existence can even be explained within the framework of eastern spiritual thought, with a little help from the ‘<a href="http://www.cgjungcenter.org/clinical-services/what-is-depth-psychology/">depth psychology’</a> of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung">Carl Jung</a>. Jung’s work tells us that, in addition to the personal conscious and unconscious elements of the psyche, there is also a collective component, a supra-structure of our collective (or transpersonal) unconscious. This is the key difference between Jung and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigmund_Freud">Sigmund Freud</a>, and the reason for the professional rupture between the two psychiatrists.</p> <p class="p1">Freud did not believe in the collective component of the psyche but Jung did, and consequently saw the whole of humanity as psychologically interconnected, similar to much of eastern and indigenous thought. If we inject Jung’s notion of the collective unconscious into the idea that the world is a projection of our minds, then we can begin to accommodate the possibility that the oppressive structures of inequality that we experience in daily life reflect our collective unconscious, which we can’t affect simply by changing our own individual thoughts.</p> <p class="p1">However, even if those thoughts are just a drop in the ocean of the collective unconscious, positive thinking at the personal level remains a powerful input for social transformation. And the more of us do it, the more difference we can make. Through my personal practice, I have learned that negative thoughts and emotions tend to paralyse me, and make me less likely to do anything about my situation. But once I manage to clear my head through meditation or other methods like playing the guitar, I feel re-energised, and more willing to engage with the problems of my community and the wider world.</p> <p class="p1">Consequently, I’ve concluded that for me, <em>acceptance</em> is about learning how to liberate myself from the emotional burden of paralysing stress, sadness or anger so that I can be more, not less socially pro-active. This is what I think of as ‘positive thinking.’ It may not make me rich and famous, but it does give me more energy to fight for the causes I believe in, which in turn gives more meaning to my existence. It also makes me more accepting of my own limitations when I fail to perform according to my expectations, which reduces my overall anxiety and makes me more optimistic and pro-active in the longer run.</p> <p class="p1">Therefore, <em>acceptance</em> has nothing to do with becoming indifferent to suffering. On the contrary, it allows us to act on suffering more effectively. Even though neoliberal capitalism has co-opted resilience and positive thinking as consumer goods which it can sell as quick recipes for success, we don’t need to ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater.’</p> <p class="p1">By rejecting the idea of positive thinking and discouraging the use of powerful self-healing tools such as meditation we are actually reinforcing further disempowerment of those who are already socially and economically marginalised. We should be able to see through this hoax and together reclaim positive thinking in the name of social transformation.</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/chloe-king/dangers-of-radical-selflove">The dangers of radical self-love</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/alessandra-pigni/no-you-can%E2%80%99t-%E2%80%98be-change%E2%80%99-alone">No, you can’t ‘be the change’ alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sonja-avlijas/why-we-should-embrace-good-bad-and-ugly">Why we should embrace the good, the bad and the ugly</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 Sonja Avlijas Activism Culture Love and Spirituality Sun, 25 Feb 2018 21:28:14 +0000 Sonja Avlijas 116163 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Radical happiness: moments of collective joy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/catherine-rottenberg/radical-happiness-moments-of-collective-joy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>True happiness is produced by cultivating our ties to one another: a review of Lynne Segal’s new book.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JaneyStephenson3_2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/sistersuncut/photos/a.1814453402116856.1073741847.1589626181266247/1814453455450184/?type=3&amp;theater">Sisters Uncut/Jade Jackman</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In a recent Guardian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/homelessness-report-working-families-stable-jobs-local-government-ombudsman">expose</a>, Michael King, a London ombudsman, warns of a new phenomenon—the rise of homelessness in the UK among people who have stable jobs and a steady income. In 2017 it is not unusual to see nurses, taxi drivers, hospitality staff and council workers find themselves on the streets after being evicted by private-sector landlords seeking higher rents. The problem of homelessness, King continues, can no longer simply be ascribed to drug addiction or mental health issues; rather, the erosion of the social safety net is what is pushing an ever-increasing number of people into precarity. </p> <p>It is in the midst of these devastating new realities that Lynne Segal’s book <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2576-radical-happiness">Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy</a> has appeared on the literary scene. In her new book, Segal adamantly refuses despair. Instead, she insists that we must never stop imagining and struggling for alternative—and, yes, even utopic—spaces and futures. This urging could not come at a more opportune time. </p> <p>As study after study has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">shown</a>, levels of individual misery, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation are at all-time highs in the Anglo-American world.&nbsp; Meanwhile, the billion-dollar happiness industry—that&nbsp; “culturally orchestrated ideology of individual happiness with its ubiquitous commercial incitement to pleasure” as Segal puts it—continues to thrive, from positive psychology to mindfulness and the wellness movement: think Gwyneth Paltrow’s <a href="https://goop.com/whats-goop/">GOOP</a> and the explosion and popularity of <a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are">TED talks</a> endlessly exhorting us to foster a positive outlook. </p> <p>In her book, Segal posits radical happiness as the antidote, not only to the ersatz happiness that is sold to us via pills, apps, and self-help guides but also to the more general sense of despondency. Happiness, Segal gently reminds us, is not something we find; nor can it be bought on the market. Unlike the dominant ideology of individual felicity—with consumerism and individuated sexual desire mixed up with ideals of romantic love at its core—radical happiness is produced by cultivating and reaffirming our ties to one another and to the world. </p> <p>Thus, while love is central to happiness (both individual and collective), love is also infinite in its variety, making it imperative to expand notions of attachment and care well beyond heteronormative coupledom. As the title of the book suggests, radical happiness is therefore most accurately defined in terms of moments of collective joy, moments that are created when we are moved to go beyond and outside ourselves to act together with a plurality of others. Crucially, for Segal, these moments emerge as we forge communities that struggle together to ensure the creation of social conditions and infrastructure that would enable the greatest number of people possible to thrive. </p> <p>Much of <em>Radical Happiness</em> charts how and why this movement beyond oneself has become more difficult in the contemporary era. Despite the Anglo-American obsession with happiness and the thriving happiness industry, the populace is increasingly miserable. Segal draws on a range of thinkers from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Durkheim">Émile Durkheim</a> to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt">Hannah Arendt</a> to underline the point that that such widespread misery, even though it may be experienced at the individual level, has deep roots in social context and structures.&nbsp; </p> <p>One of these roots—and the preponderant one for Segal—is the rise of neoliberal governance, which has, since the 1980s and the era of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US, seen the steady dismantling of the welfare state and the social safety net. This has, as the book details, translated into increasing economic insecurity for ever more people. Not only has work become increasingly precarious over the past few decades but employees are also putting in more hours for less money, which, in turn, leaves people less time for leisure and, often, the ability to fulfill care commitments. Furthermore, neoliberal governance erodes any sense of social responsibility while fostering intensified individualism, which merely exacerbates feelings of isolation and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/graham-peebles/pain-of-loneliness">loneliness</a>. </p> <p>This deepening cultural crisis is the direct result of on-going policies of austerity and privatization, which siphon wealth upwards at a staggering pace while eviscerating public resources, spaces, and community life. The <a href="http://wir2018.wid.world/">World Inequality Report</a> recently published data showing that the richest 0.1 per cent of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth so much that they currently have as much as the poorest 50 per cent, or 3.8 billion people. With rising rates of poverty and homelessness alongside deteriorating health and educational infrastructure, it really is no wonder that so many people are miserable and feel so alone. &nbsp;</p> <p>Radical Happiness is not, however, a gloomy book.&nbsp; Rather, after diagnosing the ills of the current Anglo-American political and social landscape it offers us hope, reminding us of the wealth of resources on which we can draw in order to continue struggling for alternative futures. Taking us back to the ancient Greeks, Segal underscores Aristotle’s notion of happiness or <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/eudaimonia">eudonomia</a> as a form of human flourishing; it derives from activities we desire to do for their own sake, which are both noble and good. Happiness was thus conceived as <em>activity</em>, not a static emotional state. This is a crucial insight and one that could potentially reorient our understandings of pleasure and joy in the present. &nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, throughout the book, Segal taps into the resistance archive, drawing on a wide range of resources from socialist visionaries like <a href="http://robert-owen-museum.org.uk/">Robert Owen</a> to anarchist and political activist <a href="http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/goldman/">Emma Goldman</a> to utopian feminist fiction like Marge Piercy’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_on_the_Edge_of_Time">Women on the Edge of Time</a>. These dreamers and their political engagements serve as key resources for the on-going struggle to create a more egalitarian world, even as this task appears more daunting today than ever before. </p> <p>Segal also recounts her own participation in the woman’s movement in the 1970s, underscoring how her involvement in such a movement was utterly transformative, personally as well as politically. Collective resistance to oppression in its various forms—with its shared sense of agency—symbolizes for Segal the very essence of radical happiness. These movements or moments of collectivity are often fleeting, but they make us feel alive and hence happier. </p> <p>In other words, whether or not these struggles for a more egalitarian world ultimately succeed—and historically they most often have not—the very struggle to cultivate and (re)build a sense of the commons compels us to move beyond ourselves while reaffirming our connection to each other. It is precisely this kind of “acting in concert” to create a more just and better world that facilitates these life-affirming moments of collective joy. </p> <p>While Segal herself is perhaps best known for her feminist interventions—particularly her <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1770-straight-sex">Straight Sex</a>, and for her more recent critical musing on ageing, <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1634-out-of-time">Out of Time</a>—in the neighborhood of Islington in London (where she lives) she is renowned for her decades of radical activism as well as for her indominable spirit. Radical Happiness is a panoramic yet exquisitely detailed book, erudite but extremely accessible, and cautiously optimistic while scathingly critical. It is a tour de force and a vital light in these dark times. &nbsp;&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/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy">The subversive power of joy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/veena-vasista/wise-fools-for-love-arts-activism-and-social-transformation">Wise fools for love? Arts activism and social transformation</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 Catherine Rottenberg Transformative nonviolence Activism Care Culture Sun, 11 Feb 2018 21:48:54 +0000 Catherine Rottenberg 115999 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why is the American left so prejudiced about the South? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/harry-blain/why-is-american-left-so-prejudiced-about-south <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Smugness and complacency are no basis for effective action on poverty, inequality and racism throughout the USA.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/HarryBlain5_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The Confederate Monument to Robert E. Lee in New Orleans is removed from its perch on May 17, 2017. Credit: By Abdazizar - Own work, via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59102981">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>“What is <em>wrong</em> with them?” “They’re dumber than I thought!” “This is a new low, <em>even for them</em>.” </p> <p>Comments like these were made to me by many friends and colleagues in New York during discussions about the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/12/28/roy-moore-asks-alabama-court-for-a-new-election/?utm_term=.5bec21945076">2016 special election in Alabama</a> that narrowly rejected Judge Roy Moore’s candidacy for the Senate.</p> <p>Sneering about the “Backward South” has become a form of escapism for many Northern liberals. There’s a certain comfort in thinking that the country’s worst problems exist far away rather than a few stops down the subway line—out of our control, an affliction unique to <em>them</em>. The late-night comedy version of the South as a land of ignorance, violence and prejudice is crude at best, serving mainly to make us feel good about ourselves rather than conveying anything of substance about the country.&nbsp; </p> <p>But activists in the South &nbsp;have been mobilizing voters and challenging power structures successfully for decades, from <a href="https://mscivilrightsproject.org/sunflower/place-sunflower/parchman-mississippi-state-penitentiary/">flooding Mississippi’s jails with Freedom Riders in the 1960s</a> to helping to drive the <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/12/despite-the-obstacles-black-voters-make-a-statement-in-alabama/548237/">surge in (especially black) voter turnout that defeated Moore</a>. Like anywhere else, the South can<em> </em>change. Its institutions are constructed by human beings and are vulnerable to mass collective action. If the left can renew and extend this spirit, it may even win in the South—but not until we dismantle our prejudices about and against it. </p> <p>The first step in doing so is to understand how the South is different, and where it’s not. The <a href="http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy">Triple Evils</a> identified by Dr. Martin Luther King—poverty , racism and militarism—are &nbsp;American, not uniquely Southern, but the South’s roots in slavery and Jim Crow racism color everything in distinctive ways. Mississippi didn’t fully ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery until 2013—news that <a href="http://www.cc.com/video-clips/du89xz/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-the-last-amender">Jon Stewart justly ridiculed at the time</a> as “only 148 years late.” Alabama didn’t <a href="https://www.salon.com/2001/03/08/sollors/">legalize interracial marriage</a> until the year 2000. There’s still <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/12/27/nathan-bedford-forrest-pink/986128001/">a proud statue</a> of the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan just off Interstate 65 near Nashville, Tennessee. </p> <p>But as Elizabeth, a character from James Baldwin’s novel <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Go-Tell-Mountain-Vintage-International/dp/0345806549"><em>Go Tell It on the Mountain</em></a> saw it: “There was not, after all, a great difference between the world of the North and that of the South which she had fled; there was only this difference: the North promised more. And this similarity: what it promised it did not give, and what it gave, at length and grudgingly on one hand, it took back with the other.”</p> <p>Civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, the daughter of a share-cropper in the Mississippi Delta, was similarly frank in a <a href="http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/yourhandshamer.html">speech she gave in New York in 1971</a>. “I used to think that if I could go North and tell people about the plight of the black folk in the state of Mississippi,” she told her audience, “everything would be all right. But traveling around, I found one thing for sure: it's up-South and down-South, and it's no different. The man shoot me in the face in Mississippi, and you turn around he'll shoot you in the back here.”</p> <p>The truth of these reflections go back as least as far as the Civil War itself, when <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/nyregion/remembering-a-vile-civil-war-act-on-fifth-avenue.html">a mob attacked the “Colored Orphan Asylum”</a> during the New York City draft riots of 1863, punctuating their terror by chanting “burn the niggers’ nest.” Not to mention the many subsequent, unpunished attacks against people of color well north of where ‘the racists’ are supposed to live: <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/chicago-race-riot-of-1919">Chicago in 1919</a>, <a href="http://timelines.latimes.com/los-angeles-riots/">Los Angeles in 1992</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/eric-garner-police-chokehold-staten-island.html">Staten Island in 2014</a>. </p> <p>Like racism, the second of Dr. King’s Triple Evils—poverty—is ostensibly more acute in the South. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Poverty and Human Rights only recently <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/alabama-un-poverty-environmental-racism-743601">described conditions in rural Alabama as the worst he’d ever seen in the ‘developed’ world</a>. At the beginning of 2018, Jackson, Mississippi endured a “boil water advisory” and a mass public school closure after <a href="http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/news/2018/jan/08/jps-still-closed-many-citys-peanut-brittle-pipes-r/">the city suffered 116 water-main breaks</a> in the space of one chilly week. </p> <p>But for every Jackson, Mississippi, there is a <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/index.html">Flint, Michigan</a>. For every opioid overdose in Kentucky, there’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/ng-interactive/2016/may/25/opioid-epidemic-overdose-deaths-map">at least one in Massachusetts</a>. And any effort to address poverty and inequality soon comes up against national resource constraints that are rooted in America’s giant military budget, <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/heres-where-your-tax-dollars-for-defense-are-really-going/">nearly half of which goes straight into the pockets of defense contractors</a>. Like Dr King’s other two evils, there’s nowhere to hide from militarism.</p> <p>In short, the South’s problems are—and always have been—America’s problems. The sooner we accept this fact and shake off our smugness and complacency, the sooner we’ll be able to play a more effective part in forming local, regional and national coalitions for action that turn the spotlight on poverty, inequality and racism throughout the country.&nbsp; </p> <p>Of course, that doesn’t mean ignoring political realities: the daunting, decades-long dominance of the right in most of the Southern United States. Hard-nosed pollsters looking to deliver victories for the Democratic Party in the 2018 mid-term elections would likely tell us to forget about the <em>really</em> Deep South: too conservative, too close-minded, too ignorant. </p> <p>But the South has a rich, though frequently overlooked, leftist tradition. You can find some traces of it at Nashville’s impressive Bicentennial Mall, which includes a massive marble plaque celebrating Tennessee’s rivers and lakes. It proudly quotes Section 29 of the state’s first constitution, which <a href="http://www.tngenweb.org/law/constitution1796.html">declares</a> “That an equal participation of the free navigation of the Mississippi is one of the inherent rights of the citizens of this State; it cannot, therefore, be conceded to any prince, potentate, power, person, or persons whatever.” &nbsp;</p> <p>This eloquent declaration of a public good is accompanied by the force of the 1977 Tennessee Water Quality Control Act: “The people of Tennessee have a right to unpolluted waters.” The <a href="https://advance.lexis.com/documentpage/?pdmfid=1000516&amp;crid=280259c9-ff73-40c8-b694-792124fb2fbd&amp;nodeid=ACQAADAABAAC&amp;scrollreferenceid=&amp;config=025054JABlOTJjNmIyNi0wYjI0LTRjZGEtYWE5ZC0zNGFhOWNhMjFlNDgKAFBvZENhdGFsb2cDFQ14bX2GfyBTaI9WcPX5&amp;pddocfullpath=%2Fshared%2Fdocument%2Fstatutes-legislation%2Furn%3AcontentItem%3A4X9B-KVF0-R03M-63BK-00008-00&amp;ecomp=-kc_kkk&amp;prid=70592ad6-b963-4970-8bf5-0474bf97021b">full text of the act</a> refers to “the waters of Tennessee” as a “public trust.” </p> <p>Unfinished movements from the past have also been revived and built upon. In <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen">a recent article for Transformation</a><em>, </em>Sarah Freeman-Woolpert highlights how Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign has been reignited under the leadership of Reverend William J. Barber in North Carolina, and is beginning to build coalitions across class, racial, gender and regional lines.</p> <p><a href="https://projectsouth.org/">Project South</a>, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, carries out its own local organizing while also supporting social movements across the region. Its <a href="https://projectsouth.org/legal-advocacy-work/">legal advocacy</a> has exposed abuses in prisons and immigration detention centers, and constantly pressured the Georgia state assembly over anti-Muslim discrimination and surveillance. </p> <p>The Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi has <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/6/26/jackson_miss_mayor_elect_chokwe_lumumba">promised</a> to make his city “the most radical on the planet.” His counterpart in Birmingham, Alabama <a href="//www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/randall-woodfin-elected-mayor-of-birmingham-alabama_us_59d416bfe4b04b9f9205eb9a ">has similarly ambitious plans</a>. Meanwhile, elections at the state level suggest that more progressive advances may follow Doug Jones’s senate win in Alabama, <a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/12/16/doug-jones-georgia-democratic-midterm-elections/">particularly in the legislatures of Virginia and Georgia</a>.</p> <p>New Orleans has <a href="https://www.npr.org/2017/05/20/529232823/with-lee-statues-removal-another-battle-of-new-orleans-comes-to-a-close">taken down</a> its monuments to the Confederacy and white supremacy. Mississippi has established a new Civil Rights Museum in the state capitol. Inside, visitors are confronted with the names of the victims of lynching projected onto giant illuminated columns, enlarged mug shots of every activist sent to <a href="https://mscivilrightsproject.org/sunflower/place-sunflower/parchman-mississippi-state-penitentiary/">Parchman Penitentiary</a> for protesting segregated transportation, and detailed electoral maps exposing the cynical redrawing of congressional districts to diminish the strength of the black vote after the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1964. </p> <p>Much of this is symbolic, but symbolism matters: it tells us something about how we define ourselves and our aspirations. If a Southern state is building symbols that honor the &nbsp;continual struggle for civil rights rather than the &nbsp;‘Lost Cause’ of the Civil War, then this hints at a small shift in mindset that could grow into something bigger.</p> <p>From my own experience, I know that the South is more diverse, more contradictory and more complex than is often portrayed. It has a history different from, but wholly entwined with, the rest of the country. It is full of social and political movements that many of us don’t know about. Its story is dynamic, not static, shifting constantly between huge strides forward—emancipation , Reconstruction, civil rights—and &nbsp;the enduring legacies of its racist past and present. </p> <p>Liberals and progressives who snigger at the region would benefit from approaching it with the same values they claim to uphold: openness, intellectual humility, and a deep appreciation of diversity. Then, we might stand a better chance of winning people over—and &nbsp;maybe even learn something new about ourselves. &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/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">Scorn wars: rural white people and us</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/can-there-be-progressive-patriotism">Can there be a progressive patriotism? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/why-left-needs-to-re-embrace-first-amendment">Why the left needs to re-embrace the First Amendment</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 Harry Blain Activism Tue, 06 Feb 2018 22:01:10 +0000 Harry Blain 115907 at https://www.opendemocracy.net You don’t have to be embarrassed to be vegan https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/janey-stephenson/you-don-t-have-to-be-embarrassed-to-be-vegan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">The more welcoming and accessible veganism becomes, the closer we’ll get to our goal: a world free of cruelty.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JaneyStephenson4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">BLTA Sandwich at Moncai Vegan, San Diego. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/17379649206">Flickr/Tony Webster</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0.</a></p> <p class="normal">It’s February 5th 2018, and <a href="https://veganuary.com/why/">Veganuary</a> has come and gone with record success. The number of vegans in the UK has increased by 360 per cent in the last ten years, and even Tesco, the low-budget supermarket chain, has launched a <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/tesco-vegan-range-launch-food-no-dairy-meat-fish-a8149376.html">range of vegan ready-meals</a> from the Wicked Kitchen company.</p> <p class="normal">Despite the fact that veganism has existed for centuries and was originally rooted in the global South, it’s finally made it to the Western mainstream. But this isn’t a surprise—it’s due to a recent change in the tactics of vegan campaigning that have replaced sanctimony and shaming with recipes and room to try new things.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">For too long, vegan campaigns have given us the ‘why’ of veganism but rarely the ‘how’. They have banged on and on about how veganism is a moral imperative and how we’re all complicit in animal cruelty. They’ve created disturbing films about animal abuse and pushed a very clear message that if you eat animal products, you’re a bad person—and left it at that.</p> <p class="normal">I say ‘they’ but I’m vegan myself (and have been for the past six years), but I’ve deliberately disconnected myself from the vegan lobby because frankly, it’s embarrassing.</p> <p class="normal">I became vegan as a result of my beliefs in labour rights and feminism more than anything else. After all, it’s the female animals that are violently exploited for their reproductive functions. Cows are repeatedly and forcibly impregnated in order to produce milk, and their calves are immediately torn away to be sold as veal whilst we steal the milk to sell.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Veganism is faultlessly logical. Avoiding animal products makes sense on ethical, environmental and health grounds, and in terms of nonviolence and social justice too. It’s easy to see how it connects to human struggles. Aph Ko, co-founder of <a href="https://aphro-ism.com/">Aphro-ism</a> recently told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/28/dining/black-vegan-cooking.html">New York Times</a>, “The black vegan movement is one of the most diverse, decolonial, complex and creative movements.”</p> <p class="normal">The ‘why’ is absolute and compelling, so why has veganism historically struggled to attract more people? Because much less has been said about how to make the leap to plant-based life—or how delicious it is once you make it. There is simply not enough information on how to put a vegan diet into practice given the realities of the food industry and the structure of the economy, which squeeze most people’s incomes and options.</p> <p class="normal">But the one can’t be done without the other: both ‘how’ and ‘why’ must go hand in hand.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Why vegan campaigners need to understand human psychology.</strong></p> <p class="normal">Let’s start at one of the biggest challenges to behaviour change: humans are not logical. We’re highly emotional, and food is one of the most emotional and central parts of living. We comfort eat, we get food guilt, and we treat ourselves to expensive meals out. Food is more than just sustenance; it’s part of our identity. It punctuates our daily life, <a href="https://mediadiversified.org/2018/01/24/giving-up-the-food-of-my-family-life-as-a-vegan-in-diaspora/">defines our cultures</a> and underpins our family traditions and gatherings.</p> <p class="normal">Demanding that someone radically changes what they eat on a daily basis for the rest of their lives is one of the most disruptive demands you could make. And it doesn’t help that vegan campaign tactics tend to go against human psychology: the truth is, we’re hypocritical, we’re loss averse and we react badly to shame.</p> <p class="normal">Human beings can be awful hypocrites, and will perform any amount of mental gymnastics to justify their contradictions. <a href="https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html">Cognitive dissonance</a> describes the discomfort we often feel when our beliefs and behaviours come into conflict.&nbsp;This is what enables us to pet our cat or dog, identify as an ‘animal lover,’ and then tuck into a steak. Ironically it’s also what enables some vegans to <a href="http://metro.co.uk/2017/11/07/theres-literally-no-point-in-being-a-vegan-or-vegetarian-if-youre-still-chuffing-coke-7060803/">do cocaine on the weekend</a>.</p> <p class="normal">The truth about animal cruelty is terrible and overwhelming, so it’s not a surprise that most people want to block it out. I have friends who became vegan after watching the powerful vegan documentary ‘<a href="http://www.nationearth.com/">Earthlings</a>’, but many more refuse to watch it because “it means we won’t be able to eat meat again” and their fear of loss takes over.</p> <p class="normal">Giving things up is tough—ask any smoker. When it comes to veganism, lots of people will first weigh up the losses: “how can I live without cheese?” “Won’t I just be hungry all the time?” As the Guardian’s restaurant critic Grace Dent stated on BBC Newsnight recently, meat, eggs, cheese and cream are <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z87-UuA4wmw">“the very cornerstones of the British diet”</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Demanding that someone gives all of this up without advising them on how to replace it isn’t going to be met with much of a welcome. And that’s why, without more education, easily-accessible alternatives and compassion towards those who currently eat meat, all attempts to make people join the dots between animal welfare and their individual responsibilities will fail.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Veganism is a social justice issue.</strong></p> <p class="normal">The lack of tools and education about veganism goes well beyond individual dietary choices—it’s also a structural problem of terrible food literacy and a lack of affordable options, with the food industry lobbyists operating the key controls.</p> <p class="normal">The battle for veganism is a battle for nutritional education and access to different options, and those things usually fall along class lines. Many people already have too much on their plates (literally and metaphorically) to dedicate sufficient headspace to overhauling their diet.</p> <p class="normal">I grew up on oven food: chicken nuggets, Billy Bear ham, turkey dinosaurs and hot dogs. That’s not my fault and it doesn’t make me or my mum bad people: it’s what was available to us at the time, and we would have struggled to know what else we should eat, let alone how to cook it. My mum didn’t have time to soak lentils.</p> <p class="normal">My personal transition away from cheap meats and ready meals was a slow, twofold process: first, realising that I no longer wanted to be part of the cycle of violence that underpins an animal-based diet; and second, being exposed to different foods and plant-based recipes. This is what <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/shopping-deals/tesco-launch-new-vegan-ready-11829128">Wicked Kitchen have done</a>, with their founder chef Derek Sarno aiming to “celebrate everything that’s ‘wicked’ and tasty about plants.”</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Shame doesn’t help people change—compassion does.</strong></p> <p class="normal">If <a href="https://www.peta.org/">PETA</a> (the largest animal rights organisation in the world) is the parent who shouts at you, Veganuary is the one who kneels next to you and gently explains what’s wrong and how to fix it. The founders of Veganuary are wise to what psychologists have already proven: that <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/longing-nostalgia/201705/why-shaming-doesnt-work">shame doesn’t help people change</a>. It’s more likely to make them hide their behaviour and resort to virtue-signalling in order to keep up appearances.</p> <p class="normal">Matthew Glover, its co-founder, has said that “Veganuary is in the business of making vegans...Everyone who registers to take part for the month will find a welcoming, supportive, non-judgmental community waiting for them.” The campaign is making its mark because it ‘shows’ rather than ‘tells’; it’s concerned with providing encouragement and information about concrete alternatives as opposed to simply telling people what to do.</p> <p class="normal">There’s plenty of research to prove this works. The British Nutrition Foundation has found that when getting someone to change their diet, learning to deal positively with failure is essential to support <a href="https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/obesityandweightmanagement/behaviourchange.html?limit=1&amp;start=3">healthy behaviour change.</a></p> <p class="normal"><strong>Making veganism accessible.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="normal">The staggering violence of the food industry is structural, but individual behaviour change is an essential part in dismantling it. If we are to succeed in achieving the goal of a cruelty-free world, we’ll need as many people on side as possible.</p> <p class="normal">Shock tactics are good for grabbing attention and making people aware of animal cruelty, so they are imperative. However, we also need to extend the compassion and support we have for animals to our fellow humans—the people of whom we’re making ethical demands and who might be reticent to commit to veganism.</p> <p class="normal">Making sure that education about veganism and opportunities to buy, cook and eat vegan food are as accessible as possible can only work in our favour. This will help people to see that taking charge of their own nutrition, discovering amazing tastes and becoming a better cook is not just about ethics and morality, but is also aspirational and exciting. We need to get away from the dull, self-flagellating mire of diet shaming that has characterised much of the movement to date.</p> <p class="normal">The more welcoming and accessible veganism becomes, the closer we’ll get to our goal: a world free of cruelty. </p> <p class="normal">&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/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item 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/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy">The subversive power of joy</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 veganism Janey Stephenson Liberation Activism Environment Sun, 04 Feb 2018 21:55:03 +0000 Janey Stephenson 115919 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why reconciliation and redemption are central to countering white supremacy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-reconciliation-and-redemption-are-central-to-countering-wh <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sammy Rangel, director of Life After Hate, talks about his work with violent extremists.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="wp-caption-text"><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/2018/01/life-after-hate-sammy-rangel-countering-white-supremacy/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SarahFreemanWolpert3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Life After Hate Executive Director Sammy Rangel at a TEDx conference in 2015. Credit: Youtube/TEDx Talks.</p> <p>It’s been a roller coaster year for Sammy Rangel, the executive director of Life After Hate—a non-profit organization that encourages people to leave violent extremist groups by offering them support and a community of other “formers.” From&nbsp;<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/katharine-gorka-life-after-hate_us_59921356e4b09096429943b6">losing its government funding</a>&nbsp;when the Trump administration took office to experiencing a surge in media attention after Charlottesville, Rangel’s organization has become a go-to source for its unique perspective on the motivations compelling people to join extremist groups—and how to get them out.</p> <p>As former members of extremist groups themselves, Rangel and his colleagues at Life After Hate bring an insider’s understanding to their work. They know why people embrace hate and understand the pain and vulnerability fueling their violence. As a child, Rangel was abused, raped and tortured by family members. He ran away from home at age 11, and began using hard drugs and having sex, leading to more traumatic experiences when his young girlfriend gave birth to a stillborn baby. Rangel’s sense of fear and abandonment turned to anger, leading him to join the Maniac Latin Disciples gang and spend years engaged in violent crime and cycling through prison.</p> <p>Over time, Rangel’s life slowly began to change for the better. After undergoing drug abuse rehabilitation, he started doing community outreach to reduce violence, earned a master’s degree in social work, and began training law enforcement agencies on reducing violent extremism. When I spoke to Rangel, he discussed his belief in peoples’ potential to change—even those engaged in violent extremism. He challenged the way such people are condemned and dehumanized by the very people who claim to stand against hate. For Rangel, nonviolence requires the recognition of each person’s humanity, and countering violent extremism must begin with trying to understand what leads a person into a life of hate in the first place.</p> <p><strong>A recent&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/25/us/ohio-hovater-white-nationalist.html"><em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;story</a>&nbsp;profiling a neo-Nazi sympathizer in Ohio sparked a heated debate about the line between giving extremists a platform to spread their beliefs and trying to understand them as people. Could you tell me how you see that distinction in your own work?</strong></p> <p>For us, it’s not a fine line. We’re not conceding anything, nor are we relinquishing anything in our position. We just know how to develop a dialogue with the person who needs the help. One of the things we have to be mindful of is whether we are adopting the same narrative about the people we say we are protesting against. If I were to look in the mirror, do I look and sound fundamentally like the person I’m challenging, in how much I hate and condemn that person and want to cause harm to that person? That’s what the other side is trying to do. They think, “That person is so different from me that I could never relate to them.” But whether you dehumanize someone because of their race or ideology, it’s still the same process. It leads to the same thing: violence and extremism. You can be against a behavior and still see value in a person.</p> <p>The<em>&nbsp;New York Times</em>&nbsp;article minimized and glamorized. It went too far in how it depicted this person. But underneath the story is the truth: This person eats and sleeps like everybody else does. He has feelings and relationships. We’re not dealing with Nazis, we’re dealing with people who embrace the propaganda of white supremacists and the alt-right. They’re still a person, not an animal, not a sub-human. We’re dealing with people, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping that in the forefront of your mind.</p> <p><strong>How do you think we can try to understand where someone’s coming from without condoning their beliefs and ultimately resembling the same dehumanizing narrative we’re trying to oppose?</strong></p> <p>Both sides have two things in common: They have grievances, and they want to be validated. They like to talk and be heard and feel they are important. By saying “We understand,” [some left-wing groups] think we’re conceding our position. We haven’t. What we’re saying is: “I see how you got to that point in your life. I can see your process and start to dismantle that process through a lens of understanding, which is only focused through compassion and empathy. I see the suffering. I don’t agree with how you’re managing your suffering, but I see it.”</p> <p>Is a white supremacist wrong when he says the middle class is shrinking? No, but where it gets radical is who they blame and how they carry that out. They blame the government and then take it out on minorities. They should take it out on the government, but not with bombs and tiki torches. What’s amazing is that when you listen, they actually calm down and listen in return.</p> <p><strong>What sorts of things can people do to build better understanding with members of extremist groups, particularly those of us coming from left-leaning activist circles and who aren’t in a position to reach out from personal experience?</strong></p> <p>We see a lot of counter-protests, and while protests serve a purpose, they shouldn’t be equated with the idea of dialogue. You’re not going to a protest to listen to anyone—you’re preaching to the choir. In many ways a silent protest would be more powerful in my mind, because we’re there to hold our position and show the nation that this won’t go unnoticed—not to challenge their ideology. We’re not trying to win anything, but we are trying to maintain and restore balance.</p> <p><strong>A lot of left-wing groups have been celebrating the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2017/jan/31/the-punch-a-nazi-meme-what-are-the-ethics-of-punching-nazis">“punch a Nazi” meme</a>since the violence at Charlottesville. What are some ways groups can oppose ideology that’s not going to alienate people even further and lead to more violence?</strong></p> <p>We don’t need to oppose ideology. It’s not the ideology itself [that’s the problem], it’s the radicalization and ultimately the extremism. It’s not unconstitutional or illegal to be a radical in your thinking. [It only becomes those things] when you take those thoughts and act out on them violently. What we want to be promoting or ensuring is a place where people can have their differences of views without feeling that they can impose those on other people. You can only oppose a person’s ideology when you have mutual respect in the relationship, and that mutual respect normally comes when you are willing to listen. Listening is often mistaken for conceding something, but it’s not conceding.</p> <p>The second thing a person can do is to get behind organizations that are doing a good job on this. We’ve raised $700,000 this year, but we’ll run through that in a couple of years doing the work we’re doing—it’s not sustainable. We need people to get behind it. Other people have been&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/nazis-afraid-clowns/">innovative</a>&nbsp;in helping to raise funds [by donating to groups like ours when white supremacists come to their town]. These [white supremacists] know every minute they’re out there, they’re funding programs like ours. They hate that shit. There are innovative ways to do this—it’s not difficult. We have to spend more time learning from others about what’s working in the nonviolence world.</p> <p>We also need to let people know that nonviolent doesn’t mean non-dangerous. It’s one of the most dangerous paths that a person can walk. It’s actually probably more dangerous [than using violence] because we’re walking into dangerous situations where people are willing to be violent, and we’re putting our lives on the line to hold a position as it relates to humanity. If you’re going to represent your humanity and your values, you can’t do it by diminishing someone else’s—that’s not how that works.</p> <p><strong>How might future white supremacist rallies be countered without leading to the kind of violence we saw in Charlottesville?</strong></p> <p>We’ve talked about the value of holding a protest, but not holding it where these guys show up. Let them talk to themselves while we hold our rally over here at another place. What if no one was there to pay attention? For their movement, any press is good press. We’re lending our light to their light, and that’s not what we intend to do. I’m not saying we shouldn’t protest at the same time, I just don’t think we need to engage with them directly. I think that’s counter-productive on every level. What you’re trying to do is to intimidate them, but you’re actually going to embolden them.</p> <p><strong>In an&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/2/27/14738170/former-neo-nazi-dont-ignore-threat-of-white-extremism-picciolini">interview</a>&nbsp;with [former Life After Hate co-founder] Christian Picciolini, he said it’s identity, community and purpose that drives radicalism—not ideology. What are some of the ways that we, as a society, can work on addressing the underlying issues of identity, community and purpose, in order to create more space for people who feel rejected or are looking for validation?</strong></p> <p>Let me ask you this: If we’re protesting the way we protest, where is the safe place for someone who is second-guessing their membership? What are we doing in our community to create a space for those people? Right now, Life After Hate is the only place to go, which is a shame because we can’t be everywhere all the time. But if the community took that stance, they might actually win some of those people right there on the spot, who say, “You know what, I want more of what you have.” When they look out their window beyond their group, they see a raging, angry crowd with nowhere to exit.</p> <p>As for identity, when we won’t allow them to have a voice or a grievance, we also rob them of their identity. What’s more, we don’t let them change their identity. Once a Nazi, always a Nazi [is so often the mentality], which is why people shame, isolate, fire and remove them from their homes. We’re not even allowing them to try and create a new identity. [Nor are we allowing them to find new purpose.] What purpose can they serve in this community when all their opportunities are being squandered because of who they used to be?</p> <p>This movement has forgotten that there are things like reconciliation and redemption. I think we’re so violent because we’ve lost faith in our own ability to be effective in this fight. If you’re skilled at what you do, you don’t burn out like this. You don’t become violent and adversarial. You only do this shit when you get so frustrated that you abandon ship, you abandon your own moral high ground. We have to do better at being strong in our position without having to condemn people. Do not concede, but do not condemn. You can do that without sympathizing with anybody who is willing to act out on hate.</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/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics">Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns">Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen">A renewed Poor People’s Campaign revives King’s dream of challenging class divides</a> </div> </div> </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 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Activism Intersectionality Thu, 01 Feb 2018 22:18:22 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert 115786 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “We’re a movement, not just a magazine” https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kylie-noble/we-re-movement-not-just-magazine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can the arts stimulate new ways of living in old mining communities like Doncaster?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KylieNoble1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Staff and volunteers of Doncopolitan magazine. From left to right Jasmine, Cristiana, Dan, Warren, Rachel, Arissa and Rufus the Donco Dog. Credit: Doncopolitan magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>“You know, there’s no such thing as society,” <a href="http://briandeer.com/social/thatcher-society.htm">said Margaret Thatcher</a> in an interview with British magazine Woman’s Own in 1987. Yet in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, a town where her influence is still deeply felt, a creative and radical community is forming.</p> <p>This was a heartland of resistance in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_miners%27_strike_(1984%E2%80%9385)">1984-1985 UK miners’ strike</a>, home to three of the 55 collieries in Yorkshire at the time. Now there are none; the last pit closed in 2015, and the majority long before that.</p> <p>The town lies 17 miles north-east of Sheffield, once also a hub of British industry in the north of England. Known as ‘Steel City,’ its manufacturing base has largely disappeared, but it is home to two renowned universities which attract students from the UK and across the world.</p> <p>In Doncaster there has been no such large-scale regeneration. The town’s main employers are now in the service industries such as hospitality, call centres and retail.&nbsp;<a href="https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.yorkshirepost.co.uk%2Fbusiness%2Fthe-huge-challenges-still-facing-yorkshire-s-pit-towns-1-7792461&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7C7de35d0ef9cf4b2f104d08d563845326%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636524342339668280&amp;sdata=B%2FQMFki0VJDOtyFrrHccxqHngReG%2Beb4vt229%2B7ZDBI%3D&amp;reserved=0">Studies </a><a href="https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.yorkshirepost.co.uk%2Fbusiness%2Fthe-huge-challenges-still-facing-yorkshire-s-pit-towns-1-7792461&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7C7de35d0ef9cf4b2f104d08d563845326%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636524342339668280&amp;sdata=B%2FQMFki0VJDOtyFrrHccxqHngReG%2Beb4vt229%2B7ZDBI%3D&amp;reserved=0">carried out by Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research</a><a href="https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.yorkshirepost.co.uk%2Fbusiness%2Fthe-huge-challenges-still-facing-yorkshire-s-pit-towns-1-7792461&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7C7de35d0ef9cf4b2f104d08d563845326%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636524342339668280&amp;sdata=B%2FQMFki0VJDOtyFrrHccxqHngReG%2Beb4vt229%2B7ZDBI%3D&amp;reserved=0"> found</a>&nbsp;that 43 per cent of neighbourhoods in the coalfields of England are in the most deprived 30 per cent in the country, and 11.7 per cent of the population report long-term health problems compared to 8.6 per cent nationally.</p> <p>A third of children in Doncaster&nbsp;<a href="https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.traxfm.co.uk%2Fnews%2Flocal-news-and-sport%2Fa-third-of-children-in-doncaster-living-in-poverty%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7C7de35d0ef9cf4b2f104d08d563845326%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636524342339668280&amp;sdata=TddyHlQKgf9e5cM06%2FvdafaYsZDuKMYyHWlM7ElTiLk%3D&amp;reserved=0">live in poverty</a>, and the current government’s austerity programme is having severe affects: the town’s Women’s Aid centre, the last in South Yorkshire, <a href="http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/960/26046/30-08-2017/campaigners-fight-second-yorkshire-womens-aid-closure-in-two-years">is fighting closure due to cuts in their funding</a></p> <p>‘Donny’—as the locals call the town—gets a lot of bad press. On the face of it, you might be led to believe that ex-mining communities are places mired in hopelessness. Rachel Horne, co-editor of <a href="http://www.doncopolitan.com/"><em>Doncopolitan</em> magazine</a>, knows the affects of the closure of the mines intimately.</p> <p>Her father was a miner, the fifth generation of miners in the family. Rachel, 34, was born in the first year of the strike. Her father moved between various jobs after the pit closures, none providing the security or community belonging that the mines had done. She remembers times growing up when her family went without electricity.&nbsp;Like many young people in Doncaster she yearned to escape, and moved to London to study at Middlesex University. She stayed for seven years, but the grind of the capital drove her back north.</p> <p>“I didn’t want to leave London,” she told me in an interview, “but I felt stagnant and depressed there, looking back. I could only really live my creativity at 20 per cent as I had no money and little financial backing. London is full of people who get the financial backing to live there and succeed because of it.”</p> <p>Moving back to Doncaster, I was worried that there wasn’t enough here for me. That people wouldn’t understand that my work sits between fine art and connective aesthetics. I want to change the world not just mirror it.”</p> <p>Along with Warren Draper, 48, an activist and artist, she founded <em>Doncopolitan</em>—a free magazine of arts and culture that has grown into a community hub of art and action.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KylieNoble2.png" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Issues of Doncopolitan magazine on a wall. Credit: Kylie Noble. All rights reserved.</p> <p>“Warren and myself met on a humble artist mailing list in Doncaster in 2010. There was no support for visual artists at that time other than that mailing list.</p> <p>Warren emailed the group asking if anyone would be interested in getting involved in an arts and culture magazine off the back of Doncaster going for city status in 2010. I’d just come back from London. I was keen to meet other artists. We met in a tea room and flower shop called Lord Hurst. It reminded me of being in North London, like Primrose Hill. A lot of creative meetings happened in that space for the following year.”</p> <p>The pair had an instant synergy.</p> <p>“I was born in the miners’ strike. It had influenced my journey as an artist to discover what had happened to Doncaster and how the strike affected my community and family. Warren had moved to Doncaster shortly before the strike and spent time on the picket lines as a teenager. He saw first-hand the brutality of the police and the State against working class people, as well at the lies told by the media.”</p> <p>Aided by a small team of part-time staff and many volunteers, a regular print magazine, festivals, events, campaigns, meet-ups and exhibitions have all been spawned from <em>Doncopolitan’s</em> co-working space office on Copley Road. &nbsp;Events happening in February 2017 include craft club, a 1980s and 1990s club night for charity in an old warehouse, and an arts and music&nbsp;<a href="https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fevents%2F1935859683404188%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7C7de35d0ef9cf4b2f104d08d563845326%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636524342339668280&amp;sdata=d8YXrxDFUfkm75D%2BSDb5NRiGndVeAXNLj9tOBLsEiyM%3D&amp;reserved=0">“wonkfest.”</a></p> <p>Dan Ryder, 28, is Doncopolitan’s social media editor. He’s also a poet and one of the organisers of the town’s <span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/Thetedhughesproject/">Ted Hughes Poetry Festival</a>.</span>&nbsp;Getting involved with <em>Doncopolitan</em> “shattered the negativity” he had about his home, he told me. Like Rachel, Dan left Doncaster for university. He attended Manchester Metropolitan and spent spells in Australia and Iceland after graduating.</p> <p>“Moving back and making Doncaster a permanent base was something I would have felt was not a viable option while I was at, and even after, university. Despite always feeling incredibly proud of my roots, I felt Doncaster didn't and couldn't hold opportunities of any real kind for me as a young person, especially creative opportunities.</p> <p>Finding a group of people who actively championed Doncaster—both the place and its people—went against the tide of negativity that both local and mainstream media put on the town.</p><p><em>Doncopolitan</em> tuned me into a network of local creatives and taught me that I could make Doncaster my future. On the surface Doncaster doesn't have as many opportunities as a large city, but on the flipside it is a creative blank canvas where I can create projects and lead on them, such as creating and curating&nbsp;<a href="https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fdanryderpoet.com%2Fthese-poets-our-kin-these-poems-our-stories%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7C7de35d0ef9cf4b2f104d08d563845326%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636524342339668280&amp;sdata=H4ZU2B5OXpXegnujSub%2BXFMjY%2FESPpmAcRIkXKCtUkc%3D&amp;reserved=0">the world’s first public poetry exhibition in a commercial shopping space.</a>”</p> <p>When I spoke with him Warren pointed out that Doncaster was once one of the wealthiest regions in the UK. Surrounded by arable farmland and with a strong heritage of engineering and industry, he believes, “we should want for nothing, yet, Doncaster is currently one of the most underprivileged regions in the UK.”</p> <p>He and his colleagues see the magazine as an integral part of a wider strategy to promote DIY culture, promoting greater self-reliance and sustainability on an individual and community level. <em>Doncopolitan</em> looks to the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_movement_(culture)">Slow Movement</a> for inspiration, with the aim of making Doncaster “the slow capital” of the UK.</p> <p>The movement began in 1986, when Italian food writer Carlo Petrini staged a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Rome’s grand Piazza di Spagna. In opposition to fast food, he advocates for “slow food,” but the movement has widened to include many aspects of living.</p> <p>“We want to show how slowing down can improve life quality, reduce stress and make our lives healthier, greener and more enjoyable,” says Warren.</p> <p>One of the most exciting developments for <em>Doncopolitan</em> has been their expansion into community farming.&nbsp;<a href="https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bentleyurbanfarm.com%2Fabout.html&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7C7de35d0ef9cf4b2f104d08d563845326%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636524342339668280&amp;sdata=pncjTYKBw03r%2BPZgfsK3fItQiVlrscu%2FKbsb0cxp2IU%3D&amp;reserved=0">Bentley Urban Farm</a>&nbsp;was founded in 2016, with Warren leading the project. Receiving a grant from the Doncaster Mayor’s department enabled him to leave his job in the town’s furniture shop and employ another worker alongside himself to focus on developing the farm.</p> <p>“We use reclaimed materials to build, repair and maintain a greenhouse, poly-tunnel and outdoor beds where we grow fresh, healthy, local food in a town where it was previously easier to buy kebabs than kale.”</p> <p>The farm is leased on an abandoned and disused horticultural centre site. Community groups and individuals use the site and through a ‘veg bag’ scheme, organic produce is delivered to local residents, with subsidies provided for families and individuals on low incomes.</p> <p>“We always wanted a space to create and land to grow and test new models for sustainable living. A space to share and innovate new ideas. We’re a movement not just a magazine or a community growing project. We’ve got to create new ways of living as current systems aren’t sustainable at all.”</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/amber-massie-blomfield/austerity-inequality-and-arts">Austerity, inequality and the arts</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/charlotte-du-cann/under-volcano">Under the volcano</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-tritschler/why-stories-matter">Why stories matter</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 Kylie Noble Culture Activism Tue, 30 Jan 2018 23:46:45 +0000 Kylie Noble 115886 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why we must respect the rights of all sentient animals https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gary-l-francione-anna-e-charlton/why-we-must-respect-rights-of-all-sentient-animals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The only way to recognize the moral personhood of animals is to accord them a right not to be property—and that means the abolition of animal exploitation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/animalrights5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/tit-parus-major-hand-keep-leave-58635/">Pixabay/Hans</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Both of us are advocates for the rights of nonhuman animals. That doesn’t mean we believe that animals should have all of the same rights as humans—it would make no sense to say that animals should have the right to drive cars or vote (even though we might have better political leadership if they could).</p> <p>In fact when we talk about animal rights we’re referring to <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/media/pdf/one_right_for_all-newscientist.pdf"><em>one</em> right</a> in particular: the right not to be property. Why is that so important?</p> <p>All of us have <em>interests</em>—states of affairs that we prefer, desire, or want. There are two ways to protect these interests. The first is to protect them only to the extent that this produces desirable consequences. The second is to protect them despite these considerations—as <em>rights</em>. </p> <p>A person’s interest in living is protected as a right; others must respect your interest in continuing to live even if killing you would benefit other people. So even if your organs could be used to save the lives of leading scientists, inventors or artists who will die without organ transplants, your interest in not being used as a forced organ donor would still be protected because you have the<em> </em>right to life<em>.</em> </p> <p>However much people may disagree about what rights human beings should have, we can all agree that they all have the right not to be chattel slaves. Why is that? Because if a person is a slave, they are not considered to be a being who matters morally—to be, in other words, a <em>person. </em>Instead they become a <em>thing</em> that only has an economic value that is determined by their owner. If a human being is going to count morally, they <em>must</em> have the right not to be property. If they don’t have this right they will be used as a resource whenever other people believe that they will benefit from doing so. </p> <p>Society extends the right not to be property to all people irrespective of their intelligence, beauty, strength or any other characteristic. It doesn’t matter whether a person is a genius or has a learning disability. No-one should be the property of someone else. Slavery still exists, but no one defends it.</p> <p>The same reasoning holds for nonhuman animals. If animals are to matter morally, and not be just things, they cannot be treated as property, since if they are property they have no intrinsic moral value. Their only value is that accorded to them by their owners. The only reason we deny this right to nonhumans is that they are not human. But that is no different from using any other morally irrelevant characteristic such as race or sex to justify slavery or otherwise fail to accord equal consideration to others. </p> <p>The only characteristic that animals must have in order to matter morally is <a href="https://aeon.co/ideas/a-humanely-killed-animal-is-still-killed-and-thats-wrong">sentience</a>. It is not necessary that they have <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/media/links/p8/similar-minds.pdf">humanlike minds</a>. If they are sentient, they have interests, including the interest in continuing to live and in not suffering pain or distress. That is all that is necessary.</p> <p>If we agree that animals matter morally, we are committed to recognizing that all sentient nonhumans have a moral right not to be used as property. This requires that we stop using animals as resources. In other words, we must be morally committed to stop eating, wearing, or otherwise using animals. </p> <p>This position may sound radical, and in the sense that the rights position requires the abolition of all institutionalized exploitation, it is. But since most people already believe that it is wrong to inflict <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gary-francione/it-s-time-to-reconsider-meaning-of-animal-welfare"><em>unnecessary</em> suffering </a>on animals it’s really just an extension of current and widely-shared convictions. If the principle of unnecessary suffering is going to mean more than avoiding the infliction of gratuitous harm, it must rule out any suffering or death that’s imposed for reasons of pleasure, amusement or convenience. But those are the <em>only</em> reasons we have for almost all of our current animal use—uses that are, for the most part, transparently frivolous.</p> <p>For example, our most numerically significant use of animals is for food. We kill about 60 billion land animals and one trillion sea animals annually. Putting aside any possible situation in which someone will starve if they do not eat animal foods because those are the only foods available, this killing and suffering is completely unnecessary. There is no compulsion. We could all be as healthy—if not healthier—if we ate only plants.</p> <p>Moreover, animal agriculture causes a good chunk of the ecological damage that is threatening human survival. And we could feed many more humans if we consumed plants directly rather than fed plants to animals who are then consumed.</p> <p>If we stopped exploiting animals for food, clothing, sport, and entertainment we would get to almost the same point as that which is embraced by advocates of animal rights. So the animal rights position is <em>not</em> especially radical relative to what we <em>say</em> we already believe.</p> <p>The only use of animals that is not transparently frivolous is in helping to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17518849">cure serious human illnesses</a>. There is a considerable dispute about whether such use is really necessary for the purpose, but for argument’s sake let’s assume that without animal use we will fail to discover important information that is medically beneficial.</p> <p>Why do we think animal use in this context is acceptable? The standard response is that nonhumans, unlike humans, are not rational, or otherwise lack the moral value of humans, so unlike human beings they can be ‘sacrificed’ for the sake of some wider social benefit. But we would never say that humans who are not rational or who are otherwise not considered to be cognitively ‘normal’ have a lesser degree of moral value, and can therefore be ‘sacrificed’ to benefit ‘normal’ human beings. </p> <p>Indeed, we protect people from being used as resources for others even if that use will benefit society, because we recognize that they have an inalienable right not to be so used. To reject this right where nonhumans are involved and where the only difference is species is an example of the <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/do-abolitionists-have-a-position-on-human-rights-you-bet-we-do/#.ULG6G6VJZ5g">speciesism</a> that a rights position prohibits.</p> <p>If the right not to be used as property was recognized and respected, it would require the abolition of <em>all </em>institutionalized animal use. This would necessitate<a href="https://aeon.co/essays/why-keeping-a-pet-is-fundamentally-unethical"> the end of <em>all</em> domestication</a>, but it would not mean that conflicts between humans and nonhumans would disappear. There would still be non-domesticated animals living away from humans in woods and jungles, as well as those who live amongst us such as squirrels, rabbits, rats, mice, birds, and many other creatures. We would still need a framework to govern our interactions with these creatures but, if we no longer engaged in the exploitation of nonhuman domesticates it would be easier to develop a solid framework for these other situations. </p> <p>Do we have to recognize the right of animals not to be property? Couldn’t we just do a better job of protecting animals who continue to be owned by human beings? In theory, we could, of course, treat animals better, but there are powerful economic interests that work against doing so in practice. It costs money to protect animal interests, and the more we protect those interests the more expensive it becomes. Someone—usually the consumer—has to pay that cost. The result is that the standard of animal welfare is very low; even supposedly ‘higher welfare’ products involve treatment of nonhumans that, were humans involved, would constitute torture. </p> <p>However supposedly ‘humanely’ an animal is treated they will still be exploited or killed for purposes for which we think it appropriate to use no humans, and in our view that is morally unjustifiable. The only way to recognize the moral personhood of animals is to accord them a right not to be property—and that means the abolition of animal exploitation.</p> <p><span class="image-caption">For more discussion of these issues, please visit our <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/">website</a>. This article draws on material in our most recent book, <em><a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/books/">Advocate for Animals!—An Abolitionist Vegan Handbook.</a></em></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="/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 even"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation animal rights Anna E. Charlton Gary L. Francione Liberation Activism Culture Environment Sun, 28 Jan 2018 22:38:53 +0000 Gary L. Francione and Anna E. Charlton 115802 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is catastrophe the only cure for the weakness of radical politics? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-catastrophe-only-cure-for-weakness-of-radical-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If we want a future worthy of the name we need a different form of revolution.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GregLeffel4_0.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: By LatheeshMahe (Own work), <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0">CC BY-SA 4.0</a> via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:R1_RealRevolution.jpeg">Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p> <p>Some philosophers and social theorists work in a vacuum, but the best ones slow us down before we grab our gas masks and charge off to change the world. They resist what <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Sacrifice-Africa-Political-Theology-Eerdmans/dp/0802862683/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1516135322&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=the+sacrifice+of+africa+by+emmanuel+katongole">Emmanuel Katongole</a> calls “prescriptive haste”—the nasty habit of acting first and thinking later that reveals a culture of “frantic activism,” false “relevance,” “failure of imagination” and “ahistorical innocence.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>‘Know thyself,’ as they say, or pay a hefty psychic price for getting lost in forms of action that distance us from our deepest subjectivity and bury us in pragmatism. We’ve already killed off utopian thinking argues <a href="https://www.amazon.com/American-Utopia-Dual-Power-Universal/dp/1784784532/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1516135480&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=fredric+jameson+an+american+utopia">Fredric Jameson,</a> America’s leading Marxist literary critic, and for the darkest of psychoanalytical reasons: fear. Utopias are of course unreal, but they are necessary imagined futures. They can snap us out of our present-day socio-political malaise so that we can envision alternatives, build the institutions we need to get there, and inspire heroic commitment.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, says Jameson, cynicism is the ideology of the day: “dystopian obsession, a quasi-paranoid fear of any form of political or social organization.” In confronting capitalism, he says, we remain “oddly fixated on the impossible present without any visible historical future, save catastrophe.”</p> <p>What to do? Withdraw from the Big Picture, from mass solidarity organizations and party politics? Seek solace in the personal, the intimate, and in Twitter-based virtual organizing? Wait for the world to collapse?</p> <p>Herein lies the tension between today’s reduced <em>politics of the possible</em> and those who still seek solutions in the seemingly <em>impossible politics of the future.</em> If the cause of this impasse is in our heads, as Jameson suggests, then overcoming it requires, as he also says, a “consciousness revolution.” But what do such revolutions look like, and how do they happen?&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In his book <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Cosmopolis-Hidden-Modernity-Stephen-Toulmin/dp/0226808386/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1516136295&amp;sr=8-4&amp;keywords=cosmopolis"><em>Cosmopolis</em></a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Toulmin">Stephen Toulmin</a> describes the consciousness revolution that launched the modern world. He dates it to 1637, the year in which mathematician-philosopher <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Descartes">René Descartes</a> published his <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Discourse-Method-Focus-Philosophical-Library/dp/1585102598/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1516136529&amp;sr=1-5&amp;keywords=discourse+on+method"><em>Discourse on Method—</em>“I<em> </em></a>think therefore I am.” What caused this revolutionary shift?</p> <p>The answer<em>,</em> says Toulmin, is <em>catastrophe</em>, a key event which opened up the space for a radical break in thinking. In this case there were two such events: first, the shocking assassination of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_IV_of_France">Henry of Navarre</a>, France’s popular king—Europe’s &nbsp;‘9/11’ &nbsp;that ended France’s liberalizing humanist regime and threatened civil war; and second, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty_Years%27_War">Thirty Years War</a> over religious beliefs and political infighting that destroyed central Europe.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Digging into Descartes’ past, Toulmin discovered that the young philosopher was terrified by these catastrophes. All he could make of such warring over religious and political ideology was that the world is impossible to live in if no one can agree on what is true. <em>Diversity is death.</em> So he set his formidable brain to find the one indubitable foundation for determining Truth: our own minds.</p> <p>Once set upon his anxiety-saturated quest for certainty, Descartes turned his back on earlier writers like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erasmus">Erasmus</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Grotius">Grotius</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_de_Montaigne">Montaigne</a> who aimed to build a tolerant and relatively peaceful proto-liberal Western European society in which <em>diversity is life.</em> They believed that space for different and conflicting beliefs and opinions protects us from error, and that proper manners in debate, discourse and political leadership require trust, respect, open-mindedness, and skepticism of any absolute claims to the truth.</p> <p>Descartes repudiated these arguments and raised skepticism to an art form, refusing to accept any claims as true unless they met his own test of precise mathematical rationality. The only way to confront fear and political chaos, he decided, is to remain firmly in control. Only one truth could not be doubted: <em>I think therefore I am—</em>Descartes’ rational mind<em>.</em> From this inward-looking foundation the superstructure of a new, rational world could be built to replace both the theological and the open-minded, proto-liberal worlds that came before. Descartes quickly changed Europe’s mind, and revolutions—cultural, political, scientific, and industrial—followed in train.</p> <p>Cartesianism defined the long Age of Revolution into the twentieth century. What ended it? More catastrophes, this time in the shape of<em> </em>world wars, economic depressions, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the <em>Gulags</em> and apartheid. These politico-ideological events disabused us once and for all of the power of universal rationality as an unqualified force for good.&nbsp;</p> <p>It took a couple of decades after 1945 for a new cultural revolution to gather energy. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Wallerstein">Immanuel Wallerstein</a> cites the global turmoil of 1968 as the apotheosis of a world-wide shift in consciousness which undermined the two great ‘rational’ legacies of the modern age: Western liberalism and revolutionary socialism. The new sensibility that emerged shook confidence in the received tradition of Western modernity. In doing so it disabused many people of ‘rational,’ abstract ‘big picture’ master narratives, perhaps generating a loss of nerve even to consider new ones in the process. Popular attention shifted from the economic concerns of traditional politics to the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_turn">cultural turn</a>” as it was called—making the ‘personal political’ and vice versa.</p> <p>The 1960s ‘revolution’ was far from complete or uncomplicated. In shifting attention to the cultural register and rightly giving voice to women, minorities and emerging nations long silenced by patriarchy, racism and imperialism, attention was diverted away from the socio-structural register, from powerful economic and technological regimes that continued to run unchecked. In the decades that followed, even many leftists seemed to succumb to Margaret Thatcher’s chilling claim that “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_is_no_alternative">there is no alternative”</a> to the anti-utopian quicksand of neoliberal capitalism.</p> <p>The long half-century since 1945 came to be called ‘postmodern,’ but if ‘postmodern’ means prioritizing the cultural register over the transformation of capitalism then we are heading blind into the next catastrophe. Can there be a different ending to this story? Perhaps, but it includes retracing our steps through Descartes’ 1630s ‘revolution’ and building a real alternative that integrates both personal and structural concerns.</p> <p>Toulmin concludes that Descartes didn’t invent modernity—he merely diverted a growing liberal consciousness movement into a strict, puritanical, radical rationalism. To overcome this distortion we must recover the tolerant, open-minded, well-mannered speculations of proto-liberal cultural leaders <em>before</em> Descartes, but three ominous legacies of Cartesianism’s imperial hangover still stand in the way.</p> <p>First, individualism. Descartes taught us to see the world from the inside out. Institutions that once pulled people out of themselves and into solidarity—like tradition, community and religion—are dying. Each person is now an ‘army of one,’ confident only in their own opinions, <em>their </em>truth, and manifesting solipsism on a vast social scale. Even Descartes worried that “everyone is so full of his [sic] own wisdom there might be as many reformers as heads.”</p> <p>Second, skepticism. Descartes’ ‘method’ was radical doubt: question everything and believe nothing until it presents itself to the mind in the form of rational proof. Critique, critical theory and a hermeneutics of suspicion are all useful tools, but when they are our <em>only</em> tools there’s a danger that nothing survives, even reason itself, as postmodern philosophers have taught us. Critique claims to ‘know’ what’s wrong with everything, but it teaches us nothing about how to build a positive—let alone utopian—project.</p> <p>Third, fear. Descartes’ world was bloody. He was afraid of it. He assumed the world was violent in its very being<em> </em>and can only be survived through strict rational control—a &nbsp;reversal of the Medieval understanding that the world was made good and distorted by sin, but is otherwise correctable through wisdom and fellow feeling.</p> <p>These three legacies are dangerous, not just because we are stuck in them, but also because they mask a deeper anxiety that we don’t want to face: the drive to be in control and assert moral self-certainty that shows itself in a judgmental puritanical perfectionism; in the desire for small, controllable ideas; and in a radical mistrust of others’ intentions, ideas and plans for action. These anxieties stop us from imagining a workable future beyond postmodern neoliberalism—blocking us from letting go in order to trust one another, from recovering the confidence to revive the power of big ideas and broad-based organizations, and from re-embracing solidarity and a functioning democracy.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>We can wait for another catastrophe to force us to change the way we think. Go ahead—grab the gas mask, light the fuse and see what survives. Or we can do the hard work of facing ourselves with honesty and imagining our way out of this impasse. We must do this together, but the struggle begins in our own minds and in our communities—only later will it add up to another consciousness revolution. No one can tell us how to do it. It will take time.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>If we want a future worthy of the name we must take Jameson’s psychoanalysis to heart and find a new <em>gestalt.</em> In the words of a black activist preacher I heard last week on <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr._Day">Martin Luther King Day</a>: “We gotta’ get changed from the inside out.”&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/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 even"> <a href="/transformation/harry-hendrick/new-vision-for-left">A new vision for the left</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/byung-chul-han/why-revolution-is-no-longer-possible">Why revolution is no longer possible</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 Gregory Leffel Activism Sun, 21 Jan 2018 22:23:17 +0000 Gregory Leffel 115731 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A renewed Poor People’s Campaign revives King’s dream of challenging class divides https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can a new fusion of movements reignite the search for freedom and equality in America?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/poor-peoples-campaign-revives-king-dream-challenging-class-divide/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SaraFreemanWolpert.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Rev. William J. Barber speaks to the crowd gathered at Pullen Baptist Memorial Church in Raleigh, North Carolina on New Years Eve 2017. Credit: WNV/David Freeman.</p> <p>The air in Raleigh, North Carolina was bitterly cold on New Years Eve, but the chill did not stop hundreds of people from gathering for a mass community meeting at the Pullen Baptist Memorial Church. Inside, the band was warming up on stage and friends called out greetings to each other as they went into the main hall.</p> <p>A group of Raging Grannies filled a pew at the front, wearing floppy hats adorned with activist badges. Locals from North Carolina greeted activists who had traveled from around the country to attend. Some of them had recently been arrested together for protesting the tax bill on Capitol Hill.</p> <p>As speakers began addressing the audience, people in the crowd linked arms and audience members flocked on stage to sing “We Shall Overcome” and chant “Forward together! Not one step back!” Together, the crowd assembled in Pullen rang in 2018 with a commitment for the coming year: to lead a nationwide campaign to save the “heart and soul” of American democracy.</p> <p>Officially titled “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival,” the campaign’s objective is to train a massive network of grassroots activists to spark a multi-fronted movement challenging four systemic “evils” in American society: poverty, racism, ecological devastation and the war economy.</p> <p>One of the key faces of the campaign, former North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William J. Barber, delivered a fiery speech to those gathered in the church on New Years Eve. His voice boomed through the congregation, calling on everyone to “speak truth to power and love to hate in the name of God and all that is holy.”</p> <p>“What we face is not new,” Barber then told the cheering crowd. “But when you get scared, remember the folks in power are scared too. They’re having nightmares!”</p> <p>Barber read biblical passages in which the marginalized citizenry—the so-called “stones the builder rejected”—rise up together to face the “wolves”—or politicians—to save their society. In doing so, he added, sometimes they even “save some of the wolves.”</p> <p>A towering, imposing figure, Barber has been described by activist and professor Cornel West as a modern-day Martin Luther King, Jr. It is easy to draw the parallel, as the Poor People’s Campaign itself is named after an initiative King announced months before his assassination. The campaign is considered an unfinished part of his legacy — a movement seeking to unify people across racial lines around the shared poverty and structural inequalities they experience.</p> <p>The formal launch of the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign was held exactly 50 years after King announced the campaign in 1967 and is gearing up to be the largest nonviolent mobilization in the United States this year. Building on years of organizing within the state of North Carolina, leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign will spend the next five months training, educating and mobilizing communities around the country. Then, on Mother’s Day, the campaign will begin 40 days of widespread civil disobedience, nonviolent direct action and voter education.</p> <p>The movement aims to draw in labor unions, farm workers, civil rights groups and marginalized communities from around the country, focusing each week on a specific issue of injustice. Each week will include specific policy demands and voter education programs at the state and federal levels, as well as training in nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience. By organizing through local and state chapters, the campaign will maintain a relatively decentralized structure guided by a set of core principles and targets.</p> <p><strong>Reviving King’s dream of challenging class divides.</strong></p> <p>One of the major strengths of the Poor People’s Campaign is its potential to appeal to Americans across party lines. It aims to unite the grievances of the marginalized white working class with marginalized communities of immigrants and people of color throughout the country. Barber says this division has kept poor whites and people of color from coming together in common cause for generations. Organizers of the campaign promote a narrative that reaches out to rural or working-class whites—a discourse often employed by politicians on the right, while also emphasizing opposition to sexism, homophobia and racism that are more traditionally territory of the left.</p> <p>North Carolina activist Tony Quartararo explained his support for the movement in terms of its unifying potential, saying, “[Trump] used xenophobia to play poor whites off against poor black and brown and Muslim people. That’s what the 1 percent has always done, played the 99 percent off against each other and allowed themselves to stay in power.”</p> <p>Quartararo and his wife Elena Ceberio said they are willing to be involved in supporting the campaign in any way, and have both already been arrested for civil disobedience actions with Barber and others. They say they prefer to stay “in the background” and out of the spotlight, and they enthusiastically promote the movement within their social circle. This year, for example, the couple’s Christmas card featured a photograph of themselves with their son, all clad in black Poor People’s Campaign T-shirts, with a message asking their friends to lend their support. King’s dream was “to bring everybody together,” Quartararo said, and he hopes to draw in people from all walks of life to participate.</p> <p>References to King are frequent among national and state-level campaign leaders, and much of the movement’s popular legitimacy draws on this connection. The original Poor People’s Campaign, spearheaded by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sought to bring together people living in poverty across the country in a new March on Washington. The march was intended to pressure Congress and the Johnson administration to pass comprehensive anti-poverty legislation, as well as demand jobs, healthcare and affordable housing. Unlike previous campaigns to fight for the civil rights and voting rights of African Americans, the Poor People’s Campaign addressed issues affecting poor people of all races.</p> <p>In April 1968, just weeks before the march was scheduled to take place, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Rev. Ralph Abernathy was put in charge of organizing the march in his place, along with a group of other civil rights leaders, such as Rev. Jesse Jackson. The march began on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1968, when Coretta Scott King began a two-week-long protest demanding an Economic Bill of Rights. Five thousand protesters descended on the National Mall during the campaign’s first week and built a protest camp called “Resurrection City.” But the encampment was plagued by ceaseless rain, and its inhabitants were ultimately expelled in the middle of the night on June 20. As a result, the campaign has since been considered an unrealized part of King’s dream.</p> <p>Today, the Poor People’s Campaign aims not only to revive this decades-old dream, but also to reenergize many of the activists who were engaged in the anti-war and civil rights movements in the 1960s and ‘70s. David Freeman, who dropped out of high school to join the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, has played an active role in other Barber-led campaigns. “I know of no organization, past or present, which engenders the same passion and commitment over as broad a coalition as [the Poor People’s Campaign],” Freeman said.</p> <p>The campaign also represents a second chance for those who played a less active role in social justice struggles of that era. At 78 years old, Fran Schindler laments “missing her chance” to participate in the social movements of the 1960s, having spent those years raising small children. But after attending the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., she felt the time had come to take a stand. “It was an awakening, if you want to call it that,” Schindler said. “It wasn’t my time to do it back then, when I wanted to be doing it so much and felt I was being left out. But now’s my time.”</p> <p>Having had a double mastectomy, Schindler has gone to protests with slogans like “This is what a preexisting condition looks like” painted across her chest. After the inauguration, she said she was grateful to find a way to “let it out” by “going topless and screaming” at the top of her lungs. “I’ve got some feminist stuff in me,” she laughed. “Just because a woman’s got no breasts does not mean she is any less of a woman.”</p> <p><strong>Roots in North Carolina’s progressive resistance.</strong></p> <p>Supporters like Schindler, Quartararo and Ceberio learned about the Poor People’s Campaign through a series of actions in North Carolina targeting reforms on the state level, which had been organized by Barber and other progressive groups around the state. After the Republicans won a majority in North Carolina’s state legislature in 2010 and the governorship in 2012, Barber launched the Moral Mondays movement in April 2013. He led protests bearing “moral witness” to the state legislature’s far-right agenda, which included attacks on health care, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and voting rights throughout the state.</p> <p>The movement gained momentum when 17 people were arrested at the first Moral Monday demonstration in the summer of 2013. Within months, there had been over a thousand arrests, sparking more actions throughout North Carolina. These included the “Tuesdays with Tillis” demonstrations outside Sen. Thom Tillis’ office in Raleigh and the “Air Horn Orchestra” demonstrations every Wednesday outside Gov. Pat McCrory’s mansion, protesting issues like gerrymandering and environmental degradation.</p> <p>Barber became a leading figure of progressive resistance in the North Carolina NAACP, the organization’s second largest state chapter, while serving as its president for 11 years. Barber stepped down in May 2017 to join Presbyterian Rev. Liz Theoharis in co-chairing the Poor People’s Campaign. Theoharis runs the New York-based Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice and is the founder of the Poverty Initiative. Although Theoharis often speaks at mass meetings and Poor People’s Campaign events, she is less visible in the public spotlight than Barber, who was more involved in state-level organizing in the years leading up to the campaign launch.</p> <p>Barber is also known for his role as head of the non-profit organization Repairers of the Breach and for leading the “Forward Together” movement, which began organizing the annual Moral March to the Raleigh statehouse every February, also known as the Historic Thousands on Jones Street, or HKonJ. The march is put on by the HKonJ People’s Assembly Coalition, a group comprised of over 125 North Carolina NAACP branches, youth councils and college chapters, as well as representatives from over 200 other social justice organizations. The march has produced some of the largest civil rights gatherings in the South since Selma and Birmingham, and will take place again this February.</p> <p><strong>A fusion of movements.</strong></p> <p>One of the campaign’s strengths, aside from a strong foundation in grassroots organizing, is its aim to draw together many smaller organizations and campaigns into what Barber calls a “fusion of movements.” Back in 2014, in the early planning stages of the campaign, over a hundred leaders from more than 40 organizations began holding strategic dialogues to plan the Poor People’s Campaign, and it has been seen as broadly encompassing many other movements ever since.</p> <p>The campaign has so far succeeded in drawing in many smaller groups, like the Pennsylvania-based March on Harrisburg. Community organizer and march leader Kyle Moore was inspired to join the coordinating committee for the Pennsylvania state chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign after he was arrested with Barber in July. Moore was a key organizer of the March on Harrisburg, a group that held a 105-mile march from Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania state legislature in Harrisburg in May 2017. The same group was also arrested in November, when they dressed up as the “Where’s Waldo” character to make the point that it is easier to find Waldo than elected officials. They were also drawing attention to issues of gerrymandering, voter suppression and political corruption at the state level.</p> <p>&nbsp;“What we did with the March on Harrisburg is very similar to what the Poor People’s Campaign is doing,” Moore said. “If you don’t have voting rights, you’re going to have people in office voting for things that a majority of people don’t support.”</p> <p>The Pennsylvania Coordinating Committee will be organizing state-wide “barnstorming” efforts with the Pennsylvania chapter from January until March, hosting trainings in Unitarian Universalist churches on citizen lobbying and civil disobedience. Moore, who is also a trained civil rights historian, said he became passionate about the campaign after watching Barber speak to thousands of people at a church in New York City. “He’s so much like Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Moore said. “My feet started dancing a little bit. The way he talks is like a rhythm, it’s like a prophet. You’re willing to follow him down any road that could restore democracy in this country.”</p> <p>While the campaign is garnering substantial enthusiasm in local and state chapters, as well as painting a compelling narrative of unity among marginalized and disenfranchised groups in America, many hurdles remain. Organizers will be pressed to forge a movement among diverse interest groups, develop a clear strategy with attainable goals, and maintain the enthusiasm of early supporters while also drawing in new participants. What’s more, they face the same problem as the original Poor People’s Campaign: having a single charismatic leader as the face of the movement. If such figures become unable to lead, as we have seen, the campaign can lose momentum and direction.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the Poor People’s Campaign has already laid the groundwork for major mobilizations in 2018, drawing in numerous stakeholders and whipping up a frenzy of enthusiasm from supporters across the country. “Yes, we need to keep checking ourselves critically, to improve outreach to youth,” Freeman said. “But all progressive organizations are struggling with these issues. The Poor People’s Campaign is the most hopeful, most powerful coalition we have going. Nothing compares to it in breadth.”</p> <p>For now, Barber’s leadership remains a strong asset for inspiring dedicated participants and drawing the campaign into the national spotlight. As Schindler boldly declared, “I am definitely throwing what’s left of me in with his mission. Wherever he goes, I will follow him.”</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/mary-mountcastle/moral-mondays-new-face-of-protest">Moral Mondays: the new face of protest? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns">Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </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 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 18 Jan 2018 21:33:41 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert 115610 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After Erica Garner’s death, I can’t breathe through the tears https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/after-erica-garner-s-death-i-can-t-breathe-through-tears <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In praise and memory of a great advocate for peace and social justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ZenobiaJeffries3.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, leads a march of people protesting the Staten Island, New York grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July, on December 11, 2014 in the Staten Island Neighborhood of New York City. Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images via Yes! Magazine.</p> <p>Three weeks before her death, anti-police violence activist Erica Garner spoke in an interview of the trauma and struggle that caused&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv6gSl4JcFA">Kalief Browder</a>’s mother to die of heart problems—literally, a broken heart. Browder was the 16-year-old boy from the Bronx accused of stealing a backpack in 2010 who then spent three years in an adult prison, often in solitary, without being convicted. After he was released, he struggled with mental health and eventually took his own life.</p> <p>In the&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/BenjaminPDixon/status/946436687588192257">interview</a>, Erica discussed her own trauma of seeing her father, Eric Garner, killed by a New York police officer, her own health struggles, and the stress of fighting injustice since that summer day in July 2014.</p> <p>“This thing, it beats you down,” she said to podcast and YouTube show host Benjamin Dixon. “The system beats you down to where you can’t win.”</p> <p>Erica shared that she felt her father’s pain watching the viral video that shook the nation, showing New York police officer Dan Pantaleo putting her father in an illegal chokehold, killing him. “That same pain when he said he can’t breathe. That same pain when he said he was tired of being harassed” by police officers.</p> <p>But the self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, the oldest daughter of Eric Garner’s children, stated emphatically, “It’s hard, but you have to keep going. No matter how long it takes, we deserve justice, and I want to get justice for other people.”</p> <p>Erica was tireless in fighting for justice for her father, whose death was ruled a homicide, although no charges were brought against Pantaleo. She died fighting for police accountability and justice for others.</p> <p>Like so many others’, my social media feeds were flooded with the news of Erica’s death on Saturday. People expressed their own pain, anger, frustration, and sadness.</p> <p>But I had no words. I could barely make out my own emotions. I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon of quick sentiments. I didn’t know Erica personally or professionally. I didn’t follow her work. My reaction was similar to when I saw the “I can’t breathe” video of her father’s killing, similar to when I saw the killing of Philando Castile, the killing of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/when-they-shot-terence-crutcher-this-time-i-watched-20160922">Terence Crutcher</a>, the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.</p> <p>There was only numbness.</p> <p>But now the tears won’t stop.&nbsp;<em>I can’t breathe </em>through the sobs.</p> <p>I remember the fatal chokehold that took Erica’s father’s life. I remember the image of a Black child being gunned down by a police officer at the park. I remember the image of a Black driver being shot while reaching for his identification, his girlfriend screaming when he dies on camera, the sound of their 4-year-old daughter consoling her mother. “It’s OK, Mommy, I’m right here with you.” Pleading with her mom to stop “’cause I don’t want you to get shooted.”</p> <p><em>I can’t breathe&nbsp;</em>through all this remembering.</p> <p>My tears will not bring her back, and they will not get the justice that she fought for so personally and passionately. But maybe these tears, along with these words, can touch a few hearts.</p> <p>And maybe many words and many tears can spark a lot of people—tens of thousands, millions—to join the movement to end the oppression of marginalized people in their communities.</p> <p>And maybe those people will propose legislation that refuses to give police violence a pass, and that fully prosecutes wrongful acts of policing. This is something the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/the-call-to-end-the-war-on-black-lives-starts-with-accountability-20161103">Movement for Black Lives</a>&nbsp;has already begun.</p> <p>And maybe out of that will come the Eric Garner Law or the Tamir Rice Law, or pick a name—maybe just the Black Lives Matter Law, which sees to it that police officers are not allowed to just retire following an act of violence. Maybe this law will instead suspend them without pay during an investigation of a killing, a rape, harassment—any form of police violence. Maybe this law will encourage just and appropriate charges. And maybe convictions, too.</p> <p>And maybe all the programs that have been proposed to actually train police officers in implicit bias and de-escalation will be mandated for every policing agency in the smallest town to the largest city—rural, urban, suburban, county, state, and federal.</p> <p><em>I can’t breathe&nbsp;</em>through all these maybes.</p> <p>Erica died fighting for justice. Like her father, her heart gave out from the task. She died seeing the person who killed her father not be held accountable for taking his life unjustly.</p> <p>I do not want to die knowing that I said nothing. Did nothing, knowing that oppressed people every day are dying unjustly at the hands of police, moving along with my days numb, as if that is just the normal way things are. It is not normal.</p> <p>So I will fight through the numbness and the tears, and offer my words.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/after-erica-garners-death-i-cant-breathe-through-the-tears-20170103?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180105&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180105+CID_c325be1d4f4e3aa12eddef67b19b729b&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=After%20Erica%20Gar">YES! Magazine</a>.</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/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics">Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/alexis-buchanan/blacklivesmatter-makes-some-people-angry-isn-t-that-good">#BlackLivesMatter makes some people angry. Isn’t that good?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/what-dna-ancestry-testing-can-and-can-t-tell-you">What DNA ancestry testing can and can’t tell you</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 Zenobia Jeffries Transformative nonviolence Activism Care Intersectionality Thu, 11 Jan 2018 22:12:17 +0000 Zenobia Jeffries 115577 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The strategic naiveté of Antifa https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/molly-wallace/strategic-naivet-of-antifa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why violent protest rarely works.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article first appeared in <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/2017/11/violent-flank-effects-strategic-naivete-antifa/">Waging Nonviolence</a> and was published in collaboration with the Peace Science Digest, which summarizes and reflects on current academic research in the field of peace and conflict studies.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MollyWallace.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Antifa graffiti. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/old_olsen/7875897238">Flickr/Oliver Wunder</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>We’ve all heard the argument before: However “nice” the use of nonviolence may be, in the real world violence is necessary—and ultimately more effective, so the thinking goes—for challenging a brutal regime, fighting injustice or defending against an armed opponent. But what are the actual effects of adding violence to a movement’s repertoire of resistance strategies?</p> <p>Previous scholarship has been inconclusive on this question of so-called “radical flank effects,” as studies tend to focus on individual cases and also reflect collective confusion over what is meant by “radical.” Does it, for instance, refer to the means used or the ends sought?</p> <p>Focusing, therefore, on violent—as opposed to “radical”—flanks, researchers Erica Chenoweth and Kurt Schock sought to bring clarity and systematic analysis to bear on this question of positive versus negative violent flank effects. In a 2015&nbsp;<a href="http://iip.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/doc/CHENOWETH%20%26%20SCHOCK%20(2015)%20Contemporaneous%20Armed%20Challenges.pdf">article for the journal Mobilization</a><em>,&nbsp;</em>they examined all nonviolent campaigns from&nbsp; 1900-2006 with radical (i.e. “maximalist”) goals—such as the “removal of an incumbent national government, self-determination, secession, or the expulsion of foreign occupation”—to see how the presence or absence of armed resistance affected the success of these nonviolent campaigns. Their findings offer compelling evidence that violence is not generally a helpful addition to nonviolent resistance movements.</p> <p>How did they arrive at this conclusion? Using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, the authors begin by generating three hypotheses. First, nonviolent campaigns with violent flanks are more likely to succeed than nonviolent campaigns without violent flanks. Second, nonviolent campaigns without violent flanks are more likely to succeed than nonviolent campaigns with violent flanks. And third, violent flanks have no impact on the success rates of nonviolent campaigns.</p> <p>To test these hypotheses, they search for any significant statistical relationships that might exist between the presence of violent flanks and the success or failure of nonviolent campaigns. They find none, thus providing no support for either the first or second hypothesis. As the authors note, this could mean either that the presence of violent flanks has no discernible effect on outcomes or that it has mixed positive and negative effects that cancel each other out when taken together. </p> <p>When they compare the effects of violent flanks that emerge from inside a nonviolent movement to those of violent flanks that develop parallel to a nonviolent movement, they find that the former are associated with failure, suggesting that negative violent flank effects are more pronounced when a nonviolent campaign cannot distance itself from its armed counterpart. Moreover, they find that mass participation is the strongest determinant of nonviolent campaign success and that the presence of violent flanks has a negative effect on participation levels, suggesting that violent flanks may indirectly decrease the likelihood of success.</p> <p>To flesh out how violent flanks operate within individual cases, Chenoweth and Schock examine four cases where violent flanks were present: Burma in 1988, the Philippines from 1983-1986, South Africa from 1952-1961 and South Africa from 1983-1994. Two campaigns were successful (the Philippines and South Africa from 1983-1994) and two were not (Burma and South Africa from 1952-1961). Meanwhile, two had violent flanks outside of the nonviolent movement (Burma and the Philippines) and two had violent flanks associated with the nonviolent movement (the two South Africa cases).</p> <p>After examining the histories of these nonviolent campaigns—and the ways they interacted with armed resistance—the authors find mixed results. Violent flanks had negative effects in the two unsuccessful cases, no net impact in one of the successful cases (the Philippines) and a weak positive effect in the other (the later South African case). Overall there was greater evidence for negative violent flank effect mechanisms than for positive ones.</p> <p>In the one case where a violent flank had a weak positive effect (South Africa from 1983-1994), Chenoweth and Schock argue that that effect was mostly symbolic—energizing activists around the revolutionary mystique of violent resistance—rather than instrumental to gaining power over the apartheid regime (something that was accomplished, instead, by the nonviolent resistance movement).</p> <p>However, in the two cases where violent flanks had negative effects, these effects were seriously detrimental. The presence of an armed movement, according to the authors, diminished “chances of success for otherwise nonviolent campaigns by legitimating repression, demobilizing participants, shifting to violent strategies where the state [wa]s superior, and discrediting regime opponents.”</p> <p>Notably, the armed movements were consistently shown not to protect nonviolent activists but rather to put them at greater risk, as authorities used the presence of armed actors to justify widespread repression against all resistance movements, violent and nonviolent alike.</p> <p>Chenoweth and Schock find evidence in the case studies, then, that violent flanks do actually influence the outcomes of nonviolent campaigns, despite the earlier quantitative findings suggesting otherwise. Negative and positive effects simply appear to cancel each other out when taken together over a large number of cases, with negative violent flank effects being somewhat more prominent than positive ones. The authors argue, therefore, that “on average, maximalist nonviolent campaigns often succeed&nbsp;<em>despite</em>&nbsp;violent flanks—rarely because of them.”</p> <p><strong>Contemporary relevance.</strong></p> <p>Despite recent scholarship demonstrating the greater effectiveness of nonviolent resistance (see Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s 2011 book, “<a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">Why Civil Resistance Works</a>”), assumptions about the effectiveness of violence—along with its supposedly radical and/or revolutionary nature—stubbornly persist. When faced with a brutal or blatantly unjust opponent, many people are inclined to believe that only violence will bring about needed change or be able to protect and defend one’s community or fellow activists. </p> <p>We have seen this recent thinking everywhere from Syria to Venezuela, but for those of us in the United States struggling against the Trump administration and the white supremacist and neo-Nazi forces it has unleashed, we need look no further than the presence of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifa_(United_States)">Antifa</a> (anti-fascist groups who do not rule out engaging in violent confrontations) in our own protests to see this same logic at work—as well as its counterproductive effects. Such groups see themselves as a necessary counterpart to white supremacist or neo-Nazi groups who come armed to demonstrations, ready to engage in street battles with left-wing activists.</p> <p>Although this logic of needing to use violence to defend against violence is so widespread and deeply ingrained as to be almost intuitive, the problem is that such moves feed into and reinforce narratives on the right that inspire—and provide cover for—their own claims to self-defense. Just as the presence of a violent flank in an anti-regime nonviolent movement can provide necessary or further justification for government security forces to fire on protesters, so too can it create a similar dynamic among non-state groups, including neo-Nazis and white supremacists, mobilizing more recruits and ultimately increasing the vulnerability of anti-racist and anti-fascist activists and the marginalized and targeted communities whom they wish to defend.</p> <p><strong>Practical implications.</strong></p> <p>In the wake of recent events in Charlottesville, outrage has rightly focused on the neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups who came armed and even killed one of the counter-protesters. Their goals of racial supremacy and purity, fueled by hate and fear and devoid of empathy, have no place in a country that values equality, pluralism and human dignity, and their ascendancy&nbsp;at the moment&nbsp;is nothing short of terrifying.</p> <p>For the sake of effectively challenging these groups and their repulsive vision, however, those of us who consider ourselves part of the resistance must also engage in critical&nbsp;inward reflection, especially with regards to the strategic implications of the presence of&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;affiliates who also came armed to Charlottesville, among otherwise nonviolent counter-protesters.</p> <p>Although their work to expose and tirelessly organize against fascism is admirable and necessary, those who identify with&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;and its full range of tactics appear to endorse at least two flawed assumptions. First, they assume that truly radical action to effectively challenge fascism must include violence—what is often termed “physical confrontation”—and that nonviolence equals “dialogue” or “normal politics,” which&nbsp; implies acquiescence, submission or cooptation. Second, they assume that violence is also necessary to protect activists and targeted communities.</p> <p>But, in fact, here&nbsp;is what we know from recent social scientific research: Nonviolent resistance is twice as likely to be effective as violent resistance when used for radical goals such as the removal of an authoritarian regime or national liberation, cases with no shortage of brutal, unreasonable opponents. Furthermore, nonviolent resistance strategy is all about analyzing and dismantling an opponent’s sources of power, including through direct action. Finally, as noted in Chenoweth and Schock’s research above, instead of protecting nonviolent activists, the presence of a violent flank frequently creates justification for&nbsp;<em>further&nbsp;</em>repression against them, making them&nbsp;<em>more</em>&nbsp;vulnerable to violence.</p> <p>It is time, therefore, that we untether violence from its “radical” and “protective/defensive” associations. Not doing so—and hanging on, as&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;does, to these tired old assertions that violence is a necessary response—is, quite simply, poor strategy. It gives white supremacists and neo-Nazis exactly what they want, reinforcing their “we’re embattled” narratives, thereby strengthening their movement. It muddies the waters by giving commentators on the right something to point to when they try to create ludicrous moral equivalencies between white supremacists/neo-Nazis and anti-fascist activists. And, in doing so, it does nothing to&nbsp;actually diminish&nbsp;the strength of white supremacism.</p> <p>Furthermore, the continued presence of armed elements like&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;has negative effects&nbsp;within&nbsp;the resistance. Speaking from personal experience, as the mother of a three-year-old, it makes me, for one, feel more vulnerable to violence and therefore less likely to show up to demonstrations with my daughter. I can only assume that many others—not just parents—feel and act similarly, resulting in diminished mass participation in the movement and thereby a decrease in its power and effectiveness.</p> <p>For all these reasons, if&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;activists care—as they no doubt do—about challenging resurgent fascist, white supremacist forces effectively, they must think more strategically, considering the short- and long-term effects of their actions. Although “punching a Nazi” may feel like effective action due to the immediate, physical consequences of violence—someone’s bloody nose, someone’s body on the ground—what actually matters for the strategic value of an action is how others respond to it afterwards.</p> <p>Does it strengthen the opponent group—reinforcing its narratives, drawing more recruits and unifying them against a more easily vilified adversary—or weaken it? Does it strengthen one’s own side—drawing a broader array of activists of all ages and from all walks of life to the resistance movement, unified around a common vision—or weaken it? Does it bring uncommitted third parties to one’s side or alienate them? These—not the number of individuals punched or bludgeoned on the other side—should be the metrics of a strategic response to fascism.</p> <p>The dangers of white supremacism and fascism are real, and the stakes for American democracy and values are high. It is precisely for these reasons that activists&nbsp;need to engage in discussions about the strategic merits and radical credentials of disciplined nonviolent resistance (both for movement effectiveness and for protection), together strategizing about those actions that will best diminish the power of the opponent to realize its white supremacist, fascist agenda. A few points, in particular, are worth raising.</p> <p>First, despite common-sense associations of violent action with defense and protection, nonviolent discipline has a&nbsp;better&nbsp;chance of keeping activists safe than armed resistance does, even—counter-intuitively—in the face of a violent adversary. There is no guarantee of complete&nbsp;safety with either type of resistance, but armed resistance is much more likely to elicit further—not less—violence from the other side.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nonetheless, assumptions about arms and their role in defense or protection are so engrained that this is a tough point to get across. If presented with a scenario where a few unarmed activists in a completely nonviolent movement are killed by armed opponents versus one where a greater number of unarmed activists are killed by these opponents while joined by fellow armed activists fighting back, most of us are likely to characterize the unarmed activists in the first instance as “defenseless” and those in the second instance as being “defended,” despite the fact that they were, in fact, better protected in the first instance. These deeply engrained—and flawed— assumptions about the defensive or protective value of weapons must be brought to the surface and critically examined.</p> <p>Second, there is a strategic logic to nonviolent&nbsp;resistance that most Antifa adherents seem to not know (as demonstrated through the&nbsp;<a href="http://rosecityantifa.org/faq/">claim</a>&nbsp;on one Antifa website that “only popular self-defense, not simply debate, has succeeded in stopping fascism” or&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/us/antifa-left-wing-faction-far-right.html">statements</a>&nbsp;made by various Antifa activists in the&nbsp;<em>New York Times </em>suggesting that our choice in response to fascism takes binary form: use violence or “do nothing.”)</p> <p>Far from being synonymous with “debate” or inaction,&nbsp;nonviolent resistance&nbsp;involves the dismantling of an opponent’s sources of power through a range of methods, including various forms of disruption and direct action, and&nbsp;is twice as likely as violent resistance to succeed in achieving radical goals. In other words, the success of nonviolent resistance does not depend on the presence—and persuasion—of a “nice” adversary.</p> <p>Contrary to mainstream belief, there is a historical record of successful nonviolent resistance against fascism in countries under Nazi control, including the Rosenstrasse demonstrations in Berlin where wives saved their Jewish husbands, Denmark’s rescue of most of its Jewish community, resistance to the Nazi policies of the Quisling government in Norway, and so on. Jacques Semelin’s 1993 book “Unarmed Against Hitler” is one resource that examines these and other cases throughout Europe.</p> <p>Third, only by maintaining nonviolent discipline can the resistance dramatize and capitalize on the clear contrast between its activists and the white supremacists or neo-Nazis they confront. Stooping to the level of armed hooligans on the other side, engaging them on their own terms, weakens the anti-fascist cause by surrendering the high ground in media representations of demonstrations, providing cover for commentators who wish to draw a specious moral equivalency between the two sides, and alienating people who would otherwise ally themselves with an anti-fascist movement.</p> <p>Finally,&nbsp;violence is less—not more—“radical” than nonviolence is, especially insofar as it is less effective in achieving radical goals and less likely to dismantle white supremacism and fascism than nonviolent resistance. Far from&nbsp;embodying a radical challenge to fascism, Antifa affiliates&nbsp;are doing exactly what&nbsp;neo-Nazis and&nbsp;white supremacists&nbsp;are hoping they will do—this is precisely the reaction that will energize the very fascists they are hoping to shut down, reinforcing their embattled narratives and strengthening their ranks. </p> <p>Only by disassociating one’s radical credentials from participation in violence will we ultimately move away from these knee-jerk responses to racist violence that do nothing to minimize the draw and strength of white supremacy—and instead move towards more strategic, effective action that&nbsp;actually has&nbsp;a chance of advancing the cause of a diverse, inclusive, just&nbsp;society.</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/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 class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence">Six principles of nonviolence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/why-indigenous-civil-resistance-has-unique-power">What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline?</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 Molly Wallace Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 04 Jan 2018 13:09:05 +0000 Molly Wallace 114731 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Living prayer at Standing Rock https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chelsea-macmillan/living-prayer-at-standing-rock <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="BasicParagraph">We are more powerful when we live together as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BasicParagraph"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/chelseamacmillan1_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Ellen Davidson. All rights reserved.</p><p class="BasicParagraph"><em>This article was originally published in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.anchormagazine.org/">Anchor&nbsp;by Still Harbor</a>.</em></p><p class="BasicParagraph">In April of last year, people from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota began to physically block Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), an oil company, from constructing a pipeline under a river that provides drinking water to the reservation and millions of people downstream. After the mostly white citizenry of Bismarck rejected the original path that would bring the pipeline close to their own water source, ETP made plans to drill on reservation land that has been so-called “disputed territory” between the U.S. government and the Lakota Sioux since the 1800s—land that was granted to the tribe by treaty. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Since the 2016 Presidential election, this situation has soured for the Sioux and their allies and, at the time of this writing, ETP had already begun to drill under the water. With my partner, Leo, and a caravan of a dozen activists from Chicago, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and NYC, I visited the main camp, Oceti Sakowin, built by protesters in November, 2016.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">About 45 minutes out from Standing Rock, our little caravan stopped for gas. I went into the station to pee and as I walked back out to the car, a man held the door open for me. Having experienced only super-friendly Midwesterners on the trip thus far, I was a little surprised when he answered my cheery “thank you!” with a curt, silent nod, but I didn’t think much of it. But, as I crossed the lane to our car, I felt the eyes of another man, wearing flannel and a ball cap, staring at Leo and me. He began to curse at us. “You fuckin’ lowlifes. Get outta here, you longhaired hippies. No one needs you here.” We sensed the darkness in his tone and quickly got into the car and drove away.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">As we got closer and closer to the camp, I began to visualize our little caravan as white blood cells rushing toward an infection, staving off bacteria along the way. Better yet, we were like the imaginal cells that transform a cocooned caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. At the beginning of metamorphosis, a few of the imaginal cells appear in the caterpillar’s body—they are treated as foreigners, intruders in the system, and the caterpillar cells begin to actually attack the butterfly cells. Yet, against all reason, the imaginal cells grow in number, urged on by some ancient knowing.</p><p class="BasicParagraph"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/chelseamacmillan2_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Ellen Davidson. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">We arrived at Standing Rock on that chilly morning, the day that happened to be when most Americans would celebrate Thanksgiving. Though I felt certain of my calling to join the Water Protectors, I was still a bit nervous. A few days before our trip, the protesters had encountered a violent offense from law enforcement. Many were injured, some seriously. I had heard about constant drone surveillance and menacing planes zooming overhead and had seen photos of armed police officers keeping watch from a hill in the distance. I expected there to be danger and revolution in the air. Yet, when we drove into the camp, everyone seemed focused and calm.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">The woman who greeted our car told us that this was a place of prayer and ceremony and that “we take care of each other here.” She asked no questions of us, all non-natives ourselves. I sensed that trust was given, not earned; everyone was held to high standards of integrity, hard work, and cooperation. Her directness and warmth helped ease my anxiety; thoughts of the angry man at the gas station began to fade. I immediately began to settle into the spirit of camp. I felt like I knew everyone I passed on the makeshift roads of camp. Folks smiled and acknowledged each other. I heard dogs barking. I saw children playing. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Much of my time was spent cleaning and organizing piles of donations, serving nourishing food, and building <em>tipis</em> and <em>yurts</em> to prepare for the brutal North Dakota winter. Eventually, I would find myself covered in bits of hay as I sewed together panels of burlap for insulation. Working toward justice is messy, maybe, but simple. Everywhere I looked, I saw people jumping up to help one another without hesitation.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">One evening, Leo and I sat on the cold ground, patiently waiting for a can of soup to warm over a Sterno stove. Beyond our little campsite, I could see the menacing glare of floodlights shining upon Oceti Sakowin. Policemen, like clumps of black ants, weaved around armored vehicles. <em>What was it like for them over there?</em> Tears rose to my eyes as I thought of their hearts, tender as my own, beating beneath bulletproof vests. The same arms that hug children and wives were wrapped around lethal weapons. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph"><em>What causes the cocooned caterpillar to resist its own beautiful, transformed future as a butterfly? Fear of flying too high or losing a grubby, slow-moving body for a form as light as air? Anger at not being able to chew leaves anymore and being relegated to a life of drinking sweet nectar from fragrant flowers?</em> How scared those officers must have been to respond to prayerful, unarmed protesters with such violence and hatred! I felt an urge to reach out to the men and invite them into camp, wishing them to witness and experience the deep care with which everyone there treated each other. I imagined their surprise at being referred to as “brother” or “relative.”</p><p class="BasicParagraph"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/chelseamacmillan3_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="BasicParagraph"><span class="image-caption">Credit: Ellen Davidson. All rights reserved.</span></p><p class="BasicParagraph">The elders told us constantly, “You’re here to pray.” Pray? This used to be such a loaded word for me as someone who grew up and became disillusioned with the idea of asking an old white guy in the sky to wave his magic wand and give me what I want. But that’s not the kind of prayer the elders were talking about. Of course, the Sioux pray petitionary prayers, but they’re not one-sided demands or requests. Those prayers come from a deep understanding of relationship <em>with</em> Mother Earth and offerings are made to Her as appeals are made. Body, mind, and heart must be prepared beforehand. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">I was instructed to always wear a skirt, the traditional sign of a woman in ceremony, as everything I did in camp, from cooking to sewing to carrying water, was part of our prayer. I came to know prayer as a dynamic embodiment, the place from which my whole life is meant to arise. The new world my heart knows is possible already exists. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people, native and non-native alike, praying peace, equity, and reciprocity. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Praying, like justice, is simple, but simple does not mean easy. Living in this way is to live in relationship—it requires constant awareness and attentiveness to ourselves, each other, Spirit, and Mother Earth. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">In Howard Zinn’s oft-quoted essay, <em>The Optimism of Uncertainty</em>, he says, “Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises…We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Revolution may be made of mere moments, but they’re organized moments. I can’t tell you how many times since Election Day, 2016 that I’ve heard acquaintances and friends and family members ask, “What can we do?” In other words, as we face one of the most potentially dangerous presidencies in American history, what actions will truly be effective in making any waves of change? We are each being faced with the sense of inadequacy that comes with being one individual on a planet of seven billion people. But, together, our strengths multiply and complement each other’s weaknesses. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Justice looks like a stranger lending a hand to another stranger and sounds like a brown-skinned man calling a white-skinned woman “sister.” Justice is living as simply as possible, taking only what you truly need and then sharing that. Revolutionary change is the convergence of a few thousand people upon the tiniest speck of a point on a map, coming together to stand for justice. This becomes a collective prayer, embodying the qualities of a world we know is not only possible, but also true. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">We are heard when we join our voices in a chorus of resistance. As Zinn teaches, we are more powerful when we live together “as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us.” At Standing Rock, I learned that revolution is people praying together, arm linked in arm, in an unbreakable and undeniable chain of justice and love.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/why-indigenous-civil-resistance-has-unique-power">What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/climate-justice-meets-racism-standing-rock-was-decades-in-making">Climate justice meets racism: Standing Rock was decades in the making</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 Chelsea MacMillan Transformative nonviolence Activism Love and Spirituality Tue, 02 Jan 2018 13:08:54 +0000 Chelsea MacMillan 115359 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The left’s problem isn’t politics—it’s metaphysics https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gregory-leffel/left-s-problem-isn-t-politics-it-s-metaphysics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can liberals and progressives learn to feel differently about identity?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/gregleffel32.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/abstract-crystal-metaphysical-macro-1718054/">Pixabay/BBTinsley</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Creative Commons</a>.</p> <p>There’s nothing quite like the spectacle of left-on-left bloodletting following a nasty election that leaves liberals and progressives on the losing side. First into the fray after Donald Trump’s surprise election victory came Columbia University humanities professor <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Lilla">Mark Lilla</a>, throwing darts in his <em>New York Times </em>broadside on <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html">“The End of Identity Liberalism”</a> which eventually became <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Once-Future-Liberal-Identity-Politics/dp/0062697439/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1512084734&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=the+once+and+future+liberal">a book </a><em>.</em></p> <p>Lilla claims that if left-of-center groups want to return to power, they need to “put the age of identity behind” them. ‘Identitarianism’ has gotten in the way, he says; it is “pseudo-politics,” a feel-good distraction from the exercise of actual political power.</p> <p>Instead, the left needs to return to ‘real’ politics: the traditional task of building political institutions and winning elections. Only when liberals and progressives are securely back in power—not just “speaking truth to power,” but “seizing power to defend the truth”—can they turn to the task of freeing victims from their various oppressions.</p> <p>He tells “social justice warriors” to quit “delivering sermons to the unwashed from a raised pulpit” and make common cause with the forgotten workers who used to anchor the Democratic Party in the US and its equivalents elsewhere. Only broad-based, locally organized progressive political power will save us, not complaints by guilt-tripping identitarians.</p> <p>Lilla is seemingly oblivious to the notion that Trump won the election <em>because</em> of identity politics (as one of Lilla’s <a href="https://www.amazon.com/We-Were-Eight-Years-Power-ebook/dp/B01MT734OD/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1512084963&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=we+were+eight+years+in+power">critics</a> observed), and tone-deaf to the suffering of communities of identity (as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/books/review/mark-lilla-the-once-and-future-liberal.html">another</a> pointed out). It’s a ham-fisted argument in many ways, though he does expose the left’s perennial weakness: its inability to create the solidarity it needs to prosper as a broad-based force for change.</p> <p>Liberals and progressives generally work from a common political sensibility, but they habitually split into factions over competing strategies and utopias—with identity as today’s particular tripwire. But none are likely to accomplish their goals until they reconnect as a generalized social movement that can move a substantial and diverse public majority both personally and politically.</p> <p>That can’t be done by ignoring identity or subsuming it under an artificial sameness of interests. Nor can it be done by constantly fracturing politics along identitarian lines. Instead, it requires a new way of <em>feeling</em> about identity that can guide us through and around these two positions—what I think of as a new metaphysics of ‘integration without assimilation.’</p> <p>Historically, liberal democracy was always something of a magic act. It promised individuals complete freedom of thought and action whilst also selling them a universalist vision: that ‘reasonable’ people would happily construct societies that guarantee liberty and justice without imposing any beliefs, goals or values. This is alchemy: a metaphysical claim that the ‘lead’ of competing, self-absorbed individuals will somehow be transformed into the ‘gold’ of a cooperative commonwealth that will be good for all.</p> <p>For two centuries that magic worked, at least to some extent and for dominant groups in society. However, its success depended on solidarities that liberalism did not create by itself. Instead, they were born in or forced into being by particular circumstances. Free people made common cause because they had to—in order to launch revolutions, work together to create new democratic institutions where none existed, fight wars to defend democracy and survive depressions. Liberal democracies were also bound together by pre-existing ‘natural’ solidarities like ethnic traditions, a common religion, shared language, and quite consequentially, a dominant race.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the last 50 years or so all of these solidarities have broken down. US and European societies are now far too complex and diverse to imagine any universally-held values and visions, or a single definition of the common good. The old magic is gone. Liberalism promised to make &nbsp;‘one-out-of-many,’ to balance the needs of the individual with the good of the whole, but today we live in worlds apart from one another. The only value we might agree on is tolerance, and even that is in short supply.</p> <p>In fact for many people, the societies produced by the liberal tradition are not liberating at all, but oppressive. Many feel that they are left on their own to seek out rights, personal fulfillment, identities, and freedoms of expression <em>against</em> the dominant community.</p> <p>What can be done? Well, says Lilla, we need to return to the vision we lost along the way; to reclaim a sense of common <em>citizenship</em> as our fundamental social identity; and to remember that our freedoms require obligations to everybody else. We need to re-imagine ourselves as part of a greater whole, and learn to speak “about a solidarity that transcends identity attachments.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s an edifying vision as far as it goes, but it assumes that we can snap our fingers and suddenly fill everybody with good will, while forgetting society’s long traditions of racism, patriarchy and inequality—and &nbsp;their dire legacies—in order to work together harmoniously again.&nbsp; Can we really set our grievances aside for long enough to identify, first and foremost as citizens?</p> <p>What social mechanisms could <em>make</em> us trust each other in this way? It’s hard to say. Wars, economic depressions, and natural disasters have been the main engines of common cause in the past. What else is there? Better education, as Lilla suggests? That seems unlikely to do the trick, as he himself acknowledges:</p> <p>“For those principles to then motivate action they must be rooted in a feeling we are not born with. And feelings can’t be taught; they have to be conjured up. It’s the closest thing to a miracle that exists in politics.”</p> <p>Are we back to magic again to rekindle our common dreams? Maybe, but perhaps it’s more useful to reconsider what it means to be human as part of a collective that genuinely values diversity. This is not a question of politics but of metaphysics.</p> <p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/William-Desmond-Reader-ebook/dp/B009CEXF0M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1512085202&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=william+desmond+reader">William Desmond</a> defines metaphysics as our style of thinking — our <em>mindfulness</em> — about reality. It concerns the particular way we turn ourselves toward reality in order to ‘see’ it: our “minding as an orientation to being.” What does this have to do with identity and the left?</p> <p>To ‘think our thoughts’ metaphysically means to be self-aware of our sense of the world that operates in our minds <em>before</em> we start thinking. How do we ‘feel’ the world that we think about? What do we ‘feel’ it to be? More importantly, how do entire societies ‘feel’ the world in the same way? It is our shared intuition about what is real and important that guides what we think of as sane, moral and just.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Up to the 1960s, liberals and progressives had a particular, ‘modern’ metaphysics or ‘feeling’ about the world. They believed that reality could be condensed into a single rational system that could explain everything and guide us towards universal wisdom. People ‘felt’ that eventually, everyone would become the same sort of rational, democratic world citizen; diversity would disappear and the entire world would be brought under our control.</p> <p>Desmond calls this mathematico-mechanical oneness “<em>univocity”—</em>the<em> </em>reduction of everything to the ‘one.’ Strange as it may seem today, those of us old enough to remember (like me) really did feel this way when we were young.</p> <p>But the 1960s brought about a true revolution in consciousness. We began to feel differently, to doubt that reason could give us a singular vision of the world; that jamming diversity into the ‘one’ stripped us of our individual dignity; that reducing our behavior to data made us less than human and subject to abuse; and that the dominant ‘liberal’ society was a lie to conceal discriminatory power.</p> <p>In this new, ‘postmodern’ metaphysics, we came to feel that ‘real’ communities are formed around difference—around different languages and shared histories, cultural traditions, and (sadly) discrimination; that in reality, we live in a universe of separate identity galaxies suspended in the dark energy of political power. Desmond calls this pluralism “<em>equivocity”—</em>the<em> </em>reduction of everything to the ‘many.’</p> <p>No wonder Lilla’s attack on ‘identity politics’ rings hollow: it’s an attack on our current metaphysics, on our present-day mindfulness about how the world works—and more importantly, on how we <em>feel</em> to be alive in that world. By contrast, his call to a common citizenship is a call to return to the metaphysics of yesterday, a metaphysics of sameness that we forgot long ago or are too young to have experienced, and no longer know how to feel even if we want it back.</p> <p>If the left is to unite broad swaths of society behind a progressive agenda it needs a <em>new</em> metaphysics: not the metaphysics of integration into a political and cultural hegemony (for which read masculine whiteness); nor the metaphysics that rightly fears assimilation as the suppression of difference but falsely fears the ‘other’ as the enemy. Instead, we must learn to feel our way into a metaphysics of <em>integration without assimilation</em>, until it feels more natural to be <em>this</em> way than to be any other way in the world.</p> <p>Our past metaphysics betrayed us, but in the process they taught us crucial lessons. Modernity reminds us of the need to write universalizing stories that integrate everyone equally into a social order that ensures their rights. Postmodernity taught us to fear forced assimilation into the visions of the dominant society. But walled-off identities must be broken open to offer hospitality to the ‘other’ for communication to take place. Diversity without a universal is a jungle; the universal without diversity is a prison.</p> <p>To navigate the territory between these two positions we must confront ambiguity: to be willing to hold our universalisms partial, and accept that our identities are only provisional means to locate us in the larger world.</p> <p>We must also confront fear. We are doubly vulnerable: first, because the world writ large really does threaten us, no matter our identity; and second, because we must put aside our differences to trust each other while we negotiate the future.</p> <p>To feel authentically human requires an ecumenical sensibility: to affirm that the whole human reality is present in each one of us; and that all of us, equally in our diversity, indispensably make up the human whole. But human solidarity doesn’t come cheap. It requires “<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Cosmopolitanism-Solidarity-Ethnoracial-Professional-Affiliation/dp/0299216608/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1513035225&amp;sr=8-11&amp;keywords=david+hollinger">willed affiliation</a>”—steel in the backbone to put ourselves at risk and give ourselves to the ‘other.’ Some doubt that we can achieve this kind of sensibility, but that is the challenge. It will take another revolution in consciousness to pull it off.&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/harry-hendrick/new-vision-for-left">A new vision for the left</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/byung-chul-han/why-revolution-is-no-longer-possible">Why revolution is no longer possible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-christianity-finished-as-source-of-inspiration-for-progressive-soci">Is Christianity finished as a source of inspiration for progressive 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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Gregory Leffel Trans-partisan politics Activism Culture Sun, 17 Dec 2017 23:02:35 +0000 Gregory Leffel 115295 at https://www.opendemocracy.net