Activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/12876/all cached version 17/02/2018 14:18:19 en 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 Culture Care Activism 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 Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Addressing systems of White supremacy can’t be dismissed as ‘identity politics.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Lori2_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><blockquote><p>“Moved by the need for control, for an unchallenged top tier, the power elite in American history has thrived by placating the vulnerable and creating for them a false sense of identification—denying real class differences where possible.”&nbsp;Nancy Isenberg,&nbsp;White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America</p></blockquote> <p>There is no shortage of media commentary discrediting “identity politics,” particularly the focus on Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and immigrant communities calling for justice and equity. Economics is our real problem, a counter argument goes, not race, sex, gender, citizenship. But as author Nancy Isenberg points out in&nbsp;<em>White Trash,</em>&nbsp;“identity has always been a part of politics.”</p> <p>Laws have been written to oppress and exploit particular identities—Native Americans, Black Americans, Asians, homosexuals, transgender, and women—in a successful effort to maintain a system of White supremacy. Yet, members of these communities have worked for the rights and equality of everyone. In turn, White allies have joined in these anti-racism fights.</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/the-redneck-revolt-is-showing-up-at-gun-shows-and-kkk-rallies-to-end-white-supremacy-20171117">Redneck Revolt</a>&nbsp;is one such organization. The self-described anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-fascist group challenges working-class White people to stand against White supremacy.</p> <p>I recently talked to Brett, one of the members who heads up the network’s Southeast Michigan Chapter (because of hostilities toward the organization, Redneck Revolt members use only their first names publicly).There are about 40 chapters nationwide.<em>&nbsp;</em>He explained why the group focuses on anti-racism rather than economics even though it seeks out white working-class and poor people in economically struggling rural areas. The interview has been condensed and lightly edited.</p> <p><strong>Zenobia Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>What is the significance of the name Redneck Revolt? Why did the name change from the John Brown Gun Club?</p> <p><strong>Brett:</strong>&nbsp;They’re two sides of the same coin. We have some branches that are still the John Brown Gun Club. Our national network is Redneck Revolt.</p> <p>Redneck Revolt chapters like ours in Michigan here primarily focus on outreach, and winning hearts and minds, counter recruitment, showing up, being present, being allies, being where we need to be to show our community support.</p> <p>Whereas, John Brown Gun Club pretty much only deals with the firearm aspect of things. It deals with a lot of tactical training, a lot of information security-type stuff.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;Can you give an example of what you mean by “changing hearts and minds.” What does that look like?</p> <p><strong>Brett:</strong>&nbsp;A really great example would be back in June. The ACT for America folks did an anti-sharia law march. Redneck Revolt was there. We were on one side of the barricades along with a slew of other leftist organizations. On the other side of the barricades were Proud Boys, Vanguard America, and a hodgepodge of other alt-right groups. But one of the most prominent was the Michigan Liberty Militia, which is famously racist and famously exclusionary.</p> <p>Toward the end of the demonstration, this one older gentleman—he was an older White man up at the barricade with all the gear on, and armed—had his rifle. One of my members and [I] went up to this guy and were like, “I understand mixing state and religion is not good. Nobody here wants to mix state and religion, nobody is protesting that. [But] it’s clearly anti-Muslim. This protest is against Muslims.</p> <p>“Furthermore, it’s against all people of color because this neighborhood [is] first-generation Somali, first-generation people form sub-Saharan Africa who are fleeing abject poverty and warfare, starvation, disease. So how can you be in this neighborhood and be like, ‘This is what America stands for’?</p> <p>“Not only that, if you look to your left and right, those kids with the sun wheel on their shields, and the eagle on their shirts, those guys are self-described, literal Nazis. We fought a war about this. I thought we were all in unanimous agreement that Nazis are bad.”</p> <p>And this guy he kind of started tearing up, and he was like, “You know, I’ll tell you, my dad died in World War II in Europe fighting Nazis.” And he goes, “This really has given me [something to think about]. You know I may not agree with everything you say. But associating myself like this has really given me pause, and has really made me think about what I’m doing here.”</p> <p>We don’t expect anybody to walk away from someplace where we’re counter-recruiting waving the red flag of revolution. But if we can at least pull them out of that mindset, that’s a win for us.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;One of the things I find fascinating about Redneck Revolt is that your primary focus is organizing working-class Whites, yet you center race and anti-racism in the work that you do. So many are putting the focus on the economy, and calling anti-racism work “identity politics.” How did you all decide that you wanted to focus on White supremacy—that it is just as much of a problem for working-class Whites as for people of color?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>Our stance is that our entire capitalist system is built on a bedrock of White supremacy, and as White folks we have access to spaces that people of color don’t. So we try to exploit the spaces and put ourselves in those positions to reach the White working class because it’s like the old IWW [Industrial Workers World] saying, “If we don’t get to them first, the Klan will.”</p> <p>And we understand that if there’s going to be any kind of serious discourse about dismantling capitalism, about building the new world from the ashes of the old, as they say, that description can’t be had until the underlying issue of racism is addressed.</p> <p>That’s why [we] don’t engage law enforcement. We believe law enforcement is an extension of the old slave catchers.</p> <p>We don’t engage with anything that reinforces the current system that basically is built on White supremacy. We go to great lengths to dismantle that system and empower people to help us do that, but at the same time using the spaces that we have access to, to get other people to see that.</p> <p>And I believe that a lot of people we speak to may generally not be racist in a conventional sense. But they’re certainly benefitting from the system of White supremacy that has been built. They’re not doing anything to actually help dismantle it.</p> <p>So, that’s kind of the message that we try to bring across. Nobody is saying [to them], “You’re like burning crosses, you’re actively racist.” But you have to acknowledge that … as a White person in America, you are benefitting from White supremacy.</p> <p>So, in order to address capitalism, in order to address economics, the issue of systemic racism first has to be addressed.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;I would imagine that when you’re in those spaces, and saying what you’re saying, that people respond, “But Black people are racist, too.”</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>Yes, we get that a lot.</p> <p>For an example, I was talking to a gentleman the other day. He was like, “Blacks have a whole month. They have Black History Month, where we do nothing but celebrate Black history. Blacks have their own channel. People would be up in arms if we had a White Entertainment Television.” And that’s the kind of thing we get most often.</p> <p>What I say, first of all, is there is no such thing as White culture—that’s a myth.</p> <p>Secondly, we do celebrate White holidays: Oktoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day, arguably Columbus Day. Not to mention our entire society is [tilted toward] celebrating Whiteness. What I try to tell people is, Look at your ancestors. Most White people can point to a single village. I’ll use myself as an example. I can point to a single village in Sweden. I know exactly where my people are from. That’s why I take a lot of pride in my Scandinavian heritage.</p> <p>Whereas with Black folks—and other people of color, but especially Black folks—the reason they celebrate Black culture is because their culture, everything Blacks had, was ripped away from them when they were taken from Africa. So that’s why it’s celebrated; that’s why it’s important.</p> <p>Because it’s the counter narrative to hundreds of years of systemic murder, oppression, just brutal slavery. That’s why we celebrate Black culture, because that’s all most folks have.</p> <p>The conversation we have to have is how can we look at ourselves and say, “I’m benefitting from this culture that has been built to only make sure people that look like me get the advantage.”</p> <p>And, obviously, the topic of privilege comes up, and most White folks will deny that they have White privilege. They’ll say things like, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” or “My grandfather started his own business."</p> <p>It’s hard to get people out of that mindset.</p> <p>[We] start explaining to them that “I’m sure your grandfather was a hardworking man, I’d never doubt that he was. But the fact that he was able to do that, and given that opportunity, I can promise you that postwar United States, a Black man applying to that same position definitely would not have gotten it.”</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>Along the lines of the “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” mindset, I’m sure you also get folks who say, “Why should we poor and working-class Whites care about what’s happening to Blacks and other people of color when we’re struggling, too?” Especially, when the issue of crime is brought up.</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>We get a lot of reactionary questions, and it keeps us on our toes. But it makes our practice better. What we try to explain is that Black communities have their own set of problems just as other communities have their set of problems.</p> <p>The difference is White communities have the support of the state. For example, [when] a Black family moves into a primarily White neighborhood, then the housing values tend to go down. So what happens? The state intervenes and then makes the price of housing so high that then that Black family has to leave. That’s one example of how the state supports White supremacy. I’ve given that example a whole lot, and it tends to resonate with people.</p> <p>I have the clarity to understand that I am a college-educated [man] … who’s had uncountable numbers of opportunities thrown my way because I’m White. And given the same circumstances with a young Black man, that most certainly would not have happened. That’s what I try to explain: that people of color in the United States categorically do not have the same opportunities as White folks. Even if you are poor, which a lot are.</p> <p>But there are systems in place to make sure that I succeed. There are systems in place that make sure that my Black counterpart does not. And it’s designed that way.</p> <p>Until we as White folks can recognize collectively that we are benefitting from a system of oppression, then economics is secondary, or tertiary at best. There is no point in talking about economics when the only people affected by these economics are White people.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>I’ve read some articles stating that Redneck Revolution doesn’t have a political ideology. While you may not align yourselves with the status quo parties of Democrat or Republican, your actions and principles are very much political. How do you describe your politics?</p> <p><strong>Brett:</strong>&nbsp;We’re broadly on the left. We’re what’s called a “big tent” organization. We’re overwhelmingly anarchists, but we have some communists in our ranks, we have some capitalist Democrats, progressives, and Republicans, believe it or not. I mean, we have people from all political stripes.</p> <p>That being said, we do understand there’s not going to be any grand revolution tomorrow. But the best thing that we can do short of a revolution is revolutionary change. We believe that revolutionary change comes in the form of dismantling the system of White supremacy that exists.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;What is the end goal of Redneck Revolt?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>Part of it is dismantling White supremacy. Another part of it is creating spaces inside of communities [where we can] help people not rely on the state. We help to create and encourage radical spaces that encourage things like mutual aid and direct action, as opposed to relying on the state for whatever means.</p> <p>For example, we’re working very closely with the IWW, one of the oldest radical unions in the country. They have a soup kitchen in Detroit where they distribute food and clothes every second and fourth Sunday in Cass Park. They’ve been doing it since 1996, or something like that. We’re trying to build a sustainable model like that close to Ypsilanti [in Michigan], especially with the winter months coming up. There’s another organization called the Michigan People of Defense, who do a lot of street medic training. There are a lot of us, including myself, who have military experience. I’m a combat lifesaver, so I have skills I can teach people.</p> <p>People get hung up on the firearms thing, but we also believe that it’s very important for the working class to be armed. We also understand that that puts people of color at a very high risk. So we try to put ourselves at the tip of the spear, so that way we can teach people the knowledge that we have. We can show them safe operation of firearms. How to use them, how to safely handle them.</p> <p>In [one community], there are a bunch of Hammerskins [a White supremacist group]. They basically patrol the neighborhood, and we have people of color over there who are in fear for their lives, and they’ve been reaching out to Redneck Revolt to help show them to use firearms.</p> <p>We’ve taken proactive steps, and if a community needs us, they know they can call on us, and in a heartbeat we’ll be there to help in any capacity that we’re able.</p> <p>The big point is building mutual aid, radical spaces inside of existing communities to not have to rely on the state, and while doing that trying to dismantle the system of White supremacy.</p> <p>We think that by doing that, one kind of complements the other.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>Was the Trump campaign for the presidency the catalyst for Redneck Revolt?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>We were already around, it’s just people didn’t know about us. And that’s probably one of the problems that we face, is that people don’t know we exist. And I want to say it’s our own fault, but we do things very intentionally.</p> <p>We don’t have much of a social media presence, and we do that on purpose because we have no interest in getting bogged down in spam wars on the internet. If you have a legitimate critique of our practices, meet us in the streets, tell us what we’re doing wrong. And if your idea is better, then we’ll incorporate your idea. That’s the way we operate.</p> <p>We feel like we’re an organization that is meant to be in the streets with the people doing things, making differences in people’s lives, not sitting behind a keyboard crying about capitalism.</p> <p>You can be any [ideology] you want. If you agree with the fact that capitalism is a system of oppression, and that system of oppression is largely held up by White supremacy, and you’re willing to dismantle that system, then welcome aboard.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>What would be your message to the middle and upper-middle classes, to so-called elite/progressive/liberal Whites who dismiss rural poor and working-class Whites simply as Trump supporters?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>The major issue is getting them to come out of their bubble of comfort. They hear the word “redneck” and they don’t see it through the [same] lens that we do.</p> <p>The word redneck has always been used pejoratively, but we don’t see it that way. We look at our grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and great-great-grandfathers and understand why they were called rednecks. You look back at the Harlan County wars, and those folks would wear bandanas to keep the sun off their necks, and that’s where the term redneck comes from. We embrace that term, and say, “Yeah, that’s who we are. We’re working-class people who are out in the streets.”</p> <p>If you can take the blinders off, you’ll see that … your comfort is still built on a system of White supremacy. Your comfort and the things that you’re enjoying are a byproduct of 150 years of working-class struggle. If you like the weekends, thank a union man. You like your 40-hour work week, you like that there are no kids slaving in textile factories, thank a union worker.</p> <p>It’s working-class people who brought those changes. It wasn’t [the] middle-class bourgeois who brought that change. It was working-class people out fighting in the streets. That’s who we are, that’s what we do.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics-20171129?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20171201&amp;utm_content=YTW_20171201+CID_ef20847be54fa7ba0fc41d3e42961bc1&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=Why%20Redneck%20">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lori-lakin-hutcherson/my-white-friend-asked-me-to-explain-white-privilege-so-i-decide">My white friend asked me to explain white privilege, so I decided to be honest.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jennifer-lentfer/wrestling-with-my-white-fragility">Wrestling with my white fragility</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/scot-nakagawa/blacklivesmatter-and-white-progressive-colorblindness">#Blacklivesmatter and white progressive colorblindness</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 Liberation Activism Care Culture Intersectionality Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:12:51 +0000 Zenobia Jeffries 115081 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Acknowledging the sentience of other species requires us to be vegan.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/shutterstock_273600215_3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/">www.shutterstock.com</a>/<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-2479768p1.html">Ledmark</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In the second half of November 2017 there was a considerable amount of emotion and confusion surrounding the UK’s ‘<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/animal-sentience-brexit-vote-caroline-lucas-michael-gove-truth-fact-argument-a8072071.html">animal sentience’ bill</a>, which sought to include the notion that animals have feelings in post-Brexit animal welfare legislation. These reactions have been fuelled by the viral sharing of posts on social media claiming that Members of Parliament have rejected the idea that animals feel pain.</p> <p>In fact, MPs did not vote against this proposition. Rather, they rejected a motion that explicitly recognised animal sentience, <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/independent-animal-sentience?utm_term=.vgJvBwvv9G#.giazm5zzEM">purportedly</a> so that the Brexit legislation can be passed with as few amendments as possible. In the ensuing public outrage, the Conservative Government issued a statement claiming that the UK will lead the way in animal protection policies.&nbsp;</p> <p>One could argue that UK legislation on animal welfare such as the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/45/pdfs/ukpga_20060045_en.pdf">Animal Welfare Act of 2006&nbsp;</a>and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/2078/pdfs/uksi_20072078_en.pdf">Welfare of Farmed Animals Act of 2007</a> already recognises that animals are ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience">sentient</a>’—that they are subjectively aware, and have interests that are manifested as preferences, desires or wants. Anti-cruelty stipulations, of which a considerable number are enshrined in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_welfare_in_the_United_Kingdom">UK legislation</a>, are also premised on the assumption that animals are aware of their feelings and emotions. </p> <p>Critics <a href="https://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/latest/details/-/articleName/2017_11_21_AnimalSentience">claim</a> that this body of legislation falls short because it doesn’t include fish, wild animals or laboratory animals; nor does it explicitly mention sentience. But the logic that underpins these laws clearly points in this direction. </p> <p>Not surprisingly perhaps, many people have been quick to assume that a government that seems to relish the gratuitous punishment of foxes and the poor would be inclined to reject the notion of animal sentience. But there is something deeper going on here, and it isn’t restricted to ‘virtue signaling’ as LSE journalism professor Charlie Becket has <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/independent-animal-sentience?utm_term=.nkjqQyqqjl#.yabqaxqqRV">suggested</a>—in other words, claiming to act ethically without&nbsp;<a href="https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/10/i-invented-virtue-signalling-now-its-taking-over-the-world/">actually doing anything virtuous.</a> </p> <p>“People want to demonstrate their values,” he is quoted as saying in <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/independent-animal-sentience?utm_term=.nkjqQyqqjl#.yabqaxqqRV">Buzzfeed</a>, and “What can you be more angry about than sentient animals?” Such anger is real, but the more important issue is that accepting the reality of animal sentience (even implicitly) directs us to a set of political positions and personal behaviours that reject eating meat: the belief that it is wrong to cause unnecessary harm to sentient beings requires us to be vegan.</p> <p>What does it mean to say that animals are sentient? A sentient being is one that can experience pain and distress. We cannot be cruel to rocks and trees and other non-sentient beings; we can only be cruel to those beings that are aware of their feelings and emotions.</p> <p>As the late Harvard biologist <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/A/bo3640817.html">Donald Griffin</a> once noted, such feelings necessitate a form of self-consciousness in their subject. Sentience also has an evolutionary function, since pain makes us aware of what is bad for us, while love allows the formation of strong social bonds that are necessary for wellbeing—or&nbsp; just plain survival. “Sentience is not an end in itself” as the animal ethicist <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1359_reg.html">Gary Francione</a> puts it, “it is a means to the end of staying alive.” </p> <p>If most of the animals we use in food production systems and other aspects of our lives are sentient, and if we care deeply about this as a moral matter, then two key questions must be answered.</p> <p>Firstly, even if animal welfare laws recognise that animals are sentient, can those laws ever protect the interests that sentient animals have? </p> <p>As Francione noted, because animals are seen and used as human property, animal welfare laws—even the arguably more progressive ones we have in the UK—don’t do much more than prohibit the kinds of gratuitous harm that are in any case economically inefficient. All such legislation comes up against this fundamental contradiction: while it may aim to protect the interests of sentient beings, it cannot do so in any meaningful way while those same beings are the property of another.</p> <p>Secondly, if we care morally about animal suffering, and we really do object to the infliction of ‘unnecessary’ harm, then we should ask ourselves what forms of harm count as ‘necessary.’ </p> <p>In terms of sheer numbers and scale, the most significant use of animals is for food. <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/546546/slaughter-statsnotice-14jul16.pdf">It is estimated that&nbsp;over one billion animals are killed for food every year in the UK alone,</a> yet no one—nutritionists and medical experts included—maintains that this is ‘necessary.’ In fact, there is evidence that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/vegan-meat-life-expectancy-eggs-dairy-research-a7168036.html">vegans live longer lives than non-vegans</a>. Eating animals isn’t essential for good health or wellbeing; we do it because it is customary, and because we like the taste of their flesh. </p> <p>But are those good reasons to inflict suffering and death on a sentient being who, by definition, seeks to avoid pain and to continue to live?&nbsp;The fact of the matter is that there is only one way to respect the sentience of living beings, and that is by being vegan. </p> <p>Being vegan means refusing to treat animals as property, refusing to participate in their exploitation, and avoiding as far as is possible the degradation of the conditions required for their well-being. Veganism is sometimes painted as an extreme—even aggressive—life-style choice. The contrary is true. It’s actually a matter of respecting sentience and rejecting violence—values that so many people claim to share. </p> <p>Indeed, for those of us who profess to care about animal sentience, veganism is a moral imperative. If we are to avoid the charge of virtue-signaling, then respecting animal sentience requires us to be vegan.</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/man-s-weisskircher/rise-of-veganism-in-politics">The rise of veganism in politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sophie-barnes/veganism-and-compassion">Veganism and compassion </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/samantha-earle/symbolic-summit">A symbolic summit</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 Sam Earle Activism Care Economics Environment Tue, 12 Dec 2017 22:14:16 +0000 Sam Earle 115076 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The virtues of a many-sided life https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/virtues-of-many-sided-life <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A rounded human being has got to be better than a square one for the tasks that lie ahead.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/head, heart and hands.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USMC-101008-M-1558F-390.jpg">Wikimedia/USMC</a>. Public Domain.</p> <p>A couple of weeks ago, covered in lake slime and pieces of <a href="http://www.nyis.info/index.php?action=invasive_detail&amp;id=39">European water chestnut weed</a>, I climbed into the bathtub and turned on my favorite podcast from the BBC called <a href="http://www.radioline.co/podcast-bbc-radio-4-coast-and-country">Coast and Country</a>. The subject of the podcast was <a href="https://www.dartington.org/about/">Dartington Hall</a> in Devon, a seedbed for radical ideas and creativity since it was founded in 1925. </p> <p>The core of Dartington’s philosophy is a “many-sided life:” the idea that we should draw on all of our faculties in our efforts to transform the world, and by doing so, become transformed ourselves—“head, hands and heart.” A life with many sides instead of one is bound to be more productive and fulfilling, both for individuals and for the societies they create.</p> <p>Without knowing exactly what I was doing or why it might be important, I’ve been following the same philosophy since leaving my last full-time desk job in 2008. Helping to clear the rampantly-invasive chestnut weed from our local lake is the latest installment of my efforts to build in more manual labor to my life. </p> <p>I call it ‘manual labor,’ though of course it’s more a hobby than a livelihood—there’s little dignity in a sweatshop, and I don’t pretend to be ‘a worker’ as in ‘working class.’ I’m comfortably off, with enough security to choose how to spend my time. So increasingly, I’m choosing to use my hands and not just my head by getting stuck into the hard, physical, collective work of the community.</p> <p>As often happens, the more I thought about Dartington and its ideas, the more I started to come across examples of the same philosophy in action. An <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/13/jimmy-carter-collapses-dehydration-habitat-for-humanity">article in the Guardian</a> reported that ex-President Jimmy Carter was treated for dehydration after he collapsed while building a house with Habitat for Humanity in Canada. A <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/books/james-c-scott-farmer-and-scholar-of-anarchism.html">piece in the New York Times</a> explored the life of political scientist James C Scott, who divides his time between studying peasant resistance and working on a farm in Connecticut.</p> <p>Then there was a visit to <a href="http://www.brantwood.org.uk/ruskin/">John Ruskin’s home at Brantwood</a> in the English Lake District, where reputedly he was just as happy when building guesthouses, garden walls and harbors with his friends and neighbors as he was when spinning out radical new ideas on politics and economics. Those ideas included a minimum wage, social security, free universal education and public ownership of land, and they set the stage for future developments like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_state">welfare state</a> and the <a href="https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/">National Trust</a>. </p> <p>I also commissioned a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/intentional-communities">series of articles for Transformation on ‘intentional communities’</a>—places like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/thomas-miller/findhorn-inner-listening-outer-action">Findhorn</a> in Scotland, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Tamera</a> in Portugal and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college">Schumacher College</a> in Devon (another outgrowth of Dartington Hall), which aim to ‘be the change they want to see’ in the world. Incorporating manual labor into learning is a central tenet of the experience they offer, whether that’s through shared domestic tasks like cooking and washing-up, or digging in the garden, or learning how to paint or make pots and other crafts. </p> <p>At Dartington’s School for “multi-dimensional” education, “Students were as likely to learn how to fix a car engine as to read Chekhov” as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college">Andrea Kuhn</a> puts it. That probably came in useful for graduates like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Young,_Baron_Young_of_Dartington">Michael Young</a>, who spent the rest of his life inventing new institutions like the Open University. The virtues of a many-sided life are a common theme in radical experiments like these, and I’m definitely happier and more fulfilled as a result of diversifying myself, but why? I can think of at least three reasons.</p> <p>First of all, while it does little to dissolve material class boundaries, shared physical labor begins to erode some of the artificial barriers that have been erected over time between ‘more’ and ‘less valuable’ forms of work. Manual labor becomes something that belongs to everyone, rather than being relegated to a secondary status for a separate group of people who are permanently under-rewarded.</p> <p>There’s more than a touch of voyeurism in what I’m doing since it is always voluntary rather than enforced. But getting stuck into collective work is surely a better way of dealing with this problem than simply observing or studying the lives of others. As the late <a href="https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-prize/orwell/resources/ben-pimlott-introduction-to-orwells-england/">Ben Pimlott</a> once wrote about <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell">George Orwell</a>, “the author uses his account of proletarian life as a peg on which to hang what really interested him: not just the lives of working-class people as such, but his own inner dialogue about how middle-class people like himself did and should relate to them.” Shared work takes this dialogue one step further.</p> <p>Second, and without wanting to sound like your Grandad, manual labor is good for you—and it’s also good for your role in the struggle for social change. In an age when so much social interaction, communication and activism are virtual, getting stuck into physical work, especially in a group, provides a much more direct experience of engagement with other people and a different set of challenges to navigate. </p> <p>The pace of work is usually much slower than what’s possible on social media and the internet, and the level of commitment required is correspondingly higher (we reckon it will take at least ten years of continuous activity to get rid of the chestnut weed in the lake). In contrast to the current fashion for ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/who-wants-to-live-in-frictionless-world">frictionless’ solutions,</a> face-to-face negotiations, trade-offs and conflicts are inevitable because of the sheer scale of the problem or its lack of malleability, or the vagaries of the weather and the environment, or delays caused by ill-health or a thousand other things. Translated into social action, these experiences can build stability and sticking power into movements.</p> <p>Third and most important, a fully-integrated life is the best grounding for democratic politics, new forms of economics, and social problem-solving. We need activists who are also scholars, nurses and teachers who are also politicians, carpenters who sit on town councils, entrepreneurs who are also artists, and politicians who are anything except professional politicians. Mixing things up in this way is far more likely to generate collective energy, creativity, ideas and perhaps even consensus than keeping people trapped in boxes that are permanently marked as one thing or the other.</p> <p>It also helps in cross-fertilization, as when thoughts and ideas are born during physical work, or when physical work provides a testing ground to put them into practice. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that someone like Scott <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/books/james-c-scott-farmer-and-scholar-of-anarchism.html">frames his academic work in terms of real world problems instead of theoretical abstractions</a>, a philosophy that has seen him produce a string of hugely-influential books like <em><a href="https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300036411/weapons-weak">Weapons of the Weak</a></em> and <em><a href="https://yalebooks.yale.edu/search/node/seeing%20like%20a%20state">Seeing like a State</a></em>. “I’m as proud of knowing how to shear a sheep as I am of anything, and I’ve been a better scholar partly because I’ve had this other activity,” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/books/james-c-scott-farmer-and-scholar-of-anarchism.html">he told the New York Times</a>.</p> <p>Of course, here’s no necessary link between manual labor and the adoption of progressive politics; both <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1981/11/26/us/on-holiday-back-at-the-reagans-ranch.html?pagewanted=all">Ronald Reagan</a> and <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/30/AR2005123001326.html">George W. Bush</a> delighted in hosting brush-clearing parties down on the ranch during their respective US presidencies. But at least in an integrated life, each set of faculties—head, hands and heart—can help to counterbalance the others, guarding against <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-vision_reflections/love_3149.jsp">too much reason, emotion or brute force</a> in judgment and decision making. </p> <p>As <a href="https://harpers.org/archive/2005/03/the-enlightenment-is-dead-long-live-the-enlightenment/">Terry Eagleton once pointed out</a>, atrocities like The Holocaust are rooted in the pursuit of reason unmediated by ethics or emotion, but one can also argue that a surfeit of ‘heart over head’ or ‘hands over both’ can be just as damaging. Not only is a many-sided life more personally fulfilling, it also has social and political effects when scaled-up. </p> <p>But is such a life a luxury reserved for those who can afford it? That’s certainly the case today, when so many people have been boxed into narrow categories and assigned a role and value according to the dictates of contemporary capitalism—so that speculators and managers are hugely over-rewarded, while nurses, care workers, labourers and others are penalized through salary structures, taxation and the unequal allocation of financial risks. The erosion of institutions that used to challenge some of these categories and reward systems (like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers%27_Educational_Association">workers’ education</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/when-is-civil-society-force-for-social-transformation">cross-class civil society groups</a>) has been immensely damaging.</p> <p>Therefore, re-valuing manual labor and/or instituting some form of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income">basic income</a> is vital if everyone is to have the opportunity to do different things with their time—“there is no wealth but life” <a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Ruskin">as Ruskin famously put it</a>. After all, a rounded human being has got to be better than a square one that’s designed to fit neatly into all those boxes of bureaucracy, hierarchy and convention that force people to live a life that is both limited and divided.</p> <p>Satish Kumar, one of the founders of Schumacher College, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college">calls this a “path to wisdom</a>” instead of just cleverness or shallow success, a preparation for the essential work of transformation that lies ahead for all of us. So get out your gloves and your boots and your tools and your brushes and get stuck in. You won’t regret it.</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/who-wants-to-live-in-frictionless-world">Who wants to live in a frictionless world?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-another-year-of-transformation">Welcome to another year of 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 Michael Edwards Activism Care Culture Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:25:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 114908 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ken Burns’ powerful film on Vietnam ignores the power of the anti-war movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/robert-levering/ken-burns-powerful-film-on-vietnam-ignores-power-of-anti-war-movement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Vietnam peace movement was inspirational. Its story deserves to be told fully and fairly.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article first appeared on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/ken-burns-vietnam-war-ignores-anti-war-movement/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RobertLevering2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Anti-war march in Chicago, 1968. Credit: By David Wilson <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0">CC BY 2.0</a>, via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:19680810_20_Anti-War_March.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p> <p>Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s PBS series, “The Vietnam War<em>,</em>” deserves an Oscar for its depiction of the gore of war and the criminality of the warmakers. But it also deserves to be critiqued for its portrayal of the anti-war movement.</p> <p>Millions of us joined the struggle against the war. I worked for years as an organizer for major national demonstrations and many smaller ones. Any semblance between the peace movement I experienced and the one depicted by the Burns/Novick series is purely coincidental.</p> <p>Two of my fellow activists,&nbsp;<a href="http://ronyoungviews.blogspot.com/">Ron Young</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Vietnam-antiwar-movement-had-a-bigger-voice-than-12250664.php">Steve Ladd</a>&nbsp;had similar reactions to the series. Historian Maurice Isserman&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/ken-burns-lynn-novick-vietnam-war-review">says</a>&nbsp;the film is “both anti-war and anti-antiwar movement.” Another historian Jerry Lembcke&nbsp;<a href="http://www.publicbooks.org/burns-and-novick-masters-of-false-balancing/">says</a>&nbsp;the filmmakers use the technique of “false balancing” to perpetuate myths about the anti-war movement.</p> <p>These criticisms are valid. But for today’s resisters, the PBS series misses the most relevant story of the Vietnam era: how the anti-war movement played a critical role in limiting and ultimately helping to end the war.</p> <p>You would never guess from this series that as many Americans took to the streets to protest the war on one day (October 15, 1969) as served in Vietnam during the 10 years of the war (about two million for both). Nor would you realize that the peace movement was, in the words of respected historian Charles DeBenedetti, “the largest domestic opposition to a warring government in the history of modern industrial society.”</p> <p>Instead of celebrating the war’s resistance, Burns, Novick and series writer Geoffrey C. Ward consistently minimize, caricature and distort what was by far the largest nonviolent movement in American history.</p> <p><a href="https://vva.org/arts-of-war/the-ken-burns-documentary-a-review/">Anti-war vets</a>&nbsp;are the only participants of the peace movement that Burns and Novick relate to with any sympathy or depth. John Musgrave, a former Marine who joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, describes his transformation. We also hear anti-war vet John Kerry’s moving testimony before Congress: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” And we see and hear from war veterans who threw back their medals at the Capitol steps. The filmmakers would have done well, however, to describe the extent of that GI resistance movement, such as the 300-plus underground newspapers and dozens of GI coffeehouses.</p> <p>It’s disconcerting that the filmmakers did not interview even one draft resister. Had they done so, we could hear why tens of thousands of young men risked up to five years in prison rather than fight in Vietnam. The filmmakers would not have had difficulty finding any as there were at least 200,000 draft resisters. Another 480,000 applied for conscientious objector status during the war. In fact, more men were granted CO status in 1971 than were drafted that year.</p> <p>Even worse, “The Vietnam War” fails to tell the story of the organized movement of draft resisters that grew to such proportions that the draft itself became virtually unworkable and that was a major factor why Nixon ended the draft. In “Jailed for Peace: The History of American Draft Law Violators, 1658-1985,” Stephen M. Kohn writes: “By the end of the Vietnam War, the Selective Service System was demoralized and frustrated. It was increasingly difficult to induct men into the army. There was more and more illegal resistance, and the popularity of resistance was rising. The draft was&nbsp;<a href="https://www.boyswhosaidno.com/single-post/2017/08/03/Draft-Impact">all but dead</a>.”</p> <p>The movement’s crippling of the draft system was not the only major achievement of the anti-war movement omitted from the Burns/Novick epic. The film shows scenes from the March on the Pentagon in 1967, where more than 25,000 protesters confronted thousands of Army troops. But it does not tell us that the Pentagon demonstration and the increasingly radical anti-war movement were among the factors that led Johnson to refuse General Westmoreland’s pending request for 206,000 more troops and why the president himself refused to run for another term just six months later. (The Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vietnampeace.org/oct-21-event">holding a gathering October 20-21</a>&nbsp;in Washington, D.C. to mark the 50th anniversary of the march.)</p> <p>Likewise, the film shows footage from both the Moratorium on October 15, 1969 (demonstrations that drew more than two million people in hundreds of towns and campuses) and the Mobilization in Washington the next month, which drew more than a half-million marchers (the largest single demonstration in American history until the Women’s March earlier this year). Unfortunately, Burns and Novick do not tell us about the impact of the peace movement’s fall offensive: It forced Nixon to abandon his plans for bombing the dykes of North Vietnam and/or using tactical nuclear weapons. This story was not known at the time, but numerous historians have written about it based on interviews with Nixon administration officials, documents from the period and White House tapes.</p> <p>Another missed opportunity: We see scenes of the massive demonstrations throughout the country—and on college campuses—in reaction to the Cambodian invasion and the killings at Kent State and Jackson State. That eruption forced Nixon to withdraw from Cambodia prematurely, another point Burns and Novick failed to tell.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the scenes related to Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 do not make clear that Nixon’s reaction led directly to Watergate and his resignation. Had Burns and Novick also interviewed Ellsberg, who is alive and well in California, they would have discovered that the most significant individual act of civil disobedience during the war was inspired by the example set by draft resisters.</p> <p>Finally, the film does not explain that Congress cut off funds to the war largely because of the intensive lobbying efforts by such groups as the American Friends Service Committee and Indochina Peace Campaign, or IPC, led by Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda. Don’t take my word for it. In his testimony before Congress the year after the fall of Saigon, the last U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam blamed the peace movement’s lobbying efforts for eliminating the funds needed to forestall the final North Vietnamese offensive. Not mentioning IPC’s lobbying efforts is particularly puzzling since the only peace movement activist interviewed for the series was Bill Zimmerman, one of IPC’s principal organizers. We hear opinions from Zimmerman about a variety of other issues, but absolutely nothing about the organization he describes in detail in his memoir.</p> <p>All these omissions and distortions notwithstanding, we must credit this 18-hour epic as one of the most powerful anti-war films of all time. “The Vietnam War” certainly rivals “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Just as that World War I classic portrays the nightmare of trench warfare, Burns and Novick show horrific scene after horrific scene of mutilated bodies and corpses. Through the words of combatants on both sides, you can almost feel what it’s like having bullets and shrapnel flying at you and watching your buddies get hit while you’re trying to kill other human beings.</p> <p>You may find yourself emotionally drained after watching countless gruesome battles and stomach-churning scenes of mutilated Vietnamese peasants and torched villages. Several of my friends stopped viewing after two or three episodes because they found it too upsetting. Still, I encourage you to view it if you haven’t already. (PBS stations will air episodes on Tuesday nights through November 28.)</p> <p>Burns and Novick do more than immerse you in blood. They demonstrate the callousness, ignorance and hubris of the warmakers. You can hear tapes of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara revealing that they knew from the outset that the war was unwinnable and that more combat troops and bombings would not change the outcome. Yet they lied to the public and sent hundreds upon thousands of Americans into the fray, while dropping more tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia than the total tonnage of bombs exploded by all combatants in World War II. You can also hear Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger cynically plotting to prolong the war for four more years so that he could run in 1972 without the stain of losing Vietnam to the communists.</p> <p>Generals and battlefield commanders in Vietnam show just as little regard for the lives and limbs of their men as their bosses in Washington. Soldiers fight valiantly to capture hills, where dozens are killed or maimed only to have their leaders tell them to abandon their conquests.</p> <p>It’s no wonder then that, almost without exception, the American soldiers tell the filmmakers that they now believe the war was senseless and feel betrayed. Many voice support for the anti-war movement. Some even proudly became part of the GI resistance movement after they returned home. (My brother-in-law, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam and later joined the Secret Service, expressed the same sentiment when he told me, “We were suckers.”)</p> <p>Burns and Novick should also be applauded for incorporating numerous Vietnamese soldiers on both sides of the civil war. By humanizing “the enemy,” the film goes beyond a condemnation of American perfidy in Vietnam and becomes an indictment of war itself. Particularly touching is hearing a North Vietnamese officer talk of how his unit spent three days in mourning after losing over half of his men in a particularly bloody skirmish. (They did not do as good a job portraying&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/09/28/the-ken-burns-vietnam-war-documentary-glosses-over-devastating-civilian-toll/">the toll on Vietnamese civilians</a>, however.)</p> <p>We also see how North Vietnam’s leaders mirrored their counterparts in Washington by consistently lying to their citizens and by callously sending tens of thousands of their young on suicidal offensives that had little chance of success. Similarly, the filmmakers get beneath the surface enough to reveal who actually fought the war. Just as the overwhelming majority of American soldiers were working class or minorities, the North Vietnamese side was composed almost entirely of peasants and workers. Meanwhile, children of Hanoi’s elite went to the safe environs of Moscow to further their education. Back in the United States, children of the white upper middle class and the privileged found safety in their student and other draft deferments.</p> <p>Military recruiters would hate to have any of their potential enlistees watch this series. Those who sit through all 10 episodes will have a tough time discerning significant differences between the war in Vietnam and the ones in Iraq or Afghanistan. Common themes abound: lies, pointless battles, mindless violence, corruption, stupidity.</p> <p>Unfortunately, most viewers will justifiably feel totally overwhelmed and helpless by the end of this epic film. That’s why it’s important to spotlight the misrepresentations and underestimations of the peace movement. For the success of the anti-Vietnam war movement provides hope and illustrates the power of resistance.</p> <p>Rarely in history have citizens been effective in challenging a war. Other unpopular American conflicts have had their protesters—the Mexican, Civil and Spanish-American Wars, World War I, and more recently the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Opposition typically fizzled out soon after troops were sent into action. Not so in the case of Vietnam. No other antiwar cause has developed a movement nearly as massive, endured as long or accomplished as much as the struggle against the Vietnam War.</p> <p>The Vietnam peace movement provides an inspiring example of the power of ordinary citizens willing to stand up to the world’s most powerful government in a time of war. Its story deserves to be told fairly and fully.</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/robert-levering/how-anti-vietnam-war-activists-stopped-violent-protest-from-hijacking">How anti-Vietnam War activists stopped violent protest from hijacking their movement</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/violence-brought-us-trump-but-it-s-not-how-we-will-stop-him">Violence brought us Trump, but it’s not how we will stop him</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 Robert Levering Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Thu, 07 Dec 2017 18:02:30 +0000 Robert Levering 114359 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Visualising the human price of gold https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/shirin-m-rai-beth-goldblatt/visualising-human-price-of-gold <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An exhibition of powerful photographs brings home the real costs of illness and incapacitation for miners and their families.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt1.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Nosipho Eunice Dala, widow of Zwelakhe Dala who worked in the mines for 28 years and contracted silicosis. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In May 2016 the South African High Court (Gauteng Local Division) <a href="http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZAGPJHC/2016/97.html">granted an order in the case of&nbsp;<em>Nkala and Others v Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited and Others</em></a> that certified a consolidated class action against 32 mining companies. The action had been brought by mineworkers who had contracted silicosis by breathing in the silica dust that is generated during mining, along with their dependents. This disease can take many years to manifest, is incurable, debilitating and often fatal. </p> <p>The mineworkers argued that exposure to silica dust also increased the risk of contracting TB, a lung disease caused by bacterial infection. Once miners became too ill to work they returned to their families, who became tasked with their care. The&nbsp;<em>Nkala </em>decision authorised the commencement of <a href="https://features.dailymaverick.co.za/whenthedustsettles/">the largest class action litigation ever to occur in South Africa, with almost half-a-million possible claimants</a>.</p> <p>The mining companies lodged an appeal against the High Court judgment which will be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal in March 2018. Parallel to the appeal process, <a href="http://www.groundup.org.za/article/silicosis-unpacking-gold-mines-strategy/">there are discussions occurring between some of the parties</a> regarding a possible settlement. In the meantime, significant numbers of plaintiffs are dying each year without seeing the case resolved.</p> <p>In addition, given that the miners’ families have had to take on many more responsibilities as a result of their incapacitation, shouldn’t they also have access to compensatory damages? The High Court recognised the contribution that women make to caring for the miners, but like most international measures that calculate GDP (such as <a href="https://unstats.un.org/unsd/nationalaccount/sna.asp">UN System of National Accounts</a>) it did not recognise the value of domestic labour as labour that has real economic and financial value. </p> <p>This is largely because domestic work is placed outside the ‘production boundary’ and is not seen to be contributing to the national economy, a non-recognition that leads to a measurable deterioration in the health and well-being of individuals, households and communities <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14616742.2013.789641">because the inflows required to support social reproduction fall below a sustainable threshold</a>. This is especially important in the context of the reduction of state-provided services in countries like South Africa as a result of economic crises, austerity policies and government retrenchment.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt2.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Mncedisi Dlisani, who worked in the mines for 15 years and contracted silicosis, with members of his family. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>One way to document, raise up and publicise these under-appreciated issues of care and compensation is through visualisation, which brings home the human costs of gold-mining and silicosis through powerful imagery and associated commentary. </p><p>In a remarkable collaboration organized in the weeks prior to the court case, Cape-Town based British photographic artist <a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a> worked with <a href="http://section27.org.za/">Section 27</a> and the <a href="https://tac.org.za/">Treatment Action Campaign</a>—two South African civil society groups that work on health rights—and &nbsp;<a href="http://www.genderjustice.org.za/">Sonke Gender Justice</a>, which works on the rights of carers, to photograph all 56 of the named miners in the space of 26 days. The portraits were taken in the homes of the miners that were spread all around the country. </p><p>As Pierce told us in an interview about the project:</p><blockquote><p>“One of the biggest challenges is to find some simplicity and balance. You don’t want to overload the photograph with information and you want the person to be the centre piece with other supporting information that tells a story. After meeting each of the miners or widows we would explain the project in as much detail as possible, making sure they understood what we were doing and why we were doing it. We would then do the interview so that I had a chance to get to know each person a little better.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The interviews started being about silicosis and how they struggle with the illness but I soon realised that I was getting the same answers from everyone, because that is what it is, the same illness with the same symptoms. Once I realised this I started just finding out about them as people and this led to some much more interesting stories that told relatable stories, forcing the viewer to connect more deeply with each person.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I shot portraits with the wife or other family member wherever possible. I wanted to tell the story of the family. The widows were all photographed alone but where the miners were living with sisters or brothers I wanted to include them. Only one wife refused to be photographed due to her being a traditional healer.”</p></blockquote><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt3.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Patrick Sitwayi, who worked in the mines for 22 years and contracted silicosis, and Asive Bingwa. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>To go along with the photos and increase their potential impact on the climate of public opinion surrounding the court proceedings, Pierce <a href="http://www.the-price-of-gold.com/">wrote a blog</a> that pulled from his conversations with miners and their families. He also made sure that <a href="http://www.the-price-of-gold.com/blog/9/12/2015/the-price-of-gold-exhibition">they were exhibited</a> in the most powerful way possible using sound and visual effects that were designed to pull the viewer more deeply into the experience:</p><blockquote><p>“All of the portraits were beautifully printed and mounted on board, and then displayed in a pitch black room so that they formed tunnels for people to walk through. We had a soundtrack on a loop of the wheezing from the miners that I had recorded during my interviews, together with industrial mining sounds, and we provided hard hats and head torches. The only way to view the images was to walk through the tunnels and use the head torch to see. All of the individual stories were also displayed next to each portrait. As you can imagine it had a huge impact; people came out crying.”</p></blockquote><p>By using these techniques, Pierce was able to walk the fine line between exposing the collapse of the worlds of the miners and their families, and displaying their courage and dignity in the face of such adverse circumstances. His photographs are striking in what they say and what they omit, what they make visible and what remains invisible. He supplements some of these gaps with captions containing information that he has selected about each of the miners.</p><p>The social construction of illness—of silicosis acquired by black, male bodies working in white owned mines—frames the social context of these photographs. Pierce aims to alert the audience to the pain and loss the photos reveal, and to support the legal claims of the miners and their families in the process. He gives attention both to the male workers and their relatives since each group has been so clearly affected by the men’s illness and their loss of employment.</p><p>The photographs also speak to the issue of gender and gendered roles: in most of them the description is of male lives, even when female bodies are present in the same frame. There are women in kitchens, situated in their homes with the accoutrements of everyday life. Their dwellings showing plenty of wear and tear, but also careful maintenance.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt4.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Zama Gangi, who worked in the mines for 19 years and contracted silicosis, and his wife Matshozi. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>Looking at compensation claims through the lens of photography helps us to think about which forms of harm are recognized and which are not—and why. It also leads us to ask <a href="http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/49070/">who is compensated for the harms done to them and who is not</a>, and what happens when compensation is denied to those who must assume extra responsibilities. </p><p>Understanding these questions as they manifest themselves in Pierce’s photographs points to the need for a deep and textured reconsideration of ideas about loss and injury as they are normally understood and quantified for the purpose of compensatory damages in law.</p><p><em>Thom Pierce’s award-winning photographs can be seen at the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/twppp-2017/exhibition/">Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize Exhibition</a> in the National Portrait Gallery in London in November 2017.</em></p><p><em>A longer version of this article has been published in <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0964663917739455">Social &amp; Legal Studies</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/florence-goddard/inside-miners-fight-against-silicosis">Why South Africa&#039;s gold miners are suing their bosses</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/natalia-duarte/beyond-blood-diamonds-violence-behind-gold-route">Beyond blood diamonds: the violence behind the gold route</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/anthony-rond-n-camacho/cajamarca-minining-colombia">How a popular vote of a local community can halt a gold mining mega project</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 Beth Goldblatt Shirin M. Rai Activism Care Intersectionality Tue, 28 Nov 2017 17:00:00 +0000 Shirin M. Rai and Beth Goldblatt 114781 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Swords in the hands of children: an insider’s account of what happened to America’s New Left https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-lerner/swords-in-hands-of-children-insider-s-account-of-what-happened-to-ame <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How Weatherman confused violence with militancy and triggered the downfall of Students for a Democratic Society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/weatherman-confused-violence-militancy-sds/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jonathan Lerner.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Students for a Democratic Society logo. Credit: By Tim Lourd - Own work, via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30499445">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>.</p> <p>To those of us deeply immersed in the New Left in the summer of 1969, apocalypse felt imminent. Despite growing opposition, the war in Vietnam was still escalating, with no end in sight. There had been strikes and building seizures at scores of campuses. Demonstrations were increasingly confrontational and bloody. The civil rights movement was reeling from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. the year before, and the massive riots that followed, and from the emergence of separatist groups that rejected the goal of integration. Some of those were armed, including the Black Panthers, whose offices were routinely and lethally attacked by police.</p> <p>Within Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, the New Left’s principal organization, there was desperation to articulate a strategy in response—and to create the conditions for revolution, which many of us had convinced ourselves was necessary. Factions formed and competed bitterly. At the SDS convention in June 1969, the organization burst apart. Control was seized by a group called Weatherman, which eventually went underground and carried out a campaign of bombings. But in the months before doing so, we trashed SDS, abandoned the mass movement it represented, and dedicated ourselves to ultra-militancy and fighting in the streets.</p> <p>To many people today, apocalypse feels imminent once again. And activism feels mandatory. How to build organization, devise strategy and be effective are pressing questions. So is the distinction between militancy and violence. What follows is an excerpt from “<a href="http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/swords-hands-children-jonathan-lerner/">Swords in the Hands of Children: Reflections of an American Revolutionary</a><em>,</em>” the story of my path through SDS and the Weather Underground. For activists grappling with those questions, it should be a cautionary tale.</p> <p>Through the summer and into the fall of 1969, we forged ourselves into an infantry of swaggering kamikazes dedicated to the ideas in the Weatherman position paper. Every effort was aimed toward a series of demonstrations we called for Chicago in October. They became known after the fact as the Days of Rage, although in building for it we just called them “the National Action.” Our goal was to get tens of thousands of angry young people fighting the cops in the streets. In the event, only about 400 people actually participated, maybe fewer. There was an opening night salvo when our troops ran through a fancy neighborhood trashing things and attacking the cops, who responded with shotguns, wounding 11, and arrested more than 60. </p> <p>A couple of actions planned for the following days didn’t go forward at all—one was defused by the police as people were gathering, and we canceled another out of fear because the National Guard had been called out. The final day’s march was another melee, with numerous injuries and mass arrests. Altogether, considering our inflated vision of it, the Days of Rage was a spectacular failure. So, smarting from our abandonment by the movement we had alienated and from the failure of our fantasized masses of followers to materialize, we in turn abandoned the movement and the masses in a huff. Obviously, nobody else was as committed as we were! That’s when we began preparing to go underground.</p> <p>This spoiled-brat, feelings-hurt motivation for such a consequential step was obscured behind our overblown rhetoric about the need for armed action. We pointed for justification—and reflected glory—to revolutions, such as the Cubans’, that started with small, clandestine military ventures. We also rationalized the intention to go underground as a refusal to surrender. Many of our members accrued felony charges for things like mob action and assaulting an officer, and didn’t want to face trials and jail. But our unwillingness to admit that our strategy had been a farce—that is, our shame at having talked so big and delivered so little—would also be a powerful impetus.</p> <p>Over that summer leading up to the Days of Rage, we built a network of collectives in half a dozen cities; membership was somewhat fluid during those months, as some people bailed out and others were recruited, but I don’t believe there were ever more than 200 or maybe 250 members. They were disciplined to a leadership group that we cutely called the Weather Bureau. Not insignificantly, while there had been two women among the 11 signers of the position paper, Karin Ashley and Bernardine Dohrn, Karin was very quickly kicked off the Weather Bureau and Bernardine remained the only female member. (In the fall another woman was brought on, for cosmetic reasons I should think. She also didn’t last long, most likely because she was a nascent lesbian feminist.)</p> <p>The local groups that became Weather collectives had originally been meant as short-term organizing projects. Many who joined them were students expecting to return to college in the fall. But by fall our sense of reality was so skewed that for many, the idea of resuming life as a student would have been as inconceivable as volunteering to become a police informer. This first incarnation of Weatherman, as a public and visible organization, was nicknamed by someone—me, I think—the Weather Machine. This image gave us something to keep in mind as we subordinated our individual wills and learned to function like cogs and gears. We didn’t consider its other implication, the repetitive, controlled, mechanistic way we were thinking.</p> <p>At the SDS national office, where I was, there was a staff that fluctuated in number between perhaps half a dozen and a dozen people. From there, the transformation of the summer projects into the Machine only reached us in anecdotes and rumors of bizarre and thrilling and scary goings-on. We began to hear of marathon meetings, “criticism/self-criticism” sessions that lasted until dawn. This was a technique appropriated from the Cultural Revolution then going on in China, aimed at beating the bourgeois individualism and wimpiness out of each other. For example, out on the street you were supposed to “lay down” the correct “raps,” as if upon hearing the perfect formulation, strangers would magically abandon their own lives and join up. </p> <p>If your rhetoric hadn’t been perfectly congruent with what the leadership was promulgating at the moment, then that could be the focus of criticism. Whatever you’d said would be picked apart—along with your self-esteem—and you were expected to recant, repent and parrot back the right phraseology. Worse, perhaps, would be to have appeared weak. “A lot of those criticism sessions grew out of how you performed that morning leafleting, or in some confrontation with the cops. Everyone doubted themselves. I was really scared on the street,” one friend remembers. Of course, it would have been rational to fear physical combat with the police. But thinking rationally wasn’t possible, once you’d committed to meekly following orders and forcing yourself to be something you were not.</p> <p>We heard that collective members were learning karate. There were also tales of erupting promiscuity. And we would sometimes receive surprising news that a person who had been a trusted cadre had been “offed”—ghetto slang for “killed”—and was now a non-person with whom nobody should interact. Occasionally, following one of those torturous criticism sessions, the non-person was liable just as surprisingly to be rehabilitated. Then there was the campaign of “smashing monogamy.” Smashing monogamy was justified as a way to free girlfriends from the domination of their boyfriends, but it also had the effect of freeing previously attached women to be sexually available to the leaders, or any other guy who felt empowered to coerce them.</p> <p>What made us so willing to trash people no worse than ourselves, and take orders from people no smarter? The organization we created was a vehicle for our politics. But its peculiar nature was enabled not so much by the ideology as by the psychic crisis created within each of us by that ideology.</p> <p>Weatherman held that in making a revolution, not only would black people be the vanguard but that “the blacks could do it alone.” This was more than a challenge to the arrogance of white leftists, it was a profound invalidation: we weren’t only not primary—we weren’t even necessary. The acknowledgment of white privilege, an enormously important understanding that was new to most of us at the time, also permeated Weather thinking. But it became a club with which to beat ourselves: we were coddled, and whiteness would always give us an easy out; we were racists objectively and inevitably simply by dint of being white in a racist society. </p> <p>There’s truth to that, and value in realizing it. It makes possible an understanding of the nuances, and insidiousness, of racism both within us as individuals and in the structure of society. We, though, did not examine nuances. We leapt from this insight to judging ourselves to be worthless, along with every other white person in the country. Hence the despair and bitterness with which we took such crazy risks with our lives, and with the lives of others. But here was a group of people who were so confident—or unreflective or power hungry —that they could promulgate these ideas without themselves being similarly debilitated. Following their leadership would be our path to rehabilitation.</p> <p>No one involved, however—except the undercover cops—set out on a path of political activism with any less idealism and heart than I had at 13 when in my first political act I joined a picket line to integrate a segregated apartment complex. And at the core of the original Weatherman position paper were humane and passionate convictions. Its authors understood that the war in Vietnam—and unnecessary American military meddling in other countries, in general—was a tragic blunder. And they knew that for this country racism is central to the history, and the biggest challenge. </p> <p>Both observations remain demonstrably true today. The leaders I criticize were right to insist on these ideas. Their failure was not in their motivations to activism, or in their instinctive radicalism and boldness, or in their analysis—well, not in those two elements of their analysis. But they lacked humility. They liked being right way too much. They were not saints, as most leaders of most movements, even righteous ones, turn out not to be. They aren’t saints, and this isn’t heaven.</p> <p>So in the Weather Machine we created a structure that perpetuated repeated mood swings between cockiness and self-loathing, endlessly and with no possible resolution. We could strut around like bullies all day, and cower and pule before our hierophants in the evening. The breaking down of self-esteem, the abdication of critical judgment, the omnipotent leadership, the not-quite-free free love, the ever-present threat of banishment: We didn’t identify our organization as a cult, but I guess people in cults generally don’t.</p> <p>Reinforcing the separate reality of life in the Machine was the escalating state of confrontation with the cops, not all of which was directly provoked by us. People were routinely followed by plainclothes officers who made no attempt to be surreptitious, pulled over for the slightest real or concocted infraction of traffic rules, illegally searched and arrested. “I remember at least three or four times that summer when we were raided by the police,” my friend recalls. “We’d be sitting around in the collective house and they’d just come in, without any warrants, and terrorize us for an hour or so. Once they hung somebody out the window of a third-floor apartment by his heels.”</p> <p>In Chicago, as the days counted down to Oct. 8 and our National Action, we still had close ties with a local group of leftist lawyers, and with Rising Up Angry, a Chicago organizing project among working-class white kids started by some people from SDS. The radical Student Health Organization had agreed—reluctantly—to provide first aid during the demonstrations. But we had succeeded in alienating virtually everybody else. No matter; we knew that the masses of kids were with us. I was cited in the newspaper&nbsp;<em>Chicago Today</em>, as late as September 23, asserting that between 5,000 and 10,000 of them would be joining us in the streets.</p> <p>But the reality was that we had isolated ourselves almost completely. This is what happens when you insist you are totally right, belittle everybody else as wrongheaded and “objectively” counter-revolutionary, and deride them all as wimps. We acted as if we didn’t care that our ties to the larger movement were being severed. We pretended it proved our superiority. Driven by spite, it seemed easy to cut ourselves off from the rest of the New Left.</p> <p>The last issue of the SDS newspaper we published before the National Action had an unambiguous theme of armed revolution, with articles on four Latin American insurgencies.&nbsp;<em>New Left Notes&nbsp;</em>had often printed a roundup of short items of movement news. This time, under the headline “Insurrection!” we ticked off several militant street battles of the Weatherman type, and seven recent bombings of National Guard armories and federal buildings in various locations around the country. Weatherman hadn’t yet blown anything up, but that idea was in the air. Some people were beating us to it.</p> <p>It was right in the middle of those feverish Days of Rage that the Weather Bureau made the decision to transform the visible Weather Machine into an invisible underground. Perspective and composure were apparently not deemed essential for the taking of such a momentous decision. But we had gone far out on a limb and discovered that everybody else was ready to leave us dangling there, so I think we all felt that we might as well jump; it certainly wouldn’t do to wimp out on our commitment to ceaseless escalation. </p> <p>There is also the reading of this decision as an adolescent tantrum: If we were to die in the act of committing revolutionary suicide, it would serve everybody else right. And there is the psychological reading, in which it isn’t a surprise that the leadership made the decision to go underground when they did. What a spectacular way to repair their punctured collective self-esteem, given the colossal defeat they had ushered us to.&nbsp;</p><h2><em>&nbsp;</em></h2><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/andrew-willis-garc-s/we-need-both-compassion-and-confrontation-to-defeat-donald-trump">We need both compassion and confrontation to defeat Donald Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/stephanie-van-hook/transforming-anger-into-nonviolent-power">Transforming anger into nonviolent power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mark-engler-paul-engler/transformative-power-of-democratic-uprisings">The transformative power of democratic uprisings</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jonathan Lerner Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 21 Nov 2017 22:06:12 +0000 Jonathan Lerner 114399 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “The power of Fannie Lou Hamer compels you!” Resisting Donald Trump https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/max-s-gordon/power-of-fannie-lou-hamer-compels-you-resisting-donald-trump <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To deal with Trump we must first face the Trump inside ourselves.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MaxSGordon.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/President-Government-America-Trump-Donald-Politics-2704264">MaxPixel.freegreatpicture.com</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Please allow me to introduce myself.</p> <p>I’m a black man, I’m gay, I’m an addict. I’ve been a crackhead, I’ve been a drunk.</p> <p>I don’t remember being sexually abused, but I was a gay boy, now a gay man in a homophobic society that continues to destroy people like me for our sexual orientation—and that’s a kind of abuse, isn’t it?</p> <p>This week, <a href="https://www.longroom.com/discussion/765702/hed-rather-have-a-dead-son-than-a-gay-one-nevada-father-is-arrested-for-shooting-dead-his-14-year-old-boy-because-of-his-sexual-orientation">a father in Nevada killed his 14-year-old child, because he’d “rather have a dead son than a gay one.” </a>In our society, we kill transgender women and men every day for telling the truth about their lives.</p> <p>Sometimes I feel I’m fighting for my life. These days, I’m not always sure I’m winning.</p> <p>I was at a gym in a small town I was visiting last month and a man asked me for my phone number. Another man overheard us talking and whispered under his breath something about perverts and how disgusting we were.&nbsp;I was too scared to confront him, so I didn’t say anything.</p> <p>At night, when a cop car passes by me in Harlem and slows down, I’m frightened. I’ll admit, I’m frightened a lot. My partner is always surprised when I use all the locks in our apartment, even the chain, and sometimes even during the day. I believe our building is secure, but I don’t know how to explain to him that I rarely feel safe—anywhere.</p> <p>I come from a family with a history of domestic violence.</p> <p>One time, my parents got in a fight and my mother told us to get our things, we were going to McDonalds. We stayed for awhile and then we went back home. When we arrived, there were all these little bits of paper everywhere, like confetti, as if someone had thrown a party while we were gone. I looked closer and I saw a tiny picture of my mother in a white dress—her face torn in half. My father had ripped up my parents’ wedding photos.</p> <p>A few years later, when I was thirteen, I got into a fight with my Dad and ran to my room and locked it. He threatened to rip off my bedroom door. I hid in my closet until my mother calmed him down.</p> <p>One day he told me, “I will break your spirit, son.” I was so furious with him that I made a decision. &nbsp;In that moment, I imagined something pouring down into my body, moving through my veins like steel or concrete, and then hardening. I promised myself I would never cry in front of him again, or feel any pain. I would just be numb, like a robot. Yes Dad. No Dad. Goodnight Dad. I imagined myself a soldier, shot on the battlefield, eyes wide open, dead and cold and quiet.</p> <p>That was the day I became an emotional alcoholic.</p> <p>I need you to know this about me because it influences my relationship to bullies like Donald Trump, and why we need a new paradigm of resistance to go with the old one.</p> <p>I like horror movies, not the slasher genre, but psychological horror, and especially 70’s horror—<em>Rosemary’s<em> Baby, Omen, Carrie, The Exorcist</em></em>. There’s that amazing scene in&nbsp;<em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exorcist_(film)">The Exorcist&nbsp;</a></em>where the priest says to the devil who has possessed the young girl, Reagan, “The power of Christ compels you. The power of Christ compels you!”</p> <p>I don’t know much about exorcisms, but the shit seemed to work on&nbsp;<em>that</em>&nbsp;devil, so the other day when Donald Trump came on the screen I thought, why not? And I blurted out, “The power of Fanny Lou Hamer compels you!”</p> <p>For those who may not know or remember, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fannie_Lou_Hamer">Fannie Lou Hamer</a> was a black organizer in the Deep South, a civil-rights activist, who fought to exercise her right to vote in a virulently racist Mississippi. She was tortured, her life was threatened, and she even had to battle for the right to be heard within her own political party. Fanny Lou said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” and “Nobody’s free, until everybody’s free.” She had what the old folks call ‘Holy Ghost power.’</p> <p>So I shouted it at the screen over and over. “The power of Fannie Lou Hamer compels you!” &nbsp;It felt good, so I tried a few others. “The power of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audre_Lorde">Audre Lorde</a> compels you!” “The power of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Milk">Harvey Milk</a> compels you!” “The power of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_Roosevelt">Eleanor Roosevelt</a> compels you!” “The power of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourner_Truth">Sojourner Truth</a> compels you!” Try it at home, it’s fun, and you really do feel better.</p> <p>And then I thought, if I was a priest with a congregation what would I tell them right now?</p> <p>I think I would say: Believe in miracles, believe in your power as a sorcerer and sorceress, stir shit up for Good, invoke.</p> <p>I’d remind them: You don’t have to earn grace. You are already worthy.</p> <p>I’d say, You are not a commodity. You are not a can of Coke or a pack of cigarettes. You are not a stock option, a casino, or land purchased for development.</p> <p>When you go on a date, stop looking at everyone the way you shop for household cleaner, turning it around, figuring out what it can do for you. Resist commodification and resist being commodified.</p> <p>Listen to someone today. And I don’t mean waiting for the pause before you speak—really listen. Look at someone today—and I don’t mean judging how much weight they’ve gained or lost, or what they are wearing. Look into their eyes. Take in the miracle in front of you.</p> <p>Wear those high heels, work your beautiful yellow dress, shake out that black wig, wear your best red lipstick and dance—I’m talking to the straight men right now.</p> <p>Deal with your shame about slavery, appreciate your black ancestors, understand the horror of your history and be honest about how it has harmed your beautiful blackness—I’m talking to the white people right now.</p> <p>If you really want resist Trump, stop whipping your kids.</p> <p>You’ve been talking about quitting smoking for years. You’ve been going to sleep drunk for years. You won’t give up your meth, your coke, you won’t stop eating sugar even though people in your family have died from diabetes. You sit in your car, in the parking lot, crying, with empty bags of fast food around you. </p> <p>Your life belongs to McDonalds and Burger King and KFC. Your life belongs to corporations with scientists whose job it is to find new and innovative ways to kill you, one delicious happy meal at a time. Realize, lovingly, that they don’t really give a fuck about you, and take your life back. Decide that your life is worth saving. Resist Trump.</p> <p>“You know I always wanted to go back to school, but there just isn’t enough time.” There&nbsp;<em>is</em>&nbsp;enough time. Go back to school. &nbsp;Resist Trump.</p> <p>Stand in front of the mirror naked. If you are a woman, gay, or a person of color, consider the peril that body has seen. See yourself on the auction block, burned at the stake for being a witch, bashed after you left the gay bar. Hold your body dearly while it is still your own.</p> <p>Resist Trump, and finally forgive yourself, for the childhood abuse, for the childhood violence, for the abuse that’s been sabotaging your life, that makes you apologize when other people bump into you, that keeps you in torn clothes. </p> <p>End the war with self. Integrate. Reconcile. Emerge into your greatest power. We need you whole. Your life is an ecosystem and you have a right to keep it balanced and to preserve it. Stop all self-harm. Remember: it wasn’t your body that betrayed you. And although you may not always feel like it, despite what happened to you, your beauty remains intact.</p> <p>Consider: what did it take to make you, what did it take to get here? Think of the parents you had or didn’t have. The mother who died when you were twelve.&nbsp;&nbsp;The father you never knew. Think about the money you had, the money you didn’t have, the marriage that ended, the day you left home….<em>.have you left home?</em></p> <p>What did it take to get you here? Did you come over on the Mayflower or were you dragged here, or did you flee? Recall the grandmother who was cooking when you saw the numbers tattooed above her wrist. She promised to tell you a story one day about concentration camps. Think about the grandmother who was cooking when the men arrived on horses with sheets and took her son, the uncle you never met who was carried away in the night. &nbsp;She promised to tell you a story about lynching.&nbsp;</p> <p>And understand that no one is going to save us. What is happening right now is more profound than Hillary vs. Bernie vs Trump; it’s deeper than Sarah Huckabee Sanders or the NRA. What we need isn’t going to come from the Democratic National Committee and it won’t be found on WikiLeaks.</p> <p>Something is definitely coming. And to deal with it we need to be whole. We can’t be fragmented with each other or within ourselves.&nbsp;The thing that’s coming needs you to hate yourself so that you’ll feel nationalistic pride when they try and build a wall. It needs you to be afraid at night, hiding behind the shades, so that you can be manipulated into supporting a travel ban. &nbsp;</p> <p>The thing that’s coming is counting on you to be a mess, in debt, traumatized, dissociated, drunk, high, angry, racist, lonely, heartbroken, in despair, cynical; it needs you to think Black/White, Palestinian/Jew, Man/Woman, Gay/Straight, Them/Us, Me/Other. </p> <p>The thing that’s coming needs you numb and asleep so it can organize at night. Then suddenly, you get up one morning and see the men in the streets with machine guns. Because they know by then it will be too late.</p> <p>To deal with Trump we must first face the Trump inside ourselves. Despite the ways we are being coarsened and made to live a life of staring into phones instead of each other’s eyes, we must return to compassion. It really is all that we have. Study war no more. The real enemy is our belief in enemies. Never underestimate the power of your kindness in every moment. </p> <p>We have to grow up, even when everything in this culture tells us to stay immature, entitled, greedy, narcissistic and pathological; even when the man in the White House is really just a teenage boy up in his room surrounded by empty Doritos bags and playing with his X-Box all night. </p> <p>We must grow up.&nbsp;Our lives, and maybe even life itself, depend on it.</p><p class="image-caption">For a longer version of this article, <a href="https://resisttrumptalk.wordpress.com/2017/11/08/resist-trump/">click here</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/beautiful-trouble-team/six-principles-for-resisting-presidency-of-donald-trump">Six principles for resisting the presidency of Donald Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kieran-ford/don-t-mourn-organize-three-ways-millennials-can-build-better-post-trump-f">Don’t mourn, organize! Three ways millennials can build a better post-Trump future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/violence-brought-us-trump-but-it-s-not-how-we-will-stop-him">Violence brought us Trump, but it’s not how we will stop him</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 Max S. Gordon Liberation Activism Love and Spirituality Mon, 20 Nov 2017 12:13:36 +0000 Max S. Gordon 114645 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No more white saviors https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/aura-bogado/no-more-white-saviors <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It’s time to let people lead their own movements—and support them in doing so.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AuraBogado.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The White savior: a person of privilege who picks a cause they know little to nothing about and insists on solutions that inevitably cause more harm than good.&nbsp;YES! Illustration by Fran Murphy.</p> <p>The time we’re living in requires an extraordinary understanding of who we are, what we’re working toward, and how to get there. As people committed to social justice in the time of Trump, we have a twofold challenge: resisting an administration that came into power through an election won on the dehumanization of marginalized people, while also being mindful not to reproduce the devastating hierarchies that mimic that power. So far, we’ve largely come up short.</p> <p>A new book by Jordan Flaherty, "<a href="https://www.akpress.org/nomoreheroes.html">No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality</a>," offers insight into how the practice of “saviorism” injures our movements and provides visions for an alternative and much-needed praxis.</p> <p>You’re no doubt familiar with the White savior: a person of privilege picks a cause they know little to nothing about and insists on solutions that inevitably cause more harm than good. As Flaherty explains, the savior mentality cannot exist without turning people into objects who need rescuing.</p> <p>“It is as old as conquest and as enduring as colonialism,” he writes. As an activist and a journalist, Flaherty has witnessed firsthand the harms of saviorism and neatly lays out countless examples of its failure—perhaps most poignantly when he writes about Brandon Darby. Flaherty cites numerous articles and other activists for his well-researched chapter about Darby, a man he’s known for several years.</p> <p>Darby’s origin myth, as it were, begins in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when, Darby says, he rescued Robert King, a Black Panther who spent three decades in solitary confinement until his conviction was overturned in 2001. Darby, along with anarchist organizer scott crow, “had taken a boat to Robert King’s house [and] faced down state troopers who got in his way.” Shortly after, Darby became a leader in “Common Ground, an anarchist-leaning volunteer group that brought thousands of young, mostly White volunteers to work on rebuilding New Orleans,”&nbsp; Flaherty writes.</p> <p>What followed, as described in&nbsp;No More Heroes, is a case of “disaster masculinity,” a term coined by scholar Rachel Luft to describe the familiar practice in which charismatic men (often White—but not always) poise themselves to presumably lead a marginalized group to freedom. What ensues is destructive abuse and exploitation against the very people these saviors claim to want to rescue.</p> <p>As described in&nbsp;No More Heroes, in the case of Darby, it was not only the Black people of New Orleans who were disregarded to let Darby shine, but also women who were sidelined through the use of sexual assault under his leadership at Common Ground. Despite constant warnings about and accusations against him, Darby garnered and maintained support from well-intentioned men and was allowed to continue to do his work however he saw fit. That work paved a path of ruin.</p> <p>Shortly thereafter, according to Darby’s own account, he became an informant for the FBI.</p> <p>As Flaherty explains, Darby tipped off the FBI about Austin, Texas, activist (and Flaherty’s friend) Riad Hamad, a full-time schoolteacher who used to sell crafts in support of Palestinian children, an operation he ran from his home. Darby apparently convinced the FBI that Hamad had been living a double life, but a subsequent raid of Hamad’s home found no evidence of any crime. Less than two months later, Hamad was found dead in an Austin lake with his mouth duct-taped and his arms bound. The death was ruled a suicide—but Darby suggested to Flaherty that the FBI may have killed Hamad. Months later, Darby was outed as an informant.</p> <p>Men such as Darby, who take center stage in struggles they know nothing about, who are applauded for doing so, and who are excused for abusive behavior, don’t always turn into informants for the FBI. But the truth is that they don’t have to. To make this point,&nbsp;No More Heroesquotes scholar Courtney Desiree Morris’ essay “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants”: “Before or regardless of whether they are ever recruited by the state to disrupt a movement or destabilize an organization, they’ve likely become well versed in practices of disruptive behavior.”&nbsp;</p> <p>That is, activist men who come to command without listening to those they’re ostensibly helping—and dismiss marginalized people who critique their methods—produce a kind of devastation that makes the project of systemic oppression that much easier. Darby’s work, however outwardly flawed, was also unconditionally backed by community supporters. </p> <p>“This period in New Orleans crystallized the idea of the savior for me. It is not just about Brandon Darby, but also about the people who followed him,” Flaherty writes. “Darby is not so much a prototypical savior as he is the kind of dangerous person who can rise to power when we are seeking saviors.” The way that saviors are doing the work, and the way it’s supported by activists seeking a savior, only serves to perpetuate inequity and sow discord. And that has a lasting, if not permanent, effect on marginalized people involved in movement work, who are already less visible.</p> <p>Flaherty’s book doesn’t focus solely on Darby—in fact, Darby’s mostly limited to one of 11 chapters in&nbsp;No More Heroes. The rest cover observations from cities as far away as Gaza, and organizations ranging from Teach for America to Occupy Wall Street. Part of what will strike you about&nbsp;No More Heroes&nbsp;is the multitude of voices included throughout its pages. The author manages to amplify the voices of people who have drawn significant conclusions across the spectrum of privilege and marginalization. </p> <p>Although I recommend reading the book in its entirety, most of the chapters stand alone, so that you can pick up what piques your interest from the chapter titles. The final three chapters, which cover Occupy, Idle No More, and Black Lives Matter—along with a thoughtful ending on how to decenter privilege—are worth reading in one sitting if possible. Flaherty’s knowledge of the last few decades of grassroots organizing proves especially incisive here.</p> <p>Flaherty concludes his first chapter by quoting the Zapatista saying “<em>preguntando caminamos</em>,” which he translates as “Walking, we ask questions,” explaining that one shouldn’t “be so afraid to take action that you are immobilized.” Early on, I returned to these pages over and over again, mostly because my interpretation of this phrase is different. For me, a better translation might be “Asking questions, we walk.” But even that translation doesn’t convey the depth of the words in Spanish, which can also be interpreted to mean “Asking questions, we walked,” to indicate the past tense of asking and walking to arrive at the present.</p> <p>"<em>Preguntando caminamos</em>" originally comes from an early Zapatista communiqué in 1994, which tells the story of two gods, Ik’al and Votán, who were one. One asked the other to walk, and the other asked how and where. The two gods couldn’t move at the same time, so they agreed to walk together but separately. All in small and deliberate steps. It doesn’t matter who walked first, the story goes—it matters that they asked questions before moving. The gods have walked with questions ever since and have never stopped. And, in the Zapatista story, real people have learned from the gods that questions serve us to walk together and separately, and never stand still.</p> <p>By the end of reading&nbsp;No More Heroes, it mattered less to me how Flaherty, a writer I’ve long admired, interpreted the phrase. It mattered more that he took the time to incorporate his understanding of this phrase in his opening chapter. I know he and I are walking together but separately. Flaherty’s book is a critical and welcomed meditation on how imperative it is to keep a measured stride on the long marathon toward justice. It couldn’t come at a better time. </p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/just-transition/no-more-white-saviors-let-people-lead-their-own-movements-20171024/?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20171027&amp;utm_content=YTW_20171027+Version+B+CID_3fd59f130afe6e24673b0ab1909ec8f3&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=">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/rolf-straubhaar/will-you-commit-class-suicide-with-me">Will you commit class suicide with me?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rosalind-eyben/i-am-sorry-for-you-you-mean-well-trust-and-history-in-making-of-better">I am sorry for you, you mean well: trust and history in the making of a better world</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 Aura Bogado Activism Thu, 16 Nov 2017 22:08:55 +0000 Aura Bogado 114374 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How prisoners organized to elect a just District Attorney in Philadelphia https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kerry-shakaboona-marshall-john-bergen/how-prisoners-organized-to-elect-just-district- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Winning political victories doesn’t always require a shift to the center; how about putting those affected by injustice at the heart of campaigns?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/prisoners-organized-elect-larry-krasner-philadelphia-district-attorney/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/kerrymarshall.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Larry Krasner with canvassing volunteers. Credit: Facebook/Lawrence Krasner for DA. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The US general election on November 7 saw a former civil rights attorney running on an anti-incarceration platform elected district attorney to Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in America. Larry Krasner, who defended Black Lives Matter activists and indicted police officers while in private practice, promised sweeping reforms—and voters responded.</p> <p>In a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans seven to one, the fact that Krasner won might seem unsurprising. However, back in May, when the Democratic primary was in full swing, Krasner wasn’t the party favorite. Most other candidates, like Tariq El-Shabazz, were considered favorites because they towed a more moderate line and touted their experience as prosecutors. Then, during the general election, he was faced with pressure to moderate his proposals, and the battle continued to make sure that a message of systematic reform was front and center in the race.</p> <p>In order to shift the race to the left and hold Krasner accountable as he prepares to take office, a broad coalition of progressive groups put aside their differences to focus on winning. The leaders of this alliance are the people most impacted by the city’s justice system, including prisoners in Pennsylvania state prisons. Their efforts, which helped create the conditions for Krasner’s victory, are part of a long history of Pennsylvania’s incarcerated citizens changing public discourse.</p> <p><strong>Setting the stage with prisoner organizing.</strong></p> <p>Twenty years ago, radical black prisoners in the State Correctional Institution Greene, a super-max prison in rural southwest Pennsylvania, started the&nbsp;<a href="http://hrcoalition.org/">Human Rights Coalition</a>, or HRC—a radical new model of advocacy for human rights in criminal justice reform. Distinguishing itself from the old paternal/liberal model—which put professional “advocates” in charge of decision-making—prisoners voted on all major decisions. This model built on the legacy of the National Prisoners’ Rights Movement established by George Jackson in California, and represented a historically significant shift in ideals, organization and actions during the age of Bill Clinton’s “three strikes” law and reign of Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, also known as “America’s Deadliest DA.”</p> <p>Over the past two decades, the HRC has sown the seeds of criminal justice reform in the city of Philadelphia and throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The HRC has also inspired the formation of several other prisoners’ human rights organizations in Philadelphia.</p> <p>Prisoners who were leaders in HRC joined the advisory boards of local and national organizations such as the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.afsc.org/">American Friends Service Committee</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.decarceratepa.info/">Decarcerate PA</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fcu.pitt.edu/">Families and Communities United</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.reconstructioninc.org/programs/fight-for-lifers/">Reconstruction, Inc.</a>&nbsp;They then encouraged their family members and loved ones to join community organizations as rank-and-file members to ensure their voices were heard. Prisoners at State Correctional Institution Graterford, in particular, organized a political action campaign in Philadelphia that saw their families and communities influence the 2015 Pennsylvania Supreme Court judicial elections, resulting in a clean-sweep of Democratic justices being elected to the state’s Supreme Court.</p> <p>Earlier this year, the community organizations’ spokespersons were able to contact the candidates and explain that SCI-Graterford prisoners are 5,000 in number and have an average of five family members who will vote for the candidate of their choice. That means a potential 25,000-strong voting bloc.</p> <p>That number of potential voters compelled El-Shabazz to campaign at SCI-Graterford on four occasions. Krasner also scheduled a campaign event at SCI-Graterford, but prison officials cancelled the event, claiming they had not been given enough notice. After the primary, Graterford prisoners were able to reschedule Krasner’s visit. Speaking to several hundred prisoners, he unequivocally adopted their proposed criminal justice reform agenda.</p> <p>As a result, according to leaders of organizations in the prison, Krasner earned the overwhelming support of the incarcerated men at SCI-Graterford. His impeccable record and reputation of being a civil rights attorney for the people of Philadelphia also made him the candidate of choice for multiple prisoners’ organizations, such as&nbsp;<a href="http://www.right2bredeemed.com/">Right to Redemption</a>&nbsp;(an organizing group focusing on ending life-without-parole sentencing, or what they call Death By Incarceration), the&nbsp;<a href="http://laceoart.blogspot.com/">Latin American Cultural Exchange Organization</a>&nbsp;(representing Latino lifers) and the Grey Panthers (representing elderly prisoners).</p> <p>That being said, support for Krasner wasn’t universal. El-Shabazz received the endorsement of Graterford’s NAACP group. That wasn’t enough, however, to overcome his ambiguous stance on the prisoners’ criminal justice reform agenda or his tainted reputation as a former criminal defense attorney and deputy district attorney.</p> <p>After discussing which candidate would best represent the collective interests of prisoners and their communities in society, Graterford prisoners reached a general consensus that Krasner would be their candidate of choice. Prisoners supported Krasner’s candidacy with a robust political action campaign of voter education, voter registration, political forums, and get-out-the-vote drives directed towards their families, loved ones, friends and returned citizens.</p> <p><strong>Building a coalition for a just district attorney.</strong></p> <p>A year ago, high up in a 16th floor law office in downtown Philadelphia, a collection of community leaders gathered to discuss the upcoming district attorney race. Convened by&nbsp;<a href="https://mediamobilizing.org/">Media Mobilizing Project</a>, a local media justice organization,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.aclupa.org/">ACLU Pennsylvania</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.colorofchange.org/">Color of Change</a>, the first meeting was a raucous affair. Donald Trump had just won the election. The current district attorney was under investigation. Organizers crowded on windowsills and along the walls argued over who would run, whose issues would take center stage, and what needed to happen. Like so many efforts, it could have died right there.</p> <p>But it didn’t. Held together by those convening organizations and a deep belief that they could all benefit by working together, the group—calling itself the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.phillydaforthepeople.org/">Coalition for a Just DA</a>—kept pushing, bringing in more groups and widening the table. Organizations flooded the city, coordinated door-knocking efforts, mobilized people who wouldn’t have otherwise voted, and hosted a large forum where&nbsp;<a href="http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/Like-Daytona-race-for-Philly-DA-keeps-turning-left.html">candidates were grilled</a>&nbsp;by people directly impacted by policing, incarceration and “crimmigration” (the intersection of immigration policy and the criminal legal system).</p> <p>The Coalition for a Just DA didn’t stop after the primary. When centrist Democrats tried to regain control of the race and quell the insurgency, coalition members pushed back. The city’s Democratic machine showed they were more interested in maintaining the status quo—essentially Republican candidate Beth Grossman’s platform—than in reform by quietly stepping back from the race.</p> <p>In meetings with insiders, the coalition learned that moderate Democrats from around the country were interested in helping Krasner if he won. So, they responded by becoming more bold. Groups directly impacted by youth incarceration, the bail system, ‘crimmigration,’ policing, Death By Incarceration sentences, and other issues got together and drafted in-depth policy proposals. Prisoners contributed directly to a number of these proposals. The coalition then articulated a set of demands for the first 100 days in office for the new district attorney and presented both candidates with a list of what could be done on day one.</p> <p>At the same time, moderates became more critical of the radical positions of some Krasner supporters. Instead of throwing other progressives under the bus for being “too radical” or “dangerous,” the coalition kept the focus on winning meaningful reforms. When the&nbsp;<em>Philadelphia Inquirer</em>&nbsp;<a href="https://injusticetoday.com/the-philadelphia-inquirer-just-endorsed-mass-incarceration-432e45aa760f">backed Grossman</a>, worried about looking too progressive, coalition members stepped up canvassing and organizing efforts, bringing in more community organizations.</p> <p><strong>Lessons for radicals.</strong></p> <p>Politicians and political commentators generally operate within the range of ideas that have broad public support. Anything outside that range is generally considered politically impractical, or even impossible.</p> <p>The Tea Party and the so-called alt-right are textbook cases of movements widening the range of ideas. While many liberals continue to be shocked by racist statements made by President Trump or other members of the far right, neo-Nazis rally and advocate for genocide in public spaces. When it comes to policies around mass incarceration and policing, movements for justice and equality cannot be afraid to use our capacity to shift the conversation.</p> <p>A year ago, political leaders in Philadelphia would have told you that only very moderate criminal justice reform was possible. A&nbsp;<a href="http://phlcouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/SCFall2016InterimReport.pdf">report from the Philadelphia City Council from fall 2016</a>&nbsp;recommends a slight reduction in bail for a few nonviolent offenders. Today, the incoming district attorney advocates for the&nbsp;<a href="https://krasnerforda.com/platform/">complete end of bail for nonviolent offenders</a>.</p> <p>Earlier this year, and just weeks before he went to jail for corruption, former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said he would&nbsp;<a href="http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Philadelphia-District-%2520Attorney-Seth-%2520Williams-juvenile-%2520lifers-%2520resentencings-life-%2520without-parole.html">seek life sentences</a>&nbsp;for a number of people sentenced to die in prison as juveniles. Throughout the campaign, Krasner publicly stated his support for HB 135, a bill in the Philadelphia House of Representatives that would end life without parole and make over 5,000 prisoners in Pennsylvania currently sentenced to die in prison eligible for parole after 15 years.</p> <p>This sea change in the district attorney’s office is just one part of the struggle to radically rethink policing, prisons and punishment. This shift in the range of what’s politically possible could not have happened without the many campaigns that came together to form the Coalition for a Just DA or the vision and organizing of Philadelphia’s politically-active prisoners.</p> <p>Prisoners mobilized a base—their family and friends—that is often disconnected and disenfranchised from politics, showing that winning isn’t necessarily predicated on co-opting centrists. It can also be done by organizing people who aren’t normally involved in the election process to vote as a bloc. That’s why last night&nbsp;<a href="http://phillyelectionresults.com/">147,666 people voted for Krasner</a>, as compared to just&nbsp;<a href="https://www.philadelphiavotes.com/en/2013-general-election">89,238 votes</a>&nbsp;for the Democratic candidate in 2013.</p> <p>This campaign can be a blueprint for other prisoners, their families and community groups to wage a grassroots radical criminal justice reform campaign. By organizing alongside prisoners, recognizing the possibilities of mobilizing new constituencies, and keeping the focus on building inclusive coalitions and winning real change, radicals can get practical and win.</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-rowan-leach/can-prison-system-be-transformed-shaka-senghor-and-cut50">Can the prison system be transformed? Shaka Senghor and #Cut50</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/transformation-of-warrior-behind-bars">The transformation of a warrior behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andrea-abikaram/there-is-no-such-thing-as-prison-reform-interview-with-cece-mcdonald">There is no such thing as prison reform: an interview with CeCe McDonald</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 John Bergen Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall Prison abolition Activism Thu, 09 Nov 2017 23:17:18 +0000 Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall and John Bergen 114562 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to fight the global Wall Street landlords https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/cat-mcshane-yiannis-panagiotopoulos-pere-rusinol-esperanza-escribano/how-to-fight-glo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Banks and vulture funds make money from ordinary people’s distress. The only way to fight back is to outsmart them.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/CatMcShane.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Activists from PAH in Barcelona. Credit: Esperanza Escribano. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="normal">“Thank you, for making the impossible, possible,” a beaming <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Colau">Ada Colau</a> told thousands of whooping supporters packed tight on the cobblestones of central St. James Square in Barcelona’s old town. It was June 13th 2015, and she had just been sworn-in as Mayor of Barcelona. </p> <p class="normal">Colau won on a wave of support for the way she had fought the housing crisis as founder of Spain's <a href="http://afectadosporlahipoteca.com/">Platform for People Affected By Mortgages</a> (PAH), an extraordinary movement that has mobilised thousands of ordinary citizens to take direct action against forced evictions and rising mortgage costs. </p> <p class="normal">Its target are Wall Street giants—the so-called ‘vulture funds’—that have been on a house-buying spree across Europe and the United States since the 2008 financial crash. According to the <a href="http://afectadosporlahipoteca.com/">New York Times</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldman_Sachs">Goldman Sachs</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerberus_Capital_Management">Cerberus Capital Management</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Star_Funds">Lone Star Funds</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blackstone_Group">Blackstone Group</a> and other US companies have bought more than €223 billion worth of troubled real estate loans in Europe in the last four years<em>.</em></p> <p class="normal">The profits made by these institutions from ordinary people’s distress have made them the target of a backlash that has bought together homeowners, renters and housing activists across the world. Campaigners have one common fight—to protect the right to decent and affordable housing for everyone. </p> <p class="normal">"Capital operates globally, as Blackstone does, and we must set up a global movement too. People have the same problems in Madrid, Dublin and New York and they face exactly the same actors," said Santi Mas de Xaxàs in an interview with us, a PAH activist and speaker for its international network. </p> <p class="normal">Blackstone and the others have quickly proved themselves to be ruthless landlords. Paquita Rivas, for example, is retired and is now a PAH activist. During the recession, her daughter was forced to sell the apartment she’d bought during the boom times but for a rock bottom price, leaving her owing €55,000<strong> </strong>to<strong> </strong>the bank. When Blackstone took over the mortgage, they came after her parent’s home as payment.&nbsp; "I spent day and night crying until a friend put me in contact with PAH. We were very afraid, but ultimately we decide to fight and we won. Yes, we can!" </p> <p class="normal">The PAH has sought to create alliances with groups like <a href="http://righttothecity.org/">Right to the City</a> in the USA, a network of grassroots organisations from some of the poorest communities in America. Blackstone began buying up the homes that were vacated by people no longer able to pay their mortgages in the aftermath of the 2008 crash cheaply and in volume—up to a 1,000 homes a day—and then rented them back to the newly dispossessed. Almost overnight, Blackstone became the biggest landlord in the United States. </p> <p class="normal">Tony Romano is Right to the City’s executive director. He told us that organising tenants is tough because Blackstone’s purchases were spread out across the country, but a visit to Spain proved transformative:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal">“We went to learn about the movement and their model of organisation. There are few examples of activist led movements that have reached scale. We made a partnership, and put that into a manifesto of seven international demands against Blackstone.”</p></blockquote> <p class="normal">This partnership turned into the first ever <a href="https://news.vice.com/article/activists-gather-worldwide-to-protest-against-housing-vulture-fund">day of action</a> against Blackstone in New York, Dublin and London, along with a drive to jam their phone lines and to speak to or email Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman with this message:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal">"Mr. Schwarzman, I stand with Blackstone tenants and community organizations around the world. Stop buying up our foreclosed homes and public housing, stop all your unjust evictions and make your rents affordable. I support this important struggle and will not let up until you meet the tenants' demands. Homes are NOT a commodity!"</p></blockquote> <p class="normal">Since then, Right to the City has acted more aggressively in mobilising tenants across the US. “We’re moving into places that are not organised and starting from scratch,” Romano told us.</p> <p class="normal">In September 2017 it held its first nationwide ‘Renters Week of Action,’ with groups across the country holding marches, staging sit-ins and confronting landlord lobbying associations with demands that included rent controls, the prevention of unjust eviction and the right of tenants to bargain collectively with landlords without fear of reprisals.</p> <p>Romano and his army of grassroots activists can expect no support from the current US administration. Blackstone founder Schwarzman is a close ally of President Trump and <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/trump-schwarzman-blackstone-influence-23734">donated $5.5 million</a> to the Republicans in the 2016 election. In January 2017, <a href="http://www.fanniemae.com/portal/index.html">Fannie Mae</a> (the US government agency responsible for expanding homeownership) <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/25/governments-fannie-mae-will-back-pe-giant-blackstones-rental-business-debt.html,">announced</a> that it would underwrite <a href="http://www.invitationhomes.com/">Invitation Homes</a>, the company Blackstone set up to purchase all of its new rental housing, so if Invitation goes bust, American taxpayers will bail it out.</p> <p class="normal">Romano is honest about his chances: “We’ve won some victories but the reality is that our power to influence is limited.” Since the beginning of the last recession a decade ago, the number of poor families in the United States struggling to pay their monthly rents or living in “deplorable accommodations” has grown by <a href="https://www.huduser.gov/portal/publications/Worst-Case-Housing-Needs.html">41 percent</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Across the Atlantic in Ireland, vulture funds now own 48,199 mortgage accounts, with one in ten homeowners behind with their repayments. Byron Jenkins is one of them, though he’s an unlikely hero—a construction boss who went bankrupt after the 2008 crash and faced eviction in 2013. He and his wife set up a non-profit organization called ‘<a href="http://www.thehub-ireland.com/">The Hub</a>’ above a shop in Dublin to help others like them by advocating for people to stay in their homes and fight proceedings brought against them by banks or vulture funds.</p> <p class="normal">The Hub gives people the tools to represent themselves at court and has also learned from the PAH. “We were watching other countries experience the same as us but it didn’t sink in what we could learn,” Byron told us, “we wanted to know how to bring a country together.”&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In Ireland, he added, pride has prevented people from talking about their financial problems, often suffering in silence until eviction day looms. James and Kathleen, for example (not their real names) are being chased by a vulture fund for&nbsp; €150,000 despite receiving an original loan of only €55,000, the total escalating through interest and fees. Negotiating through official routes hasn’t worked.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">“It’s the mental strain of what those people do to you,” Kathleen sobbed down the phone, “they will chase you until the day you die.” We heard this refrain many times. This year, legal actions against borrowers in Ireland have rocketed: Goldman Sachs, Cerberus and <a href="https://carvalinvestors.com/">CarVal</a> (another US fund) have already <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/distressed-loan-funds-scale-up-borrower-enforcement-actions-qc0wncxgb">pursued 370 prosecutions compared to 160 in 2016</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">One of the first things The Hub did after its visit to Barcelona was to explore ways to help people feel less intimidated by a courtroom setting. They wrote a free guide and instigated role-plays of court scenarios for those representing themselves. Kathleen told me a visit to Byron was the first piece of hope she had of keeping the family home. Today they have a legal team and are fighting in the high court.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Renters too have found that the old ways of negotiating don’t wash in post-crisis Ireland, which has seen the private rental sector (PRS) become the target of large corporate landlords backed by international finance. “The PRS in Dublin is a home run,” said a US investor in a <a href="https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/asset-management/emerging-trends-real-estate/europe/emerging-trends-in-real-estate-2017.pdf">recent report</a> issued by accountancy firm PWC; equity is flowing into Europe “from all corners of the globe and all types of investors… residential is on the radar and is undervalued because it gives long-term, stable returns.” As a consequence of this growing power, rents have steadily risen, with Dubliners this year spending an average of <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/business/personal-finance/dubliners-spend-55-of-take-home-pay-on-rent-1.3267093">55 per cent of their income on rent</a>.</p> <p class="normal">When we met one of them, Mariana, in a busy cafe in Dublin, she was still reeling from losing her home after her apartment block was bought by a corporate landlord called <a href="https://www.iresreit.ie/">IRES</a>. Set up by a huge Canadian firm called <a href="https://www.caprent.com/">CAPREIT</a> to buy homes in Ireland in 2014, it’s now the country’s biggest private landlord. IRES raised her rent by nearly €300 a month and acted aggressively to remove her when she attempted to negotiate.</p> <p class="normal">“Their attitude was, we don’t care about you, you’re not a person, you’re just a number,” she told us. IRES argued that the rent increase was ‘in line with the local market,’ but the reality was that the company had distorted the local market through buying so many apartments and raising the rent every time someone moved out. The new rent would have taken up over half of her pre-tax pay packet.</p> <p class="normal">IRES forced Mariana to give three months notice at the new level of rent and took that extra money out of her deposit. She told us that she was too scared to fight them any longer. In the last year IRES has made 43 applications to the courts to evict people, mainly those refusing to pay the higher rents. These tactics are effective: in 2016, IRES’ profits <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/business/commercial-property/state-s-largest-private-landlord-enjoys-52-jump-in-profits-1.2976302">rose by over half to €47 million</a>.</p> <p class="normal">At the time we talked Mariana was sofa-surfing with friends’ until she could raise the money for a deposit, her belongings stored in a basement at work. “I know I’ll get through it but it’s embarrassing. You feel like you’ve failed at something but you’ve done nothing wrong.”&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">The <a href="http://irishhousingnetwork.org/">Irish Housing Network</a> (IHN) is a loose affiliation of activist groups that also went to Barcelona last year, where they heard about PAH’s “<em>Obra Social</em>”—direct &nbsp;action to help evicted people occupy empty apartments owned by bailed-out Spanish banks.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">IHN’s most notable success is “Home Sweet Home,” the occupation of an empty former government building called <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/01/speaking-homeless-dublin-apollo-house-170103094842868.html">Apollo House</a> in Dublin by 90 people without homes. When the Irish government threatened HSH with eviction they organised a rally to defend themselves.&nbsp; Apollo House was only returned to the government once its demand for every occupier to be properly housed had been met.</p> <p class="normal">Activists internationally will need to work hard over the coming years to defend the right to housing, since Wall Street has made clear that its appetite for real estate is undimmed. Over the last year, both Cerberus and Blackstone have made major incursions into the UK with the purchase of mortgages held by failed banks like Northern Rock and Bradford &amp; Bingley, with further sales pencilled in for 2018. In the United States, Blackstone has expanded into multi-family developments like Stuyvesant and Kip Bay.</p> <p class="normal">For most people, the economy has never recovered from the crash of 2008. Others are too young to have known a more financially secure way of life.&nbsp; Meanwhile, some of the richest people in the world like Schwarzman continue to profit handsomely. Now they want to make more money from our homes, and they’ll devise endless innovative tactics to do so. The only way to fight back is to outsmart them.</p> <p class="normal"><em>This article was developed with the support of <a href="http://www.journalismfund.eu/">Journalismfund.eu</a>.</em></p><p class="normal"><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/CatMcShane2.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="118" /></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/marina-sitrin/%E2%80%9Cbeing-poor-is-not-crime%E2%80%9D-transforming-struggle-for-housing-rights-worl">“Being poor is not a crime:” transforming the struggle for housing rights worldwide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sophie-king/when-you-get-front-door-remember-to-leave-it-open">When you get a front door, remember to leave it open</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 housing Yiannis Panagiotopoulos Esperanza Escribano Pere Rusinol Cat McShane Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 07 Nov 2017 22:06:35 +0000 Cat McShane, Yiannis Panagiotopoulos, Pere Rusinol and Esperanza Escribano 114493 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Before the NFL took a knee: four lesser-known moments of resistance in sports history https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kevon-paynter/before-nfl-took-knee-four-lesser-known-moments-of-resistance-in-sports- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This isn’t the first time the world of professional sports has entered the fight for civil rights and racial justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Kevon Paynter.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The three winners of the Ladies 200-meter final at the Rome Olympics on September 6, 1960: from left to right, Britain’s Dorothy Hyman (bronze), the USA’s Wilma Rudolph (gold) and Germany’s Jutta Heine (silver). Credit: YES! Magazine/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images. All rights reserved.</p> <p>When NFL players, coaches, and owners took a knee during the national anthem Sept. 24, it ignited a nationwide discussion about the role of athletes in standing up for racial justice. Since then, teams and players have continued taking a knee during the national anthem. And the Seattle Seahawks have taken the symbolic act one step further by launching the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/seahawks/seahawks-players-start-equality-justice-for-all-action-fund/">Seahawks Players Equality &amp; Justice for All Action Fund</a>.</p> <p>But this is hardly the first time the sports and political arenas have become intertwined.</p> <p>“Sports has always been an important platform in which America’s ugly racial history has been challenged and where African-Americans have fought for full recognition and respect,” said Dr. Mark Naison, a History and African American Studies professor at Fordham University.</p> <p>Most people remember Jackie Robinson shattering major league baseball’s color barrier and John Carlos and Tommie Smith delivering a Black power salute at the 1968 Olympics. These are often heralded as moments in sports when athletes added a prominent voice to the fight for civil rights and racial justice.</p> <p>But there are many lesser-known examples in the history of sports when individuals and groups stood up against racism.</p> <p>Here are four of those moments.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf protests the anthem in 1996.</strong></p> <p>“What Colin Kaepernick is experiencing is nothing new,” Naison said. “Anytime you speak out if you’re Black, any time you’re a pioneer, you’re going to catch hell.”&nbsp;</p> <p>That was certainly the case with Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, whose national anthem protests more than 20 years ago received media and professional backlash much like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/kaepernick-remains-unsigned-but-nfl-anthem-protests-and-black-solidarity-continue-20170918">Kaepernick&nbsp;</a>is experiencing today.</p> <p>Not much has changed since Abdul-Rauf’s days as a high-scoring point guard with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. In a recent summer hoops tournament for retired stars, he showed he still possesses his patented quick release and sweet jump-shot. And at that tournament, during the national anthem, Abdul-Rauf stood, palms up, in silent prayer for the oppressed poor and people of color in America, just as he did as a NBA star in 1996.</p> <p>Then, Abdul-Rauf sat while the “Star Spangled Banner” played, causing the NBA to swiftly issue him a two-game suspension and stirring a national debate at that time. Abdul-Rauf said the American flag was a symbol of global “tyranny and oppression” that, therefore, didn’t represent his Islamic beliefs.</p> <p>Abdul-Rauf continued to face enormous backlash when in subsequent games to he chose to stand and pray to Allah during the anthem. But he did not waver.</p> <p>“My beliefs are more important than anything,” said Abdul-Rauf&nbsp;<a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1996-03-13/sports/sp-46409_1_mahmoud-abdul-rauf">at the time</a>. “If I have to give up basketball, I will.” Shortly after being reinstated Abdul-Rauf was traded away from the Denver Nuggets to the Sacramento Kings where he received significantly less playing time and then, unable to secure another playing contract, was effectively blackballed from the NBA.</p> <p><strong>Black Newspapers: The Unsung Heroes in the Jackie Robinson Story.</strong></p> <p>Today, statues of Jackie Robinson outside baseball fields in Los Angeles and Brooklyn honor the Hall of Fame career of the first African-American to play major league baseball.</p> <p>But Robinson didn’t do it alone. Black newspaper editors helped pave the way for Robinson and the integration of the major leagues.</p> <p>John Sengstacke, the managing editor at the Chicago Defender in 1943, called the ban against Blacks in organized baseball “neither wise nor practical” during a face to face meeting with the major league commissioner. He went on to criticize the “un-American, undemocratic implications which the gentlemen’s agreement imposed upon the face of this country.”&nbsp;</p> <p>And in 1938, Wendell Smith dedicated his column in the&nbsp;<em>Pittsburgh Courier-Journal</em>&nbsp;to chiding Black consumers for upholding the “institution that places a bold ‘not welcome’ sign over its thriving portal” each time they attended major league games.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Naison, a major part of the newspapers’ strategies to integrate baseball was to conduct interviews with White players after they played unorganized exhibition games against Black clubs, asking them to assess the talent level of Black players.</p> <p>In 1935, White MLB star Dizzy Dean told the&nbsp;<em>Courier-Journal</em>&nbsp;that if “big leaguers believed that they were better than the best Negro players they had another thing coming.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“It all began in the mid 1930s with campaigns by these newspapers [...] that finally [succeeded when Robinson broke the barrier] in 1947,” Naison said. “Jackie Robinson’s entry was after 10 years of agitation.”</p> <p><strong>Serena Williams at Indian Wells.</strong></p> <p>Serena Williams recently won her 23rd Grand Slam at the Australian Open, the most wins of any tennis player ever. It’s one reason why ESPN and The New Yorker have called Williams the greatest professional athlete of all time.</p> <p>But before reaching this height, Williams competed in her first major tournament at Indian Wells, California, in 1999 in front of a hostile White audience.</p> <p>“I looked up and all I could see was a sea of rich people—mostly older, mostly white—standing and booing lustily, like some kind of genteel lynch mob,” recounts Williams in her biography. “I don't mean to use such inflammatory language to describe the scene, but that's really how it seemed.”</p> <p>After her winning match against Steffi Graf at Indian Wells, Williams promised to boycott the tournament, and for 14 years she didn’t return.</p> <p>Since then, Williams has faced oppression as a Black woman in a majority White sport. But she has shrugged off lewd comments about her body shape and her curves with grace, class, and fierce determination.</p> <p>In 2015, Williams returned to Indian Wells, to the surprise of the tennis world, and she used the event to raise funds and&nbsp;<a href="https://eji.org/news/join-serena-williams-campaign-with-eji">media attention</a>&nbsp;for the Equal Justice Initiative, which works to end racism in the criminal justice system.</p> <p>“Galvanizing forces around recent police killings [of unarmed Black men and women] likely increased Serena’s want to speak out,” said Dr. Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of history at Pennsylvania State University. “She’s outspoken about not remaining silent in those moments.”</p> <p><strong>Olympian Wilma Rudolph faces Jim Crow America.</strong></p> <p>An African American woman, Wilma Rudolph, overcame childhood diseases including polio and left leg paralysis to become widely known as “the fastest woman in the world.” At the 1960 Olympics, Rudolph won the 100- and 200-meter races and helped the U.S. win the 4 x 100-meter relay.</p> <p>“Because of the Cold War it became very important to show sporting strength in the '50s and '60s, and it gave women like Wilma Rudolph platforms to be seen across the country and the world,” Davis said.</p> <p>Rudolph returned to the United States after her successful Olympic performance as a national heroine and a celebrity. But this did not exempt her from suffering the racism in her segregated hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee. On June 13, 1963, Jet Magazine published the headline, “Hometown Eatery Jerks Welcome Mat from Wilma.” Shoney’s, a local restaurant, had refused to serve Rudolph.</p> <p>So Rudolph and members of the Citizens Committee on Local Affairs began a month-long demonstration against the restaurant’s segregation.</p> <p>When Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington, a devout segregationist, planned Rudolph’s welcome home parade, she refused to attend the segregated event. Later, her hometown threw a parade and banquet in her honor. It was the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.espn.com/sportscentury/features/00016444.html">first integrated event</a>&nbsp;to be held in the town.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was funded in part by the Surdna Foundation and first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/before-the-nfl-took-a-knee-4-lesser-known-moments-of-resistance-in-sports-history-20171002">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/tristan-ahtone/how-ancient-singing-tradition-helps-people-cope-with-trauma-in-modern-">How an ancient singing tradition helps people cope with trauma in the modern world</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/daniel-fletcher/spectre-of-female-otherness-is-haunting-athletics">The spectre of female otherness is haunting athletics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mark-kernan/in-praise-of-melancholia">In praise of melancholia</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 Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Thu, 02 Nov 2017 20:20:04 +0000 Kevon Paynter 114357 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Combating online abuse with the principles of nonviolent resistance https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/brian-martin/combating-online-abuse-with-principles-of-nonviolent-resistance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Individual and collective empowerment may be a more effective strategy than policing or legal action.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published by <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/combating-online-abuse-nonviolent-resistance/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Brian Martin4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/atlassocialmedia/32786886766">Flickr/Atlas Social Media</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/">Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Online harassment is on the rise, according to a recent&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/07/11/online-harassment-2017/">Pew Research Center study</a>. While that may not seem surprising—since even the president of the United States regularly engages in it—researchers are, nevertheless,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/2140342-online-harassment-on-the-rise-but-no-one-can-agree-what-it-is/">perplexed</a>, given the many widespread efforts to combat the phenomenon.</p> <p>An examination of these efforts, which have been the subject of several books in recent years, may yield a better understanding of not only what’s working and not working, but also what’s missing—namely an approach that relies more on individual and collective empowerment, as opposed to legal and police action.</p> <p><strong>Online harassment as a crime.</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.daniellecitron.com/">Danielle Keats Citron</a>’s 2014 book “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” is a comprehensive account of online harassment directed at women. Citron uses three case studies to illustrate the seriousness and seeming intractability of the problem. In one case, a woman was targeted by various anonymous individuals, perhaps including her university classmates, who spread horrendous lies about her, sending them to family, friends, her teachers and later her employers. The harassment continued for years.</p> <p>A key theme in “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” involves comparisons with sexual harassment and domestic violence. Decades ago, these were not seen as issues of importance. Sexual harassment was seen as something women at work just had to accept, and likewise domestic violence was invisible as a social issue. Then along came the feminist movement. Sexual harassment and domestic violence were given names, stigmatized as wrong and even contemptible, and criminalized by the passing of laws.</p> <p>Citron says cyber harassment should be treated the same way. In all three forms of abuse, women and men can be victims, but women are much more likely to be targeted.</p> <p>Citron is a lawyer with extensive experience with abuse online. She devotes considerable attention to legal remedies, but the overall message is that they are inadequate even when they can be brought to bear. Another avenue for redress is via complaint mechanisms provided by service providers. However, in many cases, harassers are anonymous and change their online identities. For example, on Twitter it’s possible to set up a new account within minutes, so shutting down the account of an abuser may provide only temporary relief.</p> <p>Some targets of abuse go to the police, but this is usually disappointing, as many police do not understand the online world. For example, they fail to appreciate the importance of Twitter for some women’s work and how harassers can abuse the service. Police may suggest going offline to avoid the abuse, but this is unrealistic in an online world. It is like suggesting never going outside because of the risk of assault.</p> <p><strong>The misogyny of online abuse.</strong></p> <p><a href="http://emmajane.info/">Emma Jane</a>&nbsp;is an academic at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, where she researches online harassment of women. Before this, for two decades she was a well-known media commentator under the name Emma Tom. Before the internet, she and other female figures in the media were used to receiving hostile written letters. But something changed in the 1990s after she started adding her email address at the bottom of her newspaper columns. The abuse she received in response to her columns became more insistent, graphic and voluminous. She started saving all this abuse, not knowing what to make of it.</p> <p>In her research, inspired by her own experience and based on interviews and other evidence, she is quite clear that online harassment targeted at women is intended to tear them down and drive them off the internet. She has written several academic articles about the phenomenon and a 2017 book titled “Misogyny Online: A Short (and Brutish) History.”</p> <p>Jane addresses the frequency of online abuse, its gendered features, the weakness of the rationales for doing it, the terrible consequences for targets and the failure of institutional channels to address it. She terms the inadequacy of police and service providers to address abuse as an “epic fail”—Jane has a delightful turn of phrase and manner of plain-speaking.</p> <p>Unlike most other commentators, Jane gives many examples of some of the worst abuse received by women. That is why the subtitle of her book refers to a “brutish” history: to read examples of abuse can be disturbing even when you are not the target. By presenting graphic examples, Jane challenges the usual dismissals of this form of harassment as just a normal part of the internet. To get a feeling for the sort of abusive messages women receive, visit&nbsp;<a href="http://rapeglish.com/RRTG.html">Random Rape Threat Generator</a>&nbsp;(note: this is explicit and confronting).</p> <p>Jane also gives special attention to academic work in the area, castigating scholars for not addressing an important topic or, when they do, not taking the abuse seriously. For example, incorporating rape and death threats in the category of “trolling” reduces their seriousness.</p> <p><strong>The problem with rationalizing abuse.</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.baileythebookworm.com/">Bailey Poland</a>&nbsp;is a writer and editor who became interested in cybersexism and wrote the book “Haters: Harassment, Abuse and Violence Online” published in 2016. It is a comprehensive, scholarly treatment. Poland learned about the problem in part through her own experiences of coming under attack. She recounts the stories of many other women harassed online.</p> <p>Some cases have become notorious, most prominently what is known as Gamergate. Zoe Quinn, a game developer, was abused online and openly complained about it. This led to a huge increase in abuse and threats, in turn triggering a countermovement. Gaming is highly male dominated, and women working in the field are regular targets.</p> <p>Poland takes aim at the many justifications for cyber harassment and at the advice regularly given to women. One often-repeated mantra is “Don’t feed the trolls.” This assumes that trolling is the problem, but trolling is not an accurate description of rape and death threats. Not feeding the trolls means not replying to abusers, on the assumption that they get their kicks by seeing their target squirm: without replies, they should tire of the game and give up. The problem with this advice is that it doesn’t work. The attackers continue as long as their target is online, and may escalate by sending abuse, threats, and derogatory comments to family members and employers.</p> <p>(For insights about trolling, see Whitney Phillips’ book “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” Phillips argues that trolling can’t be addressed on its own because it draws its energy from damaging behaviors in mainstream culture.)</p> <p>One of the rationalizations for abuse is that “everyone gets harassed.” In other words, women shouldn’t complain because men are harassed too and, anyway, it’s just part of the way the internet works. Poland reports on studies showing that although many people are harassed, women are harassed far more, and furthermore much of the abuse aimed at them is specifically about gender.</p> <p>Another regular piece of advice is to block the harassers. This is all very well, but is not protection from the harmful effects of abuse. When damaging claims are posted online, they can hinder a woman’s job prospects, because employers often do a Google search on the names of prospective employees. Blocking harassers also takes time; some of them create several new identities every day.</p> <p>Harassers cloak their actions in the righteous mantle of free speech. In their eyes, it seems, sending unsolicited derogatory comments is an exercise of free speech, and to protest against such messages is an intolerable restraint. Setting aside the fact that rape and death threats are not legally protected speech, one of the consequences of online abuse is the silencing of targets. Indeed, silencing women seems to be the purpose of much of the abuse. This is a serious restraint on their own free speech. If the goal is a public forum where people can express their views, then moderation and respect for others are crucial.</p> <p>To get a handle on how to respond to cyber harassment, Poland turns to a perspective developed by feminists in the early days of the internet, called cyber feminism. Some women use privacy settings for protection. Groups of women have set up closed online networks for sharing information, including about harassers. A few, for example&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/lindsay-bottos-tumblr-anonymous-comments_n_4703344">Lindsay Bottos</a>, use art to challenge online harassment.</p> <p>But the burden of responding to online abuse should not rest only on women. Poland cites work by Leigh Alexander on what men can do. The first step is to not engage in cyber harassment themselves. Men can also provide one-on-one support for targeted women, focusing on a woman’s work (not just the harassment) and intervening online to draw attention away from the target.</p> <p>Poland usefully refers to the activism of several U.S. groups, including&nbsp;<a href="http://www.haltabuse.org/">Working to Halt Online Abuse</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.endcyberbullying.org/">End to Cyber Bullying</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.crashoverridenetwork.com/">Crash Override Network</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://iheartmob.org/">HeartMob</a>.</p> <p><strong>The psychology of abusers.</strong></p> <p>Citron, Jane and Poland cite studies about typical perpetrators, but it seems to me that more could be done to understand what drives them. It is not sufficient to look at the effects of their harassment (namely, women driven off online spaces) and assume that is why perpetrators do it. Roy Baumeister, in his book “Evil: Understanding Human Violence and Cruelty,” looked at what is known about the psychology of Nazi camp guards, serial killers, and other perpetrators and concluded that usually they feel justified in their actions, feel they are the real victims, and do not think the consequences of their actions are very significant. If the same analysis applied to perpetrators of online harassment, it implies they do not think sending rape and death threats to women is a big deal and that their targets deserve what they get. This is not far from the usual rationales provided.</p> <p>But why are women targets? One explanation is based on the psychological process of projection, in which a person unconsciously rejects a part of their self or behavior and attributes it to others. For example, a man might reject his own attraction to other men, fearing it, project it on to gay men and sometimes attack them.</p> <p>All people have, as part of their personalities, both masculine and feminine aspects. Some men may not want to recognize their feminine side. Instead, they project it onto others, onto women, naturally enough, and then try to destroy it. In this picture, powerful and prominent women would be the most likely targets. This perspective seems compatible with a perpetrator pattern called DARVO—deny, attack, reverse victim and offender—in which perpetrators deny their own abuse, blame it on the target and say, when they are criticized, that they are actually the ones being abused.</p> <p>The point of gaining a deeper understanding of the psychology of abusers is to come up with more effective responses.</p> <p><strong>Insights from nonviolent action.</strong></p> <p>In acting against online abuse, what can be learned from the theory and practice of nonviolent action? This is not straightforward, because nonviolent action most commonly involves collective action in public spaces against identifiable opponents. Cyberabuse typically targets individuals, often in private spaces, and many attackers are anonymous. Nevertheless, several of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/15nvu/index.html">key features</a>&nbsp;of effective nonviolent action—non-standard, limited harm, participation, voluntary participation, fairness, prefiguration and skillful use—are relevant to countering cyberharassment.</p> <p>The most commonly recommended response to online abuse is to report it to authorities, something each of the three authors find is usually unhelpful. A nonviolence-inspired response needs to be something else, something non-standard.</p> <p>In effective nonviolent action, actionists try to limit the harm to their opponent. In cyberspace, this means not using abuse to counter abuse. It seems that few targets do this anyway. When they do, it is often counterproductive, as would be expected from nonviolence theory.</p> <p>In nonviolent action, a high level of participation greatly increases effectiveness. Methods such as strikes, boycotts and rallies enable many people to participate regardless of age, sex and ability. In the online environment, the implication is to choose methods of resistance that enable greater participation. A first step is for targeted women (and men) to join together with allies to formulate a collective response. This might be making supportive comments, challenging ISPs that allow abuse and developing campaigns that allow safe participation.</p> <p>One of the benefits of greater participation in nonviolent action, especially when people with varied backgrounds and experiences are involved, is more ideas about responding and more innovation in techniques. This suggests that campaigners against online misogyny should attempt to involve diverse sectors of the population, for example men as well as women, old and young, different social classes, social media newbies, as well as digital natives, and people from different cultural backgrounds. Especially important is building support among people who would not normally be interested in the social media platforms where abuse often occurs.</p> <p>Taking the issue to broader sectors of the population has the prospect of getting to friends (online and off), neighbors, parents and children of abusers. This is the same broadening of concern that has been effective in stigmatizing sexual harassment offline.</p> <p>Another important facet of effective nonviolent action is skillful use of methods. Responding to abusers needs to be done well, based on assessments of the psychology of the attacker, audiences, the likelihood of others joining in the abuse or opposing it and other factors. Developing skills requires guidance and practice. The implication is that targets of abuse need to reach out to others, gain support and, in particular, get help in improving responses. By improving skills in judging the motivations, intent, and psychological weaknesses of harassers, targets should be better able to judge whether to make a polite response, to not respond, to ask for personal assistance or to seek help in mounting a campaign. Similarly, skills can make a big difference when making a response to abusers, finding supporters and campaigning.</p> <p>All too often, targets feel isolated and humiliated and attempt to deal with the situation on their own. Reaching out to others, and others being willing and able to help, are crucial for mobilizing support and for making better choices and responses.</p> <p>The implications of ideas from nonviolent action for challenging online abuse seem, at one level, all too obvious: Get more people involved, including from different backgrounds; learn and practice skills; and work cooperatively to develop responses and campaigns. Yet, at another level, these implications are not obvious at all, given the continual attention to addressing the problem through laws and actions by police, ISPs and other officials. Rather than looking for authorities to provide protection, it may be more effective to aim at individual and collective empowerment.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span>openDemocracy will be at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the impact of populism on our media, political parties and democracy (see the<span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp;</span></span><a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/programme-2017">programme</a><span><span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp;</span>for more details).</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <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/sally-kohn/dont-feed-trolls-cultivating-civility-online">Don&#039;t feed the trolls? Cultivating civility online</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ae-elliott/assemble-ye-trolls-rise-of-online-hate-speech">‘Assemble ye trolls:’ the rise of online hate speech</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeff-rasley/could-facebook-provide-antidote-to-political-polarization">Could Facebook provide an antidote to political polarization?</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 World Forum for Democracy 2017 Brian Martin Social media and social transformation Activism Care Culture Fri, 27 Oct 2017 06:00:00 +0000 Brian Martin 113794 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to prevent nuclear war https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lisa-fuller/how-to-prevent-nuclear-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What can be done to build support for a peaceful resolution to the stand-off with North Korea?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LisaFuller.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/statue-of-liberty-mushroom-cloud-2629937/">Pixabay/geralt</a>. CC0 Creative Commons.</p> <p>Everyone from <a href="http://qctimes.com/news/local/government-and-politics/former-defense-secretary-sees-no-military-solution-in-north-korea/article_71976636-71ed-5c53-8693-03e26a1584cd.html">Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel</a> and <a href="///C:/Downloads/President%20Vladimir%20Putin">President Vladimir Putin </a>to <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/g00/news/nationworld/politics/ct-steve-bannon-interview-20170816-story.html?i10c.encReferrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmxrLw%3D%3D">Steve Bannon</a> and <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-china/china-says-military-means-not-an-option-to-resolve-korea-situation-idUSKCN1C20NR">China</a> agree: war with North Korea would be so horrific that it simply can’t happen. Up to <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/north-korea/2017-09-10/korean-missile-crisis">one million people</a> could die on the first day of such a war. At that rate, it would take two months to match the death toll of the whole of <a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2017-10-30-0100/war-many-others">World War II</a>.</p> <p>According to <a href="mailto:http://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/people/paul-n-edwards">Paul Edwards</a>, an international security expert at Stanford University, the effect of a major nuclear war would be comparable to the “giant meteor believed to be responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.” <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0096340212459127">Leading researchers Alan Robock and Owen Toon</a> warn that even “a regional conflict has the potential to cause mass starvation worldwide.”</p> <p>If it wasn’t for Donald Trump’s threatening rhetoric, his continual sabotage of diplomatic efforts, and his personal insults directed at Kim Jong-Un, the U.S. would not be on the verge of war. No other American president has elevated tensions so dramatically, but Trump shows no signs of changing track.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the U.S. still has alternatives: despite numerous reports to the contrary, <a href="http://www.38north.org/2017/08/rcarlin080817/">North Korea has said they would be willing to negotiate</a> about their nuclear program if the U.S. stops threatening to destroy it. In that case, what can be done to build pressure inside the U.S. to pursue a peaceful solution to the crisis, and how can ordinary people help?</p> <p>It’s here that historical precedent may be useful. When we reflect on the Holocaust, for example, we tend to vilify prominent Nazi leaders like Adolf Eichmann who were “<a href="http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/trials/eichmanntrial.html">just following orders</a>,” while extolling ordinary citizens like <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108052/?ref_=nv_sr_1">Oskar Schindler</a> who used creative strategies to prevent atrocities.</p> <p>Few of us believe we would have behaved like Eichmann. Many of us would like to think we would have acted like Schindler, and hundreds of others who have developed non-violent resistance when faced by the prospect of war and large-scale killing. The choice we face is the same today—<em>and</em> we have the strategies and tactics to make nonviolence work. But first we have to recognize the seriousness and urgency of the situation.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Several indicators suggest that Trump could be preparing to initiate a pre-emptive strike against North Korea in the second half of November.</p> <p>First, according to <a href="https://www.voanews.com/a/trump-tillerson-wasting-his-time-negotiating-with-north-korea/4051805.html">the State Department</a>, he has already said that he would launch a first strike if North Korea developed the capacity to deliver nuclear warheads to the continental United States.&nbsp;Last week, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41690253">CIA Director Mike Pompeo</a> announced that North Korea is “on the cusp” of achieving that goal and “it's now a matter of thinking about how do [sic] you stop the final step.” Pompeo’s statement is consistent with earlier predictions that North Korea would develop such capabilities by <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/26/politics/north-korea-us-intelligence-launch-missile-2018/index.html">early 2018</a>.</p> <p>Second, in early October <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/north-korean-hackers-stole-us-and-south-korean-wartime-plans-seoul-lawmaker-says/2017/10/10/036fb82c-adc6-11e7-99c6-46bdf7f6f8ba_story.html?utm_term=.322dabdd227f">Japan’s Minister of Defense</a>, Itsunori Onodera, implied to reporters in Tokyo that Trump would initiate military action in mid-November unless North Korea complies with US demands.</p> <p>Third, back in August of 2017, <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/09/politics/us-north-korea-war-signals/index.html">U.S. military officials</a> said that they needed a few months to prepare logistically for war. Then they began <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/north-korea-crisis-us-military-options-joseph-dunford-chairman-joint-chiefs-sanctions-fail-war-a7891961.html">preparations</a>. This timeline suggests that they will be ready to carry out a first strike in November.</p> <p>Fourth, on October 20th 2017, Trump declared a <a href="https://www.salon.com/2017/10/20/trump-signs-executive-order-to-draft-retired-pilots-back-into-military-service/">national state of emergency</a> and legalized a limited military draft.</p> <p>Even GOP members are reportedly “praying Trump doesn’t do something really, really stupid,”&nbsp;according to a <a href="https://www.salon.com/2017/10/16/is-trump-unraveling_partner/?ref=hvper.com">former Republican member of Congress</a> who wants to remain anonymous. His former colleagues have said that they would support Trump’s removal—potentially by invoking the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-fifth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution">25th amendment to the U.S. Constitution</a>—if the leadership of the Republican Party gave “the signal to everyone they can bail.”</p> <p>It seems that in this process, Republicans are just ‘obeying orders’—as with Eichmann’s defense of his actions in World War II. Perhaps they need a reminder that the <a href="http://remember.org/eichmann/sentencing">judge</a> in Eichmann’s trial ruled that “blind obedience” made him no less culpable when he found him guilty of war crimes.</p> <p>None of these developments guarantee that nuclear war is imminent, or that a preemptive strike against North Korea would necessarily be judged a war crime, but they do suggest that such a strike is highly plausible, if not probable. The stakes are high enough to make all Americans take the threat of war very seriously, and to organize immediately to prevent it. Yet large-scale activism has failed to materialize thus far. Why?</p> <p>The first problem is that there is little sense of urgency, largely because government officials never offer a time frame for when they expect hostilities to break out. It’s easy to become complacent when you’ve been hearing that we are “<a href="http://www.reuters.com/video/2017/04/14/north-korea-on-the-brink-of-war-as-us-sh?videoId=371491919">on the brink of war</a>” for months.</p> <p>A good example of this problem in another area was the failure of activists to mobilize people in response to the <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/04/republican-obamacare-replacement-bill-wins-enough-votes-to-pass-house.html">May 4, 2017 House of Representatives vote</a> to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite successfully doing so around other votes to repeal the ACA both before and afterwards.</p> <p>What made the difference? The May 4th vote wasn’t scheduled until one day before it took place, so people didn’t “realize how close the GOP [was] to repealing," and therefore it “didn’t feel like we were in an emergency,” according to <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/07/obamacare-activists-resistance-health-care-238042">Moveon.org’s Ben Wikler</a>.</p> <p>Conversely, a clear timeframe was a major factor behind one the biggest success stories in terms of resistance against the Nazis. In Denmark, 95 percent of the local Jewish population survived, in part because a <a href="https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005209">German diplomat leaked</a> the Nazi’s plan to remove them to death camps three days before the projected start date of the operation. That information was widely disseminated through the Danish population, who then organized to help the vast majority of Jews escape to Sweden in the span of 72 hours.</p> <p>The second problem is insufficient awareness about the potential consequences of nuclear war. According to Alan<a href="http://mashable.com/2017/08/09/north-korea-nuclear-war-climate-change-winter/#ahwi81X8yiqz"> Robock</a>’s research,&nbsp;“most people, including high-ranking defense officials, are unaware that a nuclear war occurring halfway around the world…could seriously harm the homeland.”</p> <p>Even Schindler didn’t act until he fully understood the magnitude of the Holocaust. In fact he was a member of the Nazi party himself, and only began his efforts to save Jews after he began <a href="http://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/stories/schindler">witnessing atrocities</a> against them.</p> <p>Third, there is no consensus on the best way to prevent a war. While there is general agreement that Trump is responsible for escalating tensions with North Korea, opinions are divided as to the best solution, and most of the suggestions that have been made are unviable.</p> <p>Many groups and individuals—including most recently Democratic House Minority Leader <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/defense/355186-pelosi-urges-new-law-to-limit-presidents-use-of-nuclear-weapons">Nancy Pelosi</a>—have advocated for legislation that would prevent Trump from launching a nuclear strike unilaterally. While such laws would (theoretically) pry Trump’s finger off the nuclear trigger, they won’t stop him from escalating tensions to breaking point.</p> <p>There have also been increasing efforts to instigate an impeachment process (so far with little sign of the necessary Republican support), but even if proceedings were initiated now, Trump would still have plenty of time to launch a nuclear strike. War could start in as little as four to six weeks, whereas historical precedent suggests that impeachment would take several months: <a href="https://partners.nytimes.com/library/politics/clintonlewinsky-documents.html">President Clinton's impeachment</a> process took over four months, and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Impeachment_Johnson.htm">Andrew Johnson's</a> more than three.</p> <p>The only remaining viable option is invoking the 25th amendment, which would remove Trump immediately, but that would still require the support of <a href="http://time.com/4692507/congress-remove-donald-trump-impeachment/">either</a> a majority of Congress or Trump’s cabinet, as well as Vice President Mike Pence. Pence’s acquiescence might not be as difficult as some imagine, especially under pressure from both the American public and Congress. Invoking the 25th would satisfy Pence’s<a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/softly-softly-mike-pence-signals-interest-in-top-job/news-story/cb84158cefbc8c8128645e47db8b3e9a"> presidential ambitions</a>, not to mention his suspected deep-seated but carefully concealed <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_nz/article/a3k5wb/trump-has-been-incredibly-nasty-to-mike-pence">resentment of Trump</a>.</p> <p>Even in this scenario, large-scale public pressure would be vital, so what kinds of actions might help to create it?</p> <p>The efficacy of activism is not predicated on the size of a protest crowd, but on the leverage that the public exerts on decision-makers’ interests. Members of Congress care about their re-election. Organizing locally and holding representatives individually accountable can be effective because they are afraid of losing the support of the people who would be voting for them in the next election.</p> <p>The grassroots activism that—so far—has prevented Congress from axing Obamacare is a great example of this strategy in action. Even though Republicans had spent eight years swearing to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act, many of them retracted their support because thousands of their constituents called their offices, turned up at <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBZr4n7SiMo">town hall meetings</a>, and <a href="https://www.mediaite.com/online/protesters-storm-graham-cassidy-health-care-hearing-kill-the-bill-dont-kill-us/">publically embarrassed them</a>.</p> <p>The obedience of Republicans in Congress is always politically motivated, since they fear that moving outside of party lines will cost them their jobs. But if they think that their obedience will actually lose them the next election they will be less likely to follow in Eichmann’s footsteps. That’s why large-scale public pressure is the key to preventing nuclear war.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/danger-there-s-centrifuge-in-white-house">Danger: there’s a centrifuge in the White House</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kathy-kelly/what-will-cure-us-addiction-to-war">What will cure the U.S. addiction to war?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mica-stumpf/future-of-security">The future of security</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 Lisa Fuller Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 24 Oct 2017 22:22:15 +0000 Lisa Fuller 114222 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The death and life of liberation theology https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gregory-leffel/death-and-afterlife-of-liberation-theology <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A generation of radical theologians from Latin America is passing away. What does their legacy mean for the rest of the world? <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/gregory-leffel/muerte-y-vida-de-la-teolog-de-la-liberaci-n">Español</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/gregory-leffel/morte-e-vida-da-teologia-da-liberta-o">Português</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GregLeffel1.jpg" alt="" /></p><p class="image-caption">Zapatista Church: a very small monument to liberation theology. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/oso/4655542/in/photostream/">Flickr/David Sasaki</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p>This June saw the passing of two of our generation’s most fascinating and controversial Catholic priests: <a href="https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Prominent-Belgian-Liberation-Theologist-Francois-Houtart-Dies--20170606-0020.html">François Houtart</a> and <a href="https://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Padre-Miguel-dEscoto---Nicaraguas-Chancellor-of-Peace-and-Dignity-20170610-0001.html">Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann</a>. Houtart was a Jesuit priest and prolific scholar on the faculty of sociology at the University of Louvain in Belgium. His leadership in the dialogue between Marxism and Christianity, his research on religion in society from Sri Lanka to Nicaragua, and his desire to connect social movements in the global South through the <a href="http://www.cetri.be/-Presentation-183-?lang=fr">Tricontinental Centre</a> (CETRI) which he founded in 1976, matched his academic output of some 50 books. </p> <p>On the theological front, he assisted in drafting the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World<em> (<a href="http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html">Gaudium et Spes</a> </em>or “Joy and Hope”), one of the most influential documents of the landmark <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/11/vatican-ii-catholic-church-changes_n_1956641.html">Second Vatican Council</a>. Houtart was a hero to many around the world but certainly no saint. In 2010, he terminated a global campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize when <a href="http://www.lesoir.be/archive/d-20101229-W0WMWJ?referer=%2Farchives%2Frecherche%3Fdatefilter%3Dlast10year%26sort%3Ddate%2Bdesc%26start%3D20%26word%3Dfrancois%2Bhoutart">he admitted to sexually abusing an eight-year-old boy</a> in 1970.</p> <p>He is perhaps best remembered for his pioneering work on the analysis of, and resistance to, corporate economic globalization. Noting the pervasive influence of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2018">World Economic Forum</a>, he proposed the “Other Davos” in 1996, a counter movement against the mounting power of neoliberal economics.</p> <p>Five years later, others including <a href="http://www.rightlivelihoodaward.org/laureates/chico-whitaker-ferreira/">Chico Whitaker</a>, a lay Catholic activist and secretary of the Commission of Justice and Peace of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil,&nbsp; built on Houtart’s initiatives to launch the <a href="http://oecdobserver.org/news/archivestory.php/aid/1565/The_World_Social_Forum.html">World Social Forum</a> (WSF) in Porto Alegre, an annual &nbsp;meeting place for alter-globalists seeking solidarity under the banner of “Another World is Possible!” Houtart served on its International Council.</p> <p>Miguel D’Escoto served as a Maryknoll missionary priest in his native Nicaragua after his education and ordination in the USA. A liberation theologian, he joined Nicaragua’s <a href="http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sandinista_National_Liberation_Front">Sandinista movement (FSLN</a>) in the overthrow of the dictatorial Samoza regime and its resistance to the US-led “<a href="http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Contras">contra” war</a>, serving in the Sandinista government—including as Foreign Minister between 1979 and 1990. In 2008 he was elected president of the United Nations General Assembly. Though never entirely repudiated by the Vatican for his political work, he was suppressed for decades before being fully restored to his pastoral duties by Pope Francis in 2014.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Houtart and D’Escoto were both men of their times. In their generation, liberation was in the air through national movements against colonialism, through revolutions, and through New Left activism across the globe. Following Vatican II’s “opening to the world” and the Church’s fresh engagement with modernity, Catholic priests, missionaries and lay leaders were free to pursue novel forms of ministry.</p> <p>Such novel religious activism wasn’t entirely new. Brazilian <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-archbishop-helder-camara-1115091.html">Archbishop Hélder Câmara</a>, the “bishop of the slums,” had taken a radical approach to his ministry to the poor a decade before Vatican II; and the antecedents to what would be called liberation theology had been building in both Catholic and Protestant circles for years. But the 1968 meeting of Catholic bishops at the <a href="https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/organizations/council-of-latin-american-bishops">Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM)</a> in Medellín, Colombia, marked a turning point for the realignment of the church away from traditional social elites. Liberation theology was thus liberated to pursue its “preferential option for the poor.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This movement spread powerfully through Latin America—and with assistance from Houtart and others, in Asia and Africa as well. But the epicenter was Latin America, where the movement aligned itself with other civil society groups in opposition to right-wing military dictatorships.</p> <p>Among this generation, Roman Catholic theologians <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Theology-Liberation-15th-Anniversary-ebook/dp/B007BPDIDS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1508430318&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=gustavo+gutierrez">Gustavo Gutiérrez</a> (now aged 89), <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Introducing-Liberation-Theology-Leonardo-Boff/dp/0883445506/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1508303547&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=leonardo+boff">Leonardo Boff</a> (78) and <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Christ-Liberator-Victims-Jon-Sobrino/dp/1570753725">Jon Sobrino</a> (78), and the Methodist <a href="///C:/Users/edwarmi/Downloads/mazon.com/Doing-Theology-Revolutionary-Situation-Confrontation/dp/0800614518/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1508303660&amp;sr=1-5&amp;keywords=Jos%C3%A9+M%C3%ADguez+Bonino">José Míguez Bonino</a> (who died in 2012) are among the better known liberationists. Many of their ideas were developed in association with <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-paulo-freire-1261256.html">Paulo Freire</a> (who died in 1997), the Brazilian Christian educational activist, proponent of popular education, and author of the acclaimed <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Pedagogy-Oppressed-Anniversary-Paulo-Freire/dp/0826412769/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1508430793&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=pedagogy+of+the+oppressed+by+paulo+freire">Pedagogy of the Oppressed</a>.</em></p> <p>Also part of this group was the Paraguayan <a href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Fernando-Lugo">Fernando Lugo</a> (still young at 66), who was ordained a missionary priest by the Society of the Divine Word and returned home to become bishop of San Pedro where he was known as the “friend of the poor.” In 2008 he was elected president of Paraguay, but impeached in 2012 in what neighboring countries called a “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/world/americas/senates-vote-ousts-paraguay-president-after-clash.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FLugo%20M%C3%A9ndez%2C%20Fernando&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=timestopics&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=late">constitutional coup d’état</a>.”</p> <p>Why did this generation rise to prominence in Latin America? There are numerous reasons. For one, in the post-World War II period, some like Houtart in Belgium were radicalized by the plight of the European working class and challenged by its irreligiosity to find new ways of articulating and identifying with the poor. This experience spread to Latin America almost accidentally, for the simple reason that Europe was oversupplied with priests and Latin America needed more of them; knowingly or not, Latin America imported radicalized priests in significant numbers. Latin American priests also studied in Europe, absorbing radical thinking. These influences played out in societies dominated by the Catholic faith.</p> <p>But the larger reasons were twofold: first, the abject poverty of the Latin American majority which even the Vatican could no longer overlook; and second, the rise of oppressive military regimes and bitter political revolutions in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. The felt need for liberation among the poor, the marginalized and indigenous peoples was as palpable as it was necessary. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the struggle for liberation was very real.</p> <p>Those days are gone. Democracy has returned to much of Latin America, as well as a more pragmatic form of social democracy, and liberation theology has lost some of its revolutionary raison d’être. In <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Called-Freedom-Changing-Liberation-Theology/dp/1606088017">his open and honest postmortem</a> on the movement, the Belgian-Latin American <a href="http://en.mercopress.com/2011/03/29/jose-comblin-one-of-the-liberation-theology-ideologues-dies-in-brazil">José Comblin</a> (who died in 2011) admits that in many ways the liberationists misinterpreted the life experience of the Latin American poor.</p> <p>While they focused on rural peasants they overlooked migration to the cities. They also missed the mood of the <em>campesinos’</em> popular religiosity, which trended strongly towards the Protestant and Pentecostal churches. And they ignored the desire of the poor to become consumers. “The Catholics opted for the poor,” as the saying goes, but “the poor opted for the markets.”</p> <p>Hence, liberation theology was but a moment. It was a particular theo-political response to a specific set of circumstances—a generation’s rebellion against grinding poverty in the killing fields of revolutionary Latin America. But the rich theology of the liberationists endures as a challenge to every church tradition. Their analysis of the causes of poverty and how it is structured into prevailing global systems—recently articulated by Houtart in his 2011 manifesto <em><a href="http://www.cetri.be/IMG/pdf/From_common_goods_to_the_common_good_of_humanity_EN.pdf">From ‘Common Goods’ to the ‘Common Good of Humanity’</a></em>—challenges every church to open its eyes to the cold, hard analysis that’s required to grasp the changing world around them.</p> <p>Is there anything else the rest of the world can learn from the liberationists?</p> <p>In the West, the Protestant, Anglo-European North and the Catholic, Iberian South produced vastly different socio-political traditions, even though they share in common a white settler history of slave-holding, the suppression of indigenous peoples, and capitalist class exploitation. If the South trends social-democratic and struggles against powerful conservative elites, the North trends liberal, towards laissez faire capitalism and expressive individualism. As it was framed in Latin America, liberation theology could never succeed in the North.</p> <p>Nevertheless, it has many lessons to teach. The first lies in its consciousness—its willingness to flip the social script from catering to elites to privileging the poor. Liberation theology was never only about theo-politics and revolution. It was also about overcoming alienation: the alienation that separates human beings from each other, people from the Earth, Western from pre-Western forms of life, and alienated psyches from transcendence. It taught ordinary people to perceive the reality of their own circumstance—to <em>conscientize</em> themselves, as the liberationists put it—through their own self-reflection, so that they were free to construct a social reality that resisted the powers of the age.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Secondly, we can learn from its methodology, simple yet profound: “See–Judge–Act.” That is, live in the concrete world. Describe reality as it is, not simply as theory tells us. But also judge reality from the horizon of a reconciled humanity, and act accordingly to bring that reality about. The liberationists put a lot of time into analysis, and that let them tell, in great detail, the hard truth that the world we have made is grinding others into the dust, and that this must stop, as much for our own salvation as for the wellbeing of others.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Third, we might even learn from its mistakes. To overlook popular religiosity—because intellectual and religious elites aren’t interested in the daily lives of the faithful, or because wealthy city dwellers forget rural life and laugh off its traditions, or because the successful classes denigrate the struggling classes and blame them for their own suffering—is to leave large segments of society without the material, intellectual, and spiritual resources to find their way in the world.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Lastly, we might learn to take our own churches more seriously. The liberationists believed in spiritual community, life-giving fellowship, and historical church structures to hold them together more than any religious movement that I’ve come across. They believed in a “<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Ecclesiogenesis-Base-Communities-Reinvent-Church-ebook/dp/B009WPZYUU/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1508299179&amp;sr=8-7&amp;keywords=leonardo+boff">new way of being church</a>”—confident that the social power of faith can liberate societies as easily as it can oppress them.</p> <p>Since the end of Soviet-style socialism in 1989, ‘alter-globalization’ rather than ‘liberation’ has come to define the radical imagination, but the problems of poverty and oppression persist—as does the possibility that we might draw again on the theo-political resources provided by a remarkable community of radical priests to inspire a new generation of alter-globalist activists and theologians.&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/susan-rakoczy/best-kept-secret-of-catholic-church%E2%80%94its-social-teachings">The best kept secret of the Catholic Church—its social teachings</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/will-left-ever-get-religion">Will the left ever get religion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/susan-rakoczy/is-pope-francis-ecofeminist">Is Pope Francis an ecofeminist?</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 liberation theology religion and social transformation Gregory Leffel Activism Love and Spirituality Sun, 22 Oct 2017 23:02:36 +0000 Gregory Leffel 114159 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Head, heart and hands: 25 years of Schumacher College https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>All students are encouraged to be creative and to care for others. Cleverness should be the servant of wisdom.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AndreaKuhn2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Close-up of an indigenous woman's hands together, Chimborazo, Ecuador. Credit: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/closeup-indigenous-womans-hands-together-chimborazo-304214663?src=Kz32oZEZaWwrHR2nZHhijw-1-0">Shutterstock.com</a>, via <a href="https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/courses/short-courses/wounded-healer">Schumacher College</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>“This is not like any other place that I have studied in,” says Pauline Steisel, a 23-year old post graduate student from Belgium, as she chops carrots in a steamy kitchen with several of her fellow students.</p> <p>“I did not expect to learn so much here about myself, about others, about sharing learning and working with others. It’s like learning about life,” she adds. Pauline has only been in Schumacher College for a few weeks but already the transformation has begun.</p> <p>Set in the grounds of the historic <a href="http://www.dartington.org/">Dartington Hall</a> in rural south west England, the college has gained an international reputation as much for its pioneering approach to student life as for its innovative courses. Students experience what is described by some as ‘deep immersion’ as they explore themes around ecology, economics and spirituality, while sharing the responsibilities and the struggles of living together as a community.</p> <p>One of the college’s founders, <a href="https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/news/food-for-your-soul-an-interview-with-satish-kuma">Satish Kumar</a>, believes that this approach has lifelong benefits: “We are not just in a pursuit of knowledge but also of wisdom,” says the former Jain monk and now peace activist:</p><blockquote><p>“Community learning is learning in a collective way with a collective consciousness and collective ideas, but it’s also about shared tasks, working with one another. We are learning for ourselves, for self-discovery, but this learning is not to have a big status. It’s about serving society, the earth and each other.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>The college follows the principles of ‘head, heart, hands’ in its approach to education. All students, whatever they study, are encouraged to be creative and to care for others.</p> <p>“Some students who come here do not know how to boil an egg when they arrive,” says Satish. “We are teaching them how to be self-sustaining humans; how to grow food, how to cook, how to live.”</p> <p>This concept of multi-faceted learning stretches back far beyond Schumacher’s inception in the early 1990s. It is but one of the many pioneering projects that have grown out of what became known as “<a href="http://www.baacorsham.co.uk/images/dartington.pdf">the Dartington Experiment</a>.” </p> <p>Almost a century ago, <a href="https://unbound.com/books/angel-dorothy">Dorothy</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Knight_Elmhirst">Leonard Elmhirst</a> bought the crumbling Dartington Hall which is set within a large estate of fields, forest and farm buildings. </p> <p>Close to the wilderness of Dartmoor National Park and the Devon coastline, it has an extraordinary history dating back over 1,000 years, being mentioned in the Royal Charter of 833AD and at one point owned by two of the wives of Henry VIII.&nbsp; </p> <p>By the time the Elmhirsts bought it in 1925 it needed vast amounts of money for restoration. Fortunately, thanks to Dorothy’s wealth, their pockets were deep.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Under the guidance and inspiration of Indian Poet and philosopher <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1913/tagore-bio.html">Rabindranath Tagore</a> they launched a progressive school with a commitment to multi-dimensional learning. Students were as likely to learn how to fix a car engine as to read Chekhov.&nbsp; </p> <p>Even today, the list of achievements of Tagore, who came from Bengal, would be regarded as extraordinary. But in 1920’s Britain recognition for someone who came from the Indian subcontinent was almost unheard of.</p><p>He was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for literature and was also a fine artist who exhibited in Paris. Many of his beliefs around education, ecology and women’s rights were way ahead of their time. </p> <p>Leonard Elmhirst, a vicar’s son from Worsbrough in Yorkshire, had met Tagore while working in India, and introduced him to his wife, the American social activist <a href="https://unbound.com/books/angel-dorothy">Dorothy Whitney Straight</a>.&nbsp; She had been very involved in women’s trade unions in the US and was also instrumental in setting up the liberal-progressive magazine <em><a href="https://newrepublic.com/">The New Republic</a></em> and the <a href="https://www.newschool.edu/">New School for Social Research</a> in New York City, both of which still exist today.&nbsp;</p> <p>It was this spirit, in part, which fuelled the ambitions of Dartington. The Elmhirsts believed deeply in the importance of living what they termed ‘a many-sided life,’ but they also wanted Dartington to become a place where conventional wisdom would be challenged.</p> <p>As a result, the Hall became a beacon of enlightened social and political exploration, attracting iconic figures such as the writer <a href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Virginia-Woolf">Virginia Woolf</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock">James Lovelock</a> the environmentalist, and the potter <a href="https://www.leachpottery.com/history/">Bernard Leach</a>. </p> <p>Dartington was the birthplace of <a href="http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/">the Arts Council</a>, one of the UK’s foremost funding bodies for support and encouragement of the arts, and the country’s first performing arts school.&nbsp; The estate was also home to the ‘progressive’ <a href="http://www.dartingtonhallschool.co.uk/">Dartington Hall School</a> whose alumni include <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Young,_Baron_Young_of_Dartington">Lord Michael Young</a>, who drafted the Labour Party’s election manifesto in 1945 and went on to found numerous progressive institutions including the consumer magazine <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Which%3F">Which?</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_University">Open University</a>, and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Extension_College">National Extension College</a>.</p> <p>In 1951 the International Summer School was launched which still maintains its international reputation for offering amateur musicians the opportunity to perform with world class talent such as <a href="http://www.notablebiographies.com/Co-Da/Copland-Aaron.html">Aaron Copland</a>, <a href="http://www.ravishankar.org/">Ravi Shankar</a> and <a href="http://danielbarenboim.com/">Daniel Barenboim</a>. </p> <p>Yet despite these achievements, part of what makes Dartington special, according to Jon Rae, the director of <a href="http://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/">Schumacher College</a>, is a willingness to change.</p> <p>He describes it as a “cauldron” where diverse people come together with an openness to explore new possibilities.</p> <p>It was this melting pot that was partly responsible for the development of the college itself, created in 1991 to crystallize emerging ideas about ecology and sustainability even though they ran counter to the legacy of the Elmhirsts who had favoured more intensive farming.</p> <p>“I think what drew people here was the very fact that then, most higher education focussed on dominion, a separation of ourselves from nature,” says Jon. “That is alienating for many people."</p> <blockquote><p>"The paradigm we are exploring and cultivating is an ecological world view which is not concerned with dominion over nature but integrity <em>in</em> nature. We live in a tightly interconnected but highly fractured nuclear-armed world where we must find ways to get along. We must nurture our empathy and biophilia and acquire the art and science of systems-thinking or the quality of mind that discerns the ‘patterns that connect.’”</p></blockquote> <p>The zoologist and ecologist <a href="https://www.humansandnature.org/stephan-harding">Stephan Harding</a> was one of the founder members of Schumacher College. He thinks this holistic approach has played a key part in the success of the college and the wider ethos of Dartington, fearing that too much of modern society has become a slave to the intellectual:</p> <blockquote><p>“What we are doing here is trying to take the best insights of western culture. Western culture has made us clever but it has not made us wise. Cleverness should be the servant of wisdom. Naturally, vocational training is the first level. But here we go deeper, to give the person an understanding of deep meaning in nature and reality. Tagore is the spirit in which we approach this understanding of wholeness.”</p></blockquote> <p>The college continues to grow and has developed an international reputation, attracting students from over 90 countries worldwide to its unique form of nature-based education. It runs three masters programs as well as short courses related to ecology, sustainability, spirituality and leadership.</p> <p>For some, the opportunity for communal living is a particular bonus when they are so far from home; for others it can be a life-changing experience.</p> <p>“For each of us, and collectively in society and between societies, we are forever choreographing the dance between freedom for the individual and fairness with others and all life,” says Jon:&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>“We hope that participants move on ever more connected with themselves, with others and with the natural world, resilient with deep pools of passion, love, empathy and curiosity, and armed with the tools, insights and inspiration so that they can better marry spirit with practice for a life enriching world.” </p></blockquote> <p>Today, the Dartington Experiment continues to evolve and adapt amid an ever changing social and environmental climate, yet the spirit of Tagore remains. Satish Kumar insists it is essential if we are to embrace the challenges that face the future of the planet.</p> <blockquote><p>“Spirituality is not a way of religion, it is about how to develop a sense of relationship and compassion, a unity of life and humility. We want to build on our heritage—all these people who have come before, from Bernard Leach to Tagore. We are taking their spirit and making it relevant for our time.”</p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/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/kelly-teamey-udi-mandel/are-eco-versities-future-for-higher-education">Are eco-versities the future for higher education?</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 Intentional communities Andrea Kuhn Activism Culture Sun, 15 Oct 2017 23:00:02 +0000 Andrea Kuhn 113887 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lessons from the front lines of anti-colonial pipeline resistance https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/james-rowe-mike-simpson/lessons-from-front-lines-of-anti-colonial-pipeline-resistance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ceremony, mindfulness and healing practices play a key role in radical social movements.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/lessons-front-lines-anti-colonial-unistoten-pipeline-resistance/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JamesRoweMikeSimpson1.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">A bridge leads to the entrance of the Unist’ot’en territory in British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Jeff Nicholls. All rights reserved.</p><p>The Standing Rock standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline was a reminder that colonization, and resistance to it, both exist in the present tense. Fossil fuel pipelines that despoil indigenous lands and waters have become key flashpoints in long-standing anti-colonial resistance.</p><p>An important precursor and inspiration for the Standing Rock camp is an indigenous occupation in northern British Columbia, Canada. For the past eight years, the&nbsp;<a href="http://unistoten.camp/">Unist’ot’en clan</a>&nbsp;have reoccupied their traditional territory. When the camp began in 2009, seven pipelines had been proposed to cross their territory, as well as their water source, the salmon-bearing Morice River. But thanks to Unist’ot’en resistance, oil and gas companies have been blocked from building new fossil fuel infrastructure. The lesser known but wildly successful Unist’ot’en encampment holds crucial lessons for anti-pipeline and anti-colonial organizers across North America, or Turtle Island, as many indigenous nations call it.</p><p>We visited the occupation this summer. Upon arriving, visitors must undergo a border-crossing protocol. There is only one way in and out of Unist’ot’en territory—a bridge that crosses the Morice River. Before being allowed to cross, we were asked where we came from, whether we worked for the government or the fossil fuel industry, and how our visit could benefit the Unist’ot’en.</p><p>We explained that we are both settlers, people living on and benefiting from indigenous lands. We also expressed our willingness to help in whatever ways were needed during our stay, such as kitchen duty, gardening and construction. Finally, we shared our commitment to decolonization and climate justice, and our appreciation for how Unist’ot’en land defense accomplishes both; it returns indigenous lands to indigenous peoples while blocking fossil fuel infrastructure that threatens the entire human estate. After a short consultation, clan members welcomed us to leave Canada and cross into Unist’ot’en territory.</p><p><strong>Five pipelines already defeated.</strong></p><p>The Unist’ot’en occupation has already contributed to the cancellation of five pipelines, including Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project—a multibillion-dollar development that would have pumped bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to Canada’s Pacific coast. The two proposed incursions onto Unist’ot’en territory that remain are both fracked gas pipelines: Chevron’s Pacific Trails and TransCanada’s Coast Gaslink.</p><p>Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson explained to us that the tireless work of supporters, including indigenous people from other nations along with settler allies, is a central reason why the camp has endured and grown, knocking pipeline proposals over one by one.</p><p>Despite these successes, Huson has been struck by the exhaustion of frontline occupiers—not just on the Unist’ot’en front line, but elsewhere, including Standing Rock. Since starting their occupation, the Unist’ot’en have hosted an annual action camp for supporters wanting to learn about the struggle. Huson dedicated this year’s action camp to the theme of healing. As she explained to us, “the health of the people is vital to keep the resistance moving forward. We believe that if we heal the people they will be healthy to make decisions to heal the land.”</p><p><strong>The action camp as a place of healing.</strong></p><p>This year’s action camp featured workshops on burnout, healing from trauma, indigenous approaches to conflict resolution, and, on the first day, an exercise in awareness.</p><p>This first activity was facilitated by Huson and her partner Smogelgem (a hereditary chief of the neighboring Likhts’amisyu Clan). During this exercise, we were blindfolded, spun around and then guided by a partner to a tree of their choosing. “Be with the tree, make a connection” were the simple instructions. After our partners returned us to our starting points, we removed our blindfolds and went searching for our newfound evergreen friend. Every single participant found their tree. Smogelgem then explained that the land is living and breathing. We are always in relationship to it, but our relations to the land can be intentionally deepened, so that we come to experience trees, water and animals as friends, even kin.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JamesRoweMikeSimpson2.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The pithouse on Unist’ot’en territory. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Jeff Nicholls. All rights reserved.</p><p>After completing the workshop, we walked to a traditional pithouse that was recently built on the precise GPS coordinates of Chevron’s proposed pipeline. Huson and Smogelgem plan to live in the pithouse once it is complete (and outfitted with comfortable furnishings and energy-efficient lighting and appliances). Their vision is for more Wet’suwet’en people to join them back on the land, living and renewing their culture. The Wet’suwet’en Nation is comprised of five clans, including the Unist’ot’en people.</p><p>Once the two remaining pipeline threats are defeated, Huson and Smogelgem will transition the camp into a full-time healing and cultural center for indigenous people recovering from the ongoing trauma of colonization. Indeed, the largest structure at the camp, a three-story building that includes a dining hall, industrial kitchen, and counseling spaces, is called “The Healing Centre.”</p><p>The Unist’ot’en Camp has always had a dual purpose: resisting pipelines while nurturing Wet’suwet’en culture. Like the water protectors at Standing Rock, the Unist’ot’en Clan has been careful to clarify that their settlement is not a protest. Rather, it is an occupation and assertion of their traditional territory—a site from which to resist further colonial extraction, while also practicing a culture and economy that is inseparable from the land.</p><p>According to Huson, “our people’s belief is that we are part of the land. The land is not separate from us. The land sustains us. And if we don’t take care of her, she won’t be able to sustain us.”</p><p>Huson explained to us that she lived away from her people’s territory for 20 years due to colonization. “I lived on reservation, got educated and worked as an economic development officer for 14 years,” she said. “Once I decolonized and reconnected to my territory, I felt my spirit come alive. When family visit they don’t want to leave.” She wants to share with others the healing that she has experienced by being back out on her people’s land.</p><p><strong>Indigenous resurgence and embodied social change.</strong></p><p>The Unist’ot’en Camp is exemplary of what indigenous scholars such as Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Jeff Corntassel (Nishnaabeg and Cherokee ancestry, respectively) call “indigenous resurgence.”&nbsp;<a href="http://decolonization.org/index.php/des/article/view/18627/15550">According to Corntassel</a>: “Being indigenous today means struggling to reclaim and regenerate one’s relational place-based existence by challenging the ongoing destructive forces of colonization.” He notes that ceremony is a key way to “reconnect to the natural world.”</p><p>There are deep resonances between indigenous resurgence and the focus on ceremony, mindfulness and healing practices that are emerging in radical social movements across Turtle Island. Settler activists are finding that&nbsp;<a href="http://escholarship.org/uc/item/46n2q8mg">different healing practices</a>, such as meditation and yoga, can help reduce burnout, heal the traumas caused by oppression and increase organizational effectiveness. Daily meditations, for example, played an&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/mindfulness-and-the-art-of-social-movement-maintenance/">important role at Occupy Wall Street</a>. These resonances between indigenous resurgence and the growing social movement interest in non-Western healing practices have the potential to facilitate new solidarities between indigenous activists and settler allies.</p><p>For example, Hajime Harold is a teacher, activist and longtime supporter of Unist’ot’en land defense. During this year’s action camp, he led daily exercises in qigong, a traditional Chinese healing system that integrates breathing, meditation and physical postures. As a Japanese Canadian, Harold experienced racism growing up in Kelowna, British Columbia. These painful experiences sensitized him to injustices, including those related to colonialism. His heart has been opened, too, he said, by learning qigong, which has increased his capacity to act in solidarity with those whose challenges are different from his. For Harold, qigong helps practitioners better connect with themselves, other people and the earth. He experiences qigong as resonant with the indigenous traditional teachings that he is familiar with.</p><p>Similarly, scholar Michael Yellow Bird (from the Sahnish and Hidatsa Nations) sees indigenous ceremonial practices as aligned with mindfulness meditation, and crucial to&nbsp;<a href="https://vimeo.com/86995336">what he terms “neurodecolonization,”</a>&nbsp;or transforming the embodied traumas that colonialism leaves in its wake.</p><p><strong>Building settler solidarity on stolen native land.</strong></p><p>Despite the similarities between indigenous resurgence and mind-body practices of settler social movements, there is still a vital element of decolonization that is regularly missed by settler activists: land. To whom does the land rightfully belong? Who has decision-making power over it?</p><p>Over lunch at the Unist’ot’en Camp, indigenous scholar Edward Valandra (from the Oceti Sakowin Oyate) asked us a simple question: “What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed each morning?” We immediately thought of our various morning rituals (meditation, yoga, a cup of coffee). Valandra patiently watched as we pondered his question; then he leaned in. “I can tell you exactly what you do each morning. You step out of bed onto stolen native land.”</p><p>The regular failure of settler activists to grapple with the land question means that even radical social movements are constantly at risk of reinforcing colonial structures and social relations. Consider Occupy Wall Street. The different occupations that sprang up across the continent in 2011 to protest profound disparities in wealth rarely acknowledged that they were happening on already occupied land.</p><p>Moreover, as scholars Eve Tuck (member of the Aleut indigenous community) and K. Wayne Yang have&nbsp;<a href="http://decolonization.org/index.php/des/article/view/18630">argued</a>, “the ideal of ‘redistribution of wealth’ camouflages how much of that wealth is land, Native land.” Without a focus on the repatriation of land to indigenous peoples, a seemingly radical call for redistribution can quickly become a continuation of colonial dispossession.</p><p>Decolonization may feel unsettling to some, as it means the return of land and governing authority and the renunciation of settler privileges. Nevertheless, indigenous-led front lines from Standing Rock to Unist’ot’en are drawing a growing number of settlers who grieve colonial injustices, feel anxious about climate destabilization and crave a deeper connection to the land upon which they live.</p><p> Julia Michaelis is the camp’s chef. If food critics visited front lines, the kitchen at Unist’ot’en would be brimming with five-star reviews. Julia explained to us that she loved being at camp because every step she takes while there—from chopping onions to facilitating nonviolent direct action trainings—is in the service of decolonization. For settlers, relating to the magnitude of colonial injustice can be overwhelming. But at a front line like the Unist’ot’en camp, a simple chore like washing dishes is transformed into an everyday act of decolonization.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JamesRoweMikeSimpson3.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A bunkhouse at the Unist’ot’en camp. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Jeff Nicholls. All rights reserved.</p><p>In a blog post about his experiences of healing at the camp, settler activist Will Falk&nbsp;<a href="https://sandiegofreepress.org/2015/02/unistoten-camp-the-best-medicine/">recently reflected</a>&nbsp;on how “every chore, every conversation, every action at the camp comes with a fullness of meaning I have never found anywhere else.” For Falk, this meaning is rooted in the traditional teachings that inform the camp.</p><p><a href="http://unistoten.camp/come-to-camp/healing/">According to Unist’ot’en Clan member Karla Tait</a>, many supporters (both indigenous and settler) have “come out to Unist’ot’en land and found it to be a healing experience, to live on the land and have a connection with the natural world and our teachings.”</p><p>Supporters at the camp are making a connection with Unist’ot’en people, whose ancestors have been in deep relationship with the land since time immemorial. Being in good relations with people whose living traditions emerge from thousands of years of reciprocal relationship with the land allows for a depth of environmental connection, a groundedness on the Earth, that many supporters have never before experienced.</p><p>As environmental educators, we have learned a variety of contemplative exercises designed to deepen human connection to the land and facilitate a desire for stewardship. But we learned at the Unist’ot’en Camp that there is no substitute for the groundedness that comes from being in good relationship with the specific peoples upon whose lands you are living. Developing that relationship means fighting for the restitution of indigenous lands and authority.</p><p><strong>Post-colonialism?</strong></p><p>The Unist’ot’en Camp offers a glimpse into what post-colonial relations between indigenous peoples and settlers could look like on Turtle Island. The land is Wet’suwet’en territory and governed by Wet’suwet’en law and systems of governance, but the camp welcomes visitors of all backgrounds who are keen to respect, abide by and learn from the laws of the land.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JamesRoweMikeSimpson4.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Members and supporters of the Unist’ot’en camp showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Unist’ot’en Camp. All rights reserved.</p><p><a href="http://unistoten.camp/come-to-camp/preparing-for-your-visit/">As stated on the Unist’ot’en website</a>: “People of all races, religions, nationalities, classes, genders, orientations and gender identifications are welcome to support the grassroots Wet’suwet’en people in defending their land.” This connection across difference is practiced actively, a key part of the healing ethos of the camp. Indeed, one of our favorite activities at camp was “Femme Friday,” when everyone was encouraged to wear makeup and nail polish to make the environment more welcoming and celebratory for two-spirit people and genderqueer allies. Indigenous resurgence can look like a hereditary chief in red nail polish.</p><p>After eight years of anti-colonial resistance and the defeat of multiple pipeline projects, the Unist’ot’en Camp is still building momentum. Their winning formula is this: indigenous land governed by indigenous people, with consistent support from settler allies. This approach, deployed at Standing Rock and other&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/09/07/news/indigenous-protesters-build-tiny-homes-path-trans-mountain-pipeline">indigenous-led front lines</a>, is helping to ensure a livable future by stopping the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, while also sowing seeds for a different world—one in which the deep wounds to land and people inflicted by colonialism can finally heal.</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-k-rowe/learning-to-love-us-versus-them-thinking">Learning to love us-versus-them thinking</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 Mike Simpson James K Rowe Transformative nonviolence Activism Love and Spirituality Thu, 12 Oct 2017 23:01:32 +0000 James K Rowe and Mike Simpson 113946 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Your money or your morals: capitalism and fossil fuel divestment https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins-jonathan-busch/your-money-or-your-morals-capitalism-and-fossil- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The divestment movement highlights a set of challenges to the future of capitalism that extend far beyond its unsustainable environmental externalities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JoelMillwardHopkins2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">New York Fossil Fuel Divestment Rally, Manhattan, 27 March 2014. ©Adam Welz for 350.org /0235.jpg. <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/350org/13452251875">Flickr/350.org</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The fossil fuel divestment campaign has become one of the most&nbsp;<a href="http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research-programmes/stranded-assets/SAP-divestment-report-final.pdf">rapidly growing</a>&nbsp;divestment movements in history and has unified an impressive diversity of supporters—from liberal&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/10/california-university-divests-200m-from-coal-and-tar-sands-holdings">Californian universities</a>&nbsp;to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/23/rockefeller-fund-divestment-fossil-fuel-companies-oil-coal-climate-change">Rockefeller’s</a>&nbsp;family trust. But the contradictions between divestment and the logic of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins/neoliberal-psychology">neoliberalism</a>&nbsp;are enduring, and arguments between campaigners and their opponents are typically framed by questions relating to efficiency, feasibility, and the ethics of using fossil fuels. </p> <p>Such questions are <a href="https://www.responsible-investor.com/home/article/whos_right_calpers_or_350org2/">certainly important</a> to ask, but we should also look beyond them, because by doing so we can uncover the deeper ethical contradictions inherent to capitalism which shed important light on strategies for change.</p> <p>Economists and philosophers have long disputed whether capitalism's theoretical potential to harness human self-interest for the greater good of society is a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/25072635?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">virtue or a vice</a>. Many argue that capitalism doesn’t just harness a&nbsp;<em>natural</em>&nbsp;human inclination towards self-interest, but rather&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/17/what-money-cant-buy-michael-sandel-review">systematically cultivates</a>&nbsp;it. Others point to the vast increases in material wealth experienced around the world over the past centuries as all the proof we need of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.jstor.org/stable/24027184">capitalism’s superiority</a>; in this view, debates about the morality of self-interest as the driving force of change become irrelevant.</p> <p>But two particular arguments against divestment demonstrate that capitalism not only cultivates negative moral values, but actively suffocates positive ones as well.</p> <p>The first argument claims that divestment is hypocritical while we continue to depend on fossil fuels for our&nbsp;<a href="https://www.leeds.ac.uk/forstaff/news/article/5170/council_statement_decision_on_fossil_fuel_divestment">day-to-day activities</a>. In short, we are urged not to abandon the companies we rely on.</p> <p>This argument is easily refuted. It is effectively a preference to act&nbsp;<em><a href="https://leedsstaffdivestmentresponse.wordpress.com/extended-response/">consistently unethically rather than inconsistently ethically</a></em>; a difficult position to defend in any context. It also fails to recognise the significant differences that exist between the agency of consumers and investors. Is a smoking addict who is determined to quit obliged to invest their pension in Phillip Morris? Of course not—they are only obliged to pay for their cigarettes. In the same way, our only obligation to fossil fuel companies is that we pay for the fuel we consume.</p> <p>As consumers, our&nbsp;<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259433688_Society_and_a_low-carbon_future_Individual_behaviour_change_or_new_social_values_and_priorities">actions are constrained</a>&nbsp;by factors such as current energy and transport infrastructures, and pressures to conform to environmentally-destructive social norms. But as investors—of personal savings or&nbsp;<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317783724_Reorienting_finance_towards_energy_efficiency_in_the_UK">institutional money</a>—our agency, the choices available to us, and, therefore, our moral responsibility, are radically different. </p> <p>Moreover, the choice of where&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629615300748">capital is invested in the present</a>&nbsp;strongly influences our future capacity for low-carbon living. But by arguing that investments should be guided only by our current, highly-constrained consumption patterns—rather than by moral values that relate to the future well-being of humans and the world around us—opponents of divestment are effectively advocating a position that would lead to a perpetual suffocation of those values. </p> <p>Even more revealing is the fact that those who oppose divestment on the grounds of hypocrisy would make no such accusation were it to be motivated by economic self-interest. Imagine a university that holds shares in ExxonMobil and is also connected to a fossil-fuel dependent national electricity grid (as many are). If the university’s investment manager noticed that returns on the Exxon shares are falling, it’s inconceivable that they would hold onto them—in the face of more lucrative share options—just in case the decision appeared to contradict the university’s electricity supply. Rather, they would simply reinvest in better-performing companies, as they are paid to do. &nbsp;</p> <p>Hence, divestment is considered perfectly legitimate if it is made for reasons related to profit but not to morals. &nbsp;According to the logic of opposition to divestment, the profit-motive is permitted to do things that moral imperatives are not. Not only is profit-seeking rewarded, but morally-motivated actions are ridiculed and opposed.<strong></strong></p> <p>A second revealing argument against divestment is that it leaves more opportunities for&nbsp;less<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/sustainable-finance-the-divestment-approach/"> scrupulous investors</a>&nbsp;because those with more of an environmental conscience abandon the marketplace. A more effective approach, according to the critics, is for activists to become ethical shareholders by using their investments to pressure fossil fuel companies to become&nbsp;<a href="http://theconversation.com/the-guardians-fossil-fuel-divestment-campaign-could-do-more-harm-than-good-39000">part of the solution</a> to climate change.</p> <p>The typical response of pro-divestment campaigners to this argument is that the kind of <a href="http://www.cleanyield.com/talking-hand-engagement-fossil-fuel-companies-offers-little-promise/">shareholder activism</a>&nbsp;it recommends isn’t appropriate in this case. Fossil fuel companies aren't like those who produce clothes or food or electronics: the impacts of fossil fuels don’t just arise from the ways in which the supply chain currently happens to operate; rather, they are inseparable from the products themselves. </p> <p>Lobbying a company to improve wages and working conditions is one thing; lobbying them to stop selling their primary product is another.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/15/it-is-impossible-todays-big-oil-companies-adapt-climate-change-jonathon-porritt">Past experience</a>&nbsp;suggests that it is&nbsp;therefore <a href="https://shareaction.org/whats-the-german-for-divestment/">very unlikely</a>&nbsp;that shareholder engagement could be successful in the case of fossil fuels (although a more aggressive ‘<a href="https://www.ipe.com/analysis/long-term-matters/long-term-matters-climate-change/10020435.article">forceful stewardship</a>’ approach might have greater chance of success).</p> <p>Either way, when such debates become stalled on a choice between strategies it is easy to overlook the way in which moral values are suffocated. From the perspective of those who oppose divestment, market logic determines that it is better for investors to work within the norms of the system, even to achieve moral goals. One divestment skeptic puts it particularly bluntly, arguing that “<a href="http://theconversation.com/the-guardians-fossil-fuel-divestment-campaign-could-do-more-harm-than-good-39000">moral outrage is not as effective as capitalism</a>.”</p> <p>Are such arguments merely pragmatic—a &nbsp;call to take a rational, consequential moral stance rather than an emotional, categorical one?</p> <p>In considering this question, it’s worth recognising that this argument sounds uncomfortably like those made in the <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/capitalism-and-slavery/">early days of capitalism</a>, when profits depended upon&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/new-abolitionism/">slavery rather than fossil fuels</a></span>. Owning slaves was often justified via the argument that, if released, they could be in an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history/2015/09/slavery_myths_seven_lies_half_truths_and_irrelevancies_people_trot_out_about.html">even worse situation</a>, left at the mercy of the new exploitative industrialist class. Therefore, it was better to keep hold of slaves and treat them slightly better; a position which, at the time, may have been considered rational in moral terms by some. However, a transformation in values since the abolition of slavery has shown it to be indefensible.</p> <p>Capitalism has always strongly resisted any challenge to the energy source that lies at the heart of its profits, whether that was from human-energy in the form of slaves or fossil fuel-energy today. While benign changes around the periphery of production are tolerated reluctantly, actions that threaten to achieve more fundamental changes are deemed to have dangerous, unintended consequences, or are dismissed as having no consequences at all. The divestment campaign highlights how the logic of capitalism achieves this goal, in part, by declaring moral inclinations to be obsolete whenever they threaten to be transformational. Those campaigning for divestment must therefore prepare to be ridiculed with accusations of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/09/10-myths-about-fossil-fuel-divestment-put-to-the-sword">hypocrisy</a>, <a href="http://theconversation.com/the-guardians-fossil-fuel-divestment-campaign-could-do-more-harm-than-good-39000">naivety</a> and a misguided sense of <span><a href="http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/envi-economics/2014/10/divestment_in_resource_and_fos.html">moral superiority</a></span>.</p> <p>Such accusations are especially harsh given that most serious campaigners don’t believe that divestment is an <a href="https://www.responsible-investor.com/home/article/rt_div/">effective tactic on its own</a>. The general consensus is that it is <a href="https://gofossilfree.org/what-is-fossil-fuel-divestment/">primarily a moral and political strategy</a>, not an economic one. But it is also crucial to recognise that not all opponents of divestment are CEOs, industry lobbyists and Wall Street bankers who are set to profit directly from fossil fuel companies going forward. They may also include people who, if asked openly, wish for the same future as the average environmental campaigner, but have had their own moral inclinations suffocated by <a href="http://www.zero-books.net/books/capitalist-realism">capitalist realism</a> and the cynical view of human motivation that is the foundation of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins/neoliberal-psychology">neoliberal psychology</a>.</p> <p>The divestment movement highlights a set of challenges to the future of capitalism that extend far beyond its unsustainable environmental externalities. With considerable clarity, it shows the ways in which market logic not only cultivates action that is led by calculated self-interest, but also actively suffocates <a href="http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143812">intrinsic human drivers</a> towards questions of <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674088641">fairness and equality</a>. </p> <p>Fortunately, these values have evolved over <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674088641">tens of thousands of years</a> and, despite these latest attempts at suffocation, they will not die easily. The challenge—of particular importance for the divestment movement—is to move towards a society in which our morals are worth at least as much as our money, and ideally much, much more.</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/arianne-shaffer-fatima-van-hattum/if-macarthur-foundation-wants-low-carbon-economy-wh">If the MacArthur Foundation wants a low carbon economy, why is it investing in fossil fuels and ignoring grassroots action?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins/neoliberal-psychology">Neoliberal psychology</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/james-k-rowe/puzzle-of-low-oil-prices-has-race-to-beat-carbon-bubble-already-started">The puzzle of low oil prices—has the race to beat the carbon bubble already started?</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 divestment Jonathan Busch Joel Millward-Hopkins The role of money Activism Economics Sun, 08 Oct 2017 22:31:43 +0000 Joel Millward-Hopkins and Jonathan Busch 113745 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The drama of the thinking heart https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/karen-malpede/drama-of-thinking-heart <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Each play relies upon the witnessing abilities of others to set free the imaginative forces of resistance.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KarenMalpede.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption"><em>Extreme Whether,&nbsp;</em>written and directed by Karen Malpede with George Bartenieff, &nbsp;Di Zhu, Ellen Fisk, Jeff McCarthy and Kathleen Purcell.&nbsp;Photo (c) Beatriz Schiller. All rights reserved. </p> <p>For the past twenty-two years, <a href="http://theaterthreecollaborative.org/whats-new">Theater Three Collaborative</a> has been producing ecofeminist-pacifist plays in New York and Europe, on a shoestring and against all odds. Now a book<a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/P/bo27342311.html">, <em>Plays in Time: The Beekeeper’s Daughter, Another Life, Prophecy, Extreme Whether</em></a><em>,</em> documents this unlikely journey through four scripts, seven critical commentaries and 32 production photos.</p> <p>Our plays are character and story-driven, creating worlds into which the audience enters in order to experience the transformations of characters caught-up in the genocidal histories of modern life. Characters are not immune from fate—they might be raped or tortured, have committed a terrible war crime, been lied about and censored—but they resist the implications of their fates and find the resources to change their story through deep encounters with others who act as empathetic witnesses. Each play is full of moments of such turnings from despair to strength, and each relies upon the witnessing abilities of others to set free the imaginative forces of resistance. </p> <p>I’ve titled my preface to <em>Plays in Time</em> “The Drama of the Thinking Heart,” and written there that these four plays are meant to “bring us to our senses. <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/P/bo27342311.html"></a>Poetry is wild nature produced by human nature, a song between a living cosmos and an ever-emergent self. This is why preservation of life in all its sentient forms is the work of the dramatic poet and why the poet must be fiercely engaged in the exploration, creation and manifestation of justice on this earth and for earth’s creatures.”</p> <p>All theater, but especially a poetic-political theater, is about breath, language and body, since these are its tools and affects. As an actor’s breathing deepens, the language enters more fully into their bodies and this intensity transfers to the audience. Understanding of one’s own plight clarifies, memories rouse, and insights gather. We are alone but sit together in community. As each character’s stories touch individual members of the audience, a collective experience is generated.</p> <p>“The body keeps the score,” says trauma specialist <a href="http://besselvanderkolk.net/index.html">Besel van der Kolk</a>, meaning that the ills we suffer or inflict stay with us, determining our mental and physical health, blocking our way. The potential of theater is to reach inside the body to touch or dislodge a source of understanding or of pain. Sometimes in our work we see this happen. </p> <p><em><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/P/bo27342311.html">The Beekeeper’s Daughter,</a> </em>for example, is about a victim of the systematic rapes of Bosnian women who finds healing with the help of some eccentric American ex-pats. It was performed in New York while the war in Bosnia continued. The word got out and Bosnian and Croatian refugees to the United States came nightly; their welcome to their new country was enhanced by a play that told their stories to Americans in ways everyone might understand. Several refugee women and their families became our friends, sharing meals and holidays.</p> <p>Similarly, I was working with Palestinian-American writer and actor<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Najla_Said"> Najla Said</a> when she became trapped in Beirut by the Israeli bombardment in 2006. I used her emails to help craft the characters I was already writing for her in <em><a href="http://theaterthreecollaborative.org/prophecy">Prophecy</a></em>, viewing her correspondence as an aesthetic gift that allowed me a better understanding of the terror of war. In her own commentary on the play<em>, </em>Najla writes: “Somehow she had taken everything I had said and expressed and created three different women for me to play…We never spoke of it, but I think Karen knows quite clearly what she did for me…: she allowed me to process my trauma through art.”</p> <p><em><a href="http://www.theateronline.com/pb.xzc?PK=36484">Another Life,</a> </em>about the US torture program, begins on September 11, 2001. The mogul Handel watches the towers implode from his Soho loft and plots how to profit from the coming wars—he will found Deepwater, a private contracting firm based on Eric Prince’s Blackwater. While the play is fiction, its torture stories are real. </p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176132/tomgram%3A_rebecca_gordon%2C_exhibit_one_in_any_future_american_war_crimes_trial/">Abu Zubaydah,</a> a high profile detainee, is still imprisoned in Guantanamo after being brutally tortured at several ‘black sites.’ Zubaydah lied to stop the pain, for that is how torture ‘works;’ ‘bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were in cahoots,’ he said. Emad Khydayir Shahuth Al-Janabi was just a citizen, picked up at random in one of the nighttime house raids, held naked and chained in Abu Ghraib. A transcript of his testimony was given to me by journalist Donovan Webster, working with lawyer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_L._Burke">Susan Burk</a> who was suing Caci and other private contracting firms for the torture of Iraqi citizens. The testimony is used verbatim: “I was beaten in front of my wife and children…I was forced inside a wooden crate…slammed into a wall…told I would be executed…I said I know nothing. I know nothing to say. I have done nothing.” </p> <p>We workshopped the play at the National Theatre of Kosovo, where our English-speaking Kosovar actors each had a private story of the torture of a family member or themselves to share from their own recent war. </p> <p>In New York, we learned from the actor who played Handel’s daughter that her grandfather had been tortured in China by the Japanese. A recent Iraqi refugee acted the role of Abdul, the undocumented Egyptian cab driver whom Handel makes his personal slave. He had seen the brutality of the American occupation up close as the tanks rolled into Baghdad, and had dodged bullets in the streets, caught in a firefight between insurgents and invaders. He had come through Egypt to the United States, and found in this play about the occupation and the torture camps an opportunity to speak his truth. He has since married an American human rights worker who first saw him on-stage in <em>Another Life</em>. They have a child. </p> <p>Ours is a completely improbable theater endeavor for New York in the age of hyper-gentrification, neo-liberalism, and endless war. I like to say our audience is comprised of people who long for the sort of live, communal experience that only the theater can provide, but who have given up on theater in general because it no longer speaks to them. We often surround our productions with what we call ‘Festivals of Conscience.’ These are post-play conversations between experts, activists and audiences. They allow audiences to hear about specific initiatives or to gain a deeper understanding of the issues. The Festivals of Conscience link the intensely private yet communal experience of watching a poetic play to a public dialogue about the redress of social wrongs.</p> <p>When <em>Prophecy </em>premiered in London in 2008, we hosted a packed post-play conversation between Israeli author <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilan_Papp%C3%A9">Ilan Pappé</a> and Oxford Professor <a href="https://www.seh.ox.ac.uk/users/karmanabulsi">Karma Nabulsi</a>. When the play opened in New York two years later, antiwar activists and thinkers including Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Laura Flanders and David Swanson dialogued with our audiences, which included theater parties from the ACLU, Peace Action New York, Code Pink and the War Resisters League. Pre-selling these blocks of tickets allowed us to fund the play. </p> <p>We opened <em>Another Life </em>in New York on the weekend of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, preceded by a panel of four lawyers who had been representing Guantanamo detainees for years. Each one, in turn, remarked, “Our justice system is broken.” </p> <p>Every subsequent performance of <em>Another Life </em>has been followed by talks from human rights and anti-torture activists who lamented the lack of concern among Americans. In fact, over 50 per cent of the American public believes that torture is “all right to keep us safe.” <a href="http://www.reed.edu/poli_sci/faculty/rejali/">Darius Rejali,</a> author of <em>Torture and Democracy</em> who collected these statistics, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhQA3l-XGUQ">explained his research</a> to audiences after the opening night in Brooklyn. He compared <em>Another Life</em> to “Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” because “it captures the story of a decade in just six characters.” </p> <p>The first public reading of <em><a href="http://theaterthreecollaborative.org/extreme-whether">Extreme Whether</a></em> took place in 2013, in the week in which <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hansen">Dr. James Hansen</a>, America’s pre-eminent climate scientist, resigned his post at NASA so that he would be free to sue the government. He is an expert witness in the “Our Children’s Future” lawsuit being brought by minors in defense of the planet—his granddaughter Sophie among them. Hansen had already read the play, and had given me one note about it: “warming must be held <em>far below</em> two degrees Celsius.” He came to watch and speak to an audience of 150 people, and returned for the play’s opening in a staged production at Theater for the New City in the fall of 2014, just after the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Climate_March">People’s Climate March</a> had brought 400,000 onto the streets. </p> <p>Hansen’s talks, like most of those I’ve mentioned, are available<a href="http://www.theaterthreecollaborative.org/extreme-whether"> on our website.</a> <em>Extreme Whether </em>will be revived at <em><a href="http://lamama.org/">LaMama</a></em> in New York from March 1-18, 2018. Its story of the censorship of climate science is ever more pertinent today. </p> <p>So it is that we try in every way that we can to bridge the artistic and the social-political experience, for we believe that art is meant to give us strength and insight, and to mobilize our feelings and our thoughts so that we can bring nuanced understanding, depth and commitment to our activist lives.</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/charlotte-du-cann/under-volcano">Under the volcano</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/siddhartha-bose/no-dogs-no-indians">No Dogs, No Indians</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 A written constitution? Karen Malpede Activism Culture Thu, 05 Oct 2017 19:30:22 +0000 Karen Malpede 113656 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Findhorn: inner listening, outer action https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/thomas-miller/findhorn-inner-listening-outer-action <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">When we turn within, we find life far kinder than it seemed before, and the possibilities far more open.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ThomasMiller.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Part of the Findhorn community in northern Scotland. Credit: Findhorn Foundation. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="normal">In the slanting sunlight of autumn in the north of Scotland, a group of people in gardening clothes sit on a circle of tree stumps, eyes closed. “Tune into which area you would like to work this afternoon,” says Iris, a middle aged woman wearing bright orange garden gloves. The rest of the group stay still for a few moments as she names the different areas of the garden, then Iris says “thank you” and they open their eyes. The shift leaders get up and stand at different sides, and the participants move to join them. Then they move to different areas of the gardens to start their work.</p> <p class="normal">This simple process of ‘attunement’ is a key to understanding the <a href="https://www.findhorn.org/">Findhorn Foundation</a>, a community that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christiana_Figueres">Christina Figueres</a>, Executive Secretary of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Framework_Convention_on_Climate_Change">UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,</a> has called the ‘Alternative Davos.’ The center’s programmes now regularly draw thousands of people each year from all walks of life, many of whom return several years in a row and participate in work shifts alongside members of the community. Part of what attracts them is how Findhorn makes a direct connection between listening within and acting outwardly in everything it does.</p> <p class="normal">“I see how attunement works for participants and for myself all the time,” notes Iris, a former hotel and real estate company manager in Israel. Her dream is to bring the skills she has learned at Findhorn back to her native country to build peace gardens. “People really come into contact with what is meaningful for them, sometimes for the first time in a long time.”</p> <p class="normal">But taking time to be still and look within for direction is not our cultures’ predominant way of living.</p> <p class="normal">Most of society’s structures—government, schools, religious institutions and even families—operate on the unspoken assumption that there must be external rules. The government makes laws that everyone should obey; religions set rigid definitions of what is good and bad; and schools rank students according to their grades.</p> <p class="normal">In many cases, the cost of choosing to pay attention to outer rules rather than the inner life is high.</p> <p class="normal">On a personal level, when people choose what the dominant culture tells them they should value instead of what they sense is their calling—money over relationships and power over fulfillment—stress, burnout and depression are frequent results. And on the collective level, when enough people stop acting on their sense of meaning and purpose, the end result is a dysfunctional system that runs on addictions, distractions, short-term gratification and a sense of separation.</p> <p class="normal">What complicates the situation is that when messages from outside ourselves have colonized people’s hearts and minds, we inevitably find it more difficult to sense what is truly meaningful for us.</p> <p class="normal">The Findhorn community takes a very different approach. It is an imperfect experiment in organizing groups around each person’s inner life. In small ways—like deciding which part of the garden to work in—as well as larger ones, it offers people different paths to attune to what is actually meaningful to them, and then to do it alone and with others.</p> <p class="normal">“Most people have layers of conditioning from family, culture, religion and so on,” explains Iris, “when I work with people, I usually do something to help people quiet down, like hold a meditation or ask them to take some deep breaths. Then the mental chatter from all the conditioning can lessen and they can begin to sense into deeper levels.”</p> <p class="normal">In our experience, doing this inevitably brings with it a greater awareness of each person’s higher purpose; and acting from this sense of higher purpose lies at the heart of constructing a different world.</p> <p class="normal"><a href="https://www.findhorn.org/about-us/">Findhorn’s story</a> began with three ordinary people who gave their lives in service to this ideal. Feeling drawn by a sense of deep calling to serve the world, they took the rare step of pledging themselves to act on that calling come what may. Years later, after meditating daily and putting what they heard into practice, they ended up penniless and out of jobs in a desolate caravan park in the remote north of the Scottish Highlands. Their families didn’t understand their ‘crazy’ obsession, and they attracted negative press for being part of a counter-cultural spiritual group.</p> <p class="normal">When the garden they started in the arid sand began to flourish unexpectedly, they drew more positive media attention and more visitors. They purchased caravans for guests, and within weeks, people had arrived to purchase and occupy them. With 20 community members, they built a kitchen for hundreds more, and they came too.</p> <p class="normal">Over the years the community grew and developed, becoming a founding member of the <a href="https://ecovillage.org/">Global Ecovillage Network</a> which links Findhorn with other similar centres like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Tamera in Portugal</a> and <a href="http://www.dartington.org/visit/?gclid=CMif0bfewtYCFdqNswodysAAkA">Dartington Hall</a>/<a href="https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/">Schumacher College</a> in Devon. We have gained recognition from the United Nations as a center for sustainability education, and developed a wide range of college-level programmes in ecovillage design, alternative energy, Spirituality and Wellness and permaculture.</p> <p class="normal">Something that began on the farthest margins of society has started to grow into a center of influence.</p> <p class="normal">The pattern is the same for many individuals. The feelings, intuitions and fleeting impressions that may get marginalized in everyday life hold clues about our deeper calling. When people pay attention to and act on their inner lives instead of condemning their experiences and impressions to internal ghettos, those parts of themselves that have been marginalized begin to gain more influence. If we continue to pay attention and act on them, we begin to sense the larger social and spiritual wholes to which we belong.</p> <p class="normal">Meditation and other inner life awareness practices have gained much ground in recent years, in part thanks to Findhorn and other innovative centers that have helped to popularize them. Still, talking about inner experiences, especially ones that people regard as spiritual, tends to be categorized as anything from flaky to clinically insane.</p> <p class="normal">Nevertheless, the community’s experience is that paying attention to the inner life and acting on its insights is what helps people to regain a sense of identity, sovereignty and joy. NGO workers at Findhorn often remark that they come away feeling rejuvenated and reconnected, full of fresh ideas. Participants from corporate jobs find it transformational to work in the garden and experience warm, human contact.</p> <p class="normal">Often, however, reconnecting with the inner life produces things that seem unexpected, strange or extreme. New information can come in the form of a dream, a sudden knowing or a visionary spiritual experience. This makes sense, given that most of us are used to interpreting life according to the definitions of others.</p> <p class="normal">In many ways, our current economic, political and religious systems seem headed towards destructive ends and are telling us destructive stories. But traditionally they have also been the wielders of authority and respectability that shape the overarching narrative of most of our lives. And if we have become convinced that a crazy way of being is respectable and authoritative, then the way out might indeed seem disreputable and strange.</p> <p class="normal">What the community has discovered over 55 years of spiritual and practical action is that the decision to trust our sense of meaning, regardless of how strange it seems at first, is the road to freedom. The metaphysics of what people are doing when they meditate and listen within are open to debate. Findhorn itself avoids any kind of religious statements in order to focus attention on people’s lived experiences, not any particular theory of them.</p> <p class="normal">However, one of the most common experiences among members and participants is that once we do turn within, we find life far kinder than it seemed before, and the possibilities far more open.</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/kelly-teamey-udi-mandel/are-eco-versities-future-for-higher-education">Are eco-versities the future for higher education?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/charlotte-du-cann/under-volcano">Under the volcano</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 Intentional communities Thomas Miller Activism Care Culture Love and Spirituality Tue, 03 Oct 2017 22:50:10 +0000 Thomas Miller 113654 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The dangers of political sainthood https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/harry-blain/dangers-of-political-sainthood <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If our aim is to learn from individuals who somehow rise above their time, we should treat them more like ordinary human beings.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/HarryBlain5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">President Barack Obama meets with Burmese Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the Oval Office, Sept. 19, 2012 (<a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2012/09/20/president-obama-meets-aung-san-suu-kyi">Official White House Photo by Pete Souza</a>, Public Domain).</p> <p>When Thomas Carlyle wrote that <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Heroes-Hero-Worship-Heroic-History/dp/1481142666">“the history of the world is but the biography of great men,”</a> he spoke to a common sentiment. Although the ‘great man theory’ has seemingly gone out of fashion in the academic world, it has not receded from our instinctive understanding of politics, and is certainly not an exclusively conservative tendency. </p> <p>Yes, the sanctification of a Churchill or a Reagan often arises from a longing for a simpler time when kids didn’t answer back and we knew the difference between Good and Evil. But the obsession with finding and inventing political saints cuts across ideological boundaries.</p> <p>Individuals play a vital role in shaping our historical and contemporary imaginations. A good example is provided by our obsession with counterfactuals: what if Lincoln had lived beyond 1865? What if Thomas Paine <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06wg9dw">never met Benjamin Franklin</a>, and had stayed in England instead of moving to Philadelphia? What if Bernie Sanders had been the 2016 Democratic Presidential Nominee? </p> <p>More significantly, individual stories sometimes tell us more about history than expansive scholarly accounts. Few books illuminate the wounds and contradictions of the US as sharply as <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Autobiography-Malcolm-Told-Alex-Haley/dp/0345350685"><em>The Autobiography of Malcolm X</em></a><em>; </em>it’s impossible to understand the New Deal without the story of activist-turned-Labor Secretary <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Behind-New-Deal-Unemployment/dp/1400078563">Frances Perkins</a>; and <a href="https://www.doloresthemovie.com/">the life of Dolores Huerta</a> is a powerful illustration of the modern political struggles facing Latino communities across the country. </p> <p>Towering individual legacies are rarely forgotten. In life, they are solidified by lifetime achievement awards or Nobel Prizes; in death by statues, poems, songs and biographies. </p> <p>Is there anything wrong with this tendency? </p> <p>The short answer is yes, and perhaps particularly for those on the left, for two reasons. First, when a political movement is personalized, the role of collective action is often overlooked. </p> <p>Reducing the struggle for civil rights to Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks rightly acknowledges profound personal courage and intelligence, but says little about the thousands of activists whose daily resistance steadily undermined the Jim Crow regime. Likewise, figures like Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn are important to any understanding of the movement against the Vietnam War, but we cannot come near to a full picture of this history without discussing <a href="http://johnpilger.com/videos/vietnam-the-quiet-mutiny">the “Quiet Mutiny”</a> of thousands of conscripts who immobilized the world’s largest military machine from the inside out. </p> <p>The moment we overemphasize heroic figures is the moment we begin to lose sight of the collective actions we have all shaped—and &nbsp;will continue to shape—in the arc of radical social change. The individuals we praise will be the first ones to remind us of this lesson.</p> <p>Second, if we are to find the right place for individual stories in our political thinking, we need to see our idols—particularly those who wield power—through &nbsp;a critical lens. This is because politics is deeply complex, and success in politics usually requires an uneasy combination of principle and guile. </p> <p>Leading a political movement is <em>hard</em>. If the cause is national liberation, your task is to unify millions of people with opposing material interests; if it’s social revolution, you have to uproot an entire class structure. </p> <p>Any progress in these struggles requires a wide range of political skills—and not just ‘honorable’ ones. Strong principles, courage, and eloquence don’t always get very far without compromise, fudging, and even outright deception. But when an inspiring leader emerges (and succeeds), we often forget this lesson. </p> <p>Take the recent example of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi. Formerly printed on the front of ‘Freedom’ t-shirts, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and lauded across the Western political spectrum, she is now profiled on opinion pages as <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/aung-san-suu-kyi-the-ignoble-laureate">“The Ignoble Laureate”</a> who is “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/05/rohingya-aung-san-suu-kyi-nobel-peace-prize-rohingya-myanmar">complicit in crimes against humanity</a>.” Her refusal to condemn the Burmese military’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2017/sep/17/rohingya-muslims-flee-amid-ethnic-cleansing-claims-in-pictures">brutal attacks on Rohingya villages</a>—and &nbsp;the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/28/aung-sang-suu-kyis-office-accuses-aid-workers-of-helping-terrorists-in-myanmar">smearing of the international organizations that have documented the violence</a>–has &nbsp;extinguished her saintly global reputation. </p> <p>Ms. Suu Kyi is an extreme but illustrative case. At heart a Burmese nationalist like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N003jRV75kc">her father</a>, she became an ideal symbol of solemn opposition to tyranny and the archetypal ‘prisoner of conscience’ during her <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-11685977">nearly fifteen years of living under house arrest</a>. After her release and elevation to <em>de facto </em>civilian leader of the country, she has been confronted with the overriding question of building national unity. </p> <p>As Thomas Abbasi, a friend of mine, recently wrote on Facebook: “She seems to have calculated that throwing the Rohingyas under the bus is worth it to keep the support of the army, the monks and the mob. We all feel upset and let down because we projected more onto her and didn’t know enough about the country’s complexity.”</p> <p>Amid the betrayal and cynicism that often defines politics in every country, it’s natural to look for people like Aung San Suu Kyi who seem to rise above it, but this can lead us to lose a valuable dose of scepticism. Flaws are ignored, power plays are excused and dirty tricks are rationalized. And when we look at individuals from our own history, our critical instincts are diminished further. </p> <p>Think, for example, of the ‘man of his time’ defense. Supporters of Confederate statues have been seen using this argument recently for people like Robert E. Lee: sure, he <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-myth-of-the-kindly-general-lee/529038/">lashed his escaped slaves and had brine poured into their wounds,</a> but everyone else was doing it back then—we &nbsp;just want to honor him for his <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/448276/was-robert-e-lee-hero-or-villain">“gentlemanly surrender”</a> at the end of the Civil War.</p> <p>Attempts to elide the ugliness of historical figures are not confined to conservative publications like the <em>National Review.</em> In some ways progressives have actually been worse. Above all, we hide from the fact that the 20th Century progressive movement was always accommodating to white supremacists, its leading heroes happy to appease the most racist factions of the Democratic Party. </p> <p>As C. Vann Woodward points out in his book, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Career-Jim-Crow/dp/0195146905"><em>The Strange Career of Jim Crow</em></a><em>, </em>modern progressivism—based on economic populism and an attack on corporate power—was &nbsp;never incompatible with the Jim Crow South. In fact, some of the New Deal’s most passionate disciples were committed segregationists, including the infamous Alabama <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/14/us/george-wallace-segregation-symbol-dies-at-79.html">Governor George Wallace</a>, who surged in the 1972 Democratic primaries less than a decade after giving an inaugural Governor’s address written by a member of the Ku Klux Klan. &nbsp;</p> <p>While the Wallaces of recent times are being expunged from the memory of progressive Americans, Franklin D. Roosevelt retains his place in the pantheon above almost all others. Mark Lilla concluded his widely read post-election essay on <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html"><em>The End of Identity Liberalism</em></a> with a rousing appeal to the values of F.D.R.—his 1941 “Four Freedoms” speech highlighted as a reminder of “what the real foundations of modern American liberalism are.” Thomas Frank also <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/interrogation/2016/05/thomas_frank_on_the_failures_of_liberalism.html">criticises the Democratic Party’s departure from the Roosevelt legacy</a>; Bernie Sanders <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3W9SthxzsI">takes a similar view</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>But this is the same F.D.R. <a href="http://www.pbs.org/childofcamp/">who sent more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps</a>, <a href="http://www.naacp.org/oldest-and-boldest/naacp-history-costigan-wagner-act/">refused to support federal anti-lynching legislation</a> because it would damage his electoral prospects, and <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/09/white-house-olympics-berlin/502325/">gave the great black athlete Jesse Owens less recognition than Adolf Hitler did</a> after his four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. </p> <p>The great social programmes of Roosevelt’s New Deal were <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/2013-08-12/new-deal-old-south">minutely tailored to suit the racial politics of Southern Democrats</a>: “The segregationists supported the Tennessee Valley Authority, but only so long as the cheap electricity it produced flowed only to white communities… Likewise, African Americans were specifically excluded from New Deal legislation that set minimum wages and secured benefits for farm laborers and domestic servants.” </p> <p>Honesty matters. It allows us to draw more complex lessons from our past. A true assessment of Roosevelt says something about the dangers of promoting social justice while deferring racial justice; a fuller understanding of Lincoln reveals not a God-like, single-minded “Great Emancipator,” but <a href="http://www.npr.org/2010/10/11/130489804/lincolns-evolving-thoughts-on-slavery-and-freedom">the value of changing your mind</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>If our aim is to learn from individuals who somehow rise above their time, we should treat them more like ordinary human beings. If they hold serious political power, even more so, assuming they will behave or have behaved immorally at some point: <a href="http://www.orwell.ru/library/reviews/gandhi/english/e_gandhi">they should be judged guilty until proven innocent</a>. This is a sceptical rather than cynical view, rooted in the conviction that the best way to appreciate great political leaders is to humanize them. </p> <p>This brings us back to the wider point about collective action. No matter how exceptional, an individual is limited in what they can achieve. Historic achievements have come from Labor activists fighting for the right to picket without being arrested; feminists distributing leaflets about birth control in defiance of censorship laws; abolitionists gathering under the threat of mob violence; and pacifists opposing the draft. </p> <p>Although we owe much to the individuals who have led these struggles or helped to realize their demands, we can’t let them overshadow the millions of people who made so many daily sacrifices, fought so many battles, and won so many victories. </p> <p>I think the trade unionist and five-time Socialist Presidential candidate Eugene Debs made the point better than anyone else. “I am not a Labor Leader”, <a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Eugene_V._Debs">he once said.</a> “I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are.” And, even more profoundly: “I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/judith-beyer/saints-in-politics-aung-san-suu-kyi-and-dilemmas-of-political-desire">Saints in politics: Aung San Suu Kyi and the dilemmas of political desire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/gentrifier-heal-thyself">Gentrifier heal thyself?</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 Trans-partisan politics Activism Sun, 01 Oct 2017 22:18:40 +0000 Harry Blain 113653 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When you get a front door, remember to leave it open https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sophie-king/when-you-get-front-door-remember-to-leave-it-open <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A Manchester-South Africa exchange reveals striking similarities in the dynamics of urban inequality.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Sophie King.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Members of Mums Mart, Lower Broughton Life and the South African Alliance in South Africa, July 2017. Copyright: Sophie King. All rights reserved.</p> <p>“It’s all about trust” said Marie Hampshire, two days into a week-long community exchange with members of the <a href="http://sasdialliance.org.za/">South African Alliance</a> in July 2017, a grassroots movement of women-led savings schemes affiliated to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slum_Dwellers_International">Slum/Shack Dwellers International</a> or SDI. Marie is a member of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/1648057975506363/">Mums Mart</a>, a women’s group from Benchill in the British city of Manchester that brings low-income families together around food, monthly markets and, most recently, a new kind of savings scheme. </p> <p>Each member saves small amounts with the support of their local group, and in the process of coming together the group learns about their needs and challenges and tries to respond collectively. Mums Mart was introduced to savings-based organising after meeting members of the Alliance in Manchester <a href="http://blog.gdi.manchester.ac.uk/seeing-south-international-exchange-south-african-shelter-activists/">a year earlier</a>. Now, other groups in the city are starting to explore how women’s savings federations could rebuild trust and solidarity in their neighbourhoods.</p> <p>Joanne Inglis is the Chair of a new association called <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/338834216548969/">Lower Broughton Life</a>, one of these groups that is based in another part of Greater Manchester called Salford. After accompanying members of the South African <a href="http://sasdialliance.org.za/about/fedup/">Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor</a> (FEDUP) on door-to-door visits and listening to plans for a new housing development in Cape Town by the <a href="http://sasdialliance.org.za/about/isn/">Informal Settlement Network</a> (another partner in the Alliance), she urged her hosts: “when you get a front door remember to leave it open.” </p> <p>Joanne was reflecting on how segregated life has become on estates like hers, where people look after their own affairs and many of the old spaces for communal life have closed down. She was struck that—while the signs of poverty and inequality in South Africa are only too visible in the townships and settlements she visited—poverty in the UK is often hidden from view: “our houses can look the same on the outside,” she said, “but it’s what’s on the inside that’s different.” </p> <p>However, in other ways there are striking similarities between the dynamics of inequality and deprivation in both countries’ cities.&nbsp; All are dealing with sharply rising property prices which push those on lower incomes further away from the city centre, and the concentration of deprivation in particular neighbourhoods which can manifest in gang-related crime and the absence of opportunities for young people. Unequal access to decisions on how public services are delivered perpetuates the disadvantages that low-income people have to deal with on a day to day basis. </p><iframe width="460" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WgXPjZ3Mudc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>Just as importantly, the different groups were also bound together by their experiences of strength and struggle as women and mothers regardless of where they live.<em> </em>During their visit to the UK, the South Africans were shocked to discover homeless people living in tents in the centre of one of the richest cities in the world, which gave rise to questions about the wisdom of looking to the global North for pathways to collective well-being. </p> <p>For their part, members of Mums Mart and Lower Broughton Life reflected repeatedly on people’s pride and self-organisation despite living in highly challenging circumstances in South Africa. Both gained a fresh perspective on the possibilities of organising collectively in response to poverty.</p> <p>As a member of FEDUP attested (echoing Marie), “the only thing that makes a person active is when you have trust and belief.” The members of the groups also gained confidence in one another as joint travellers on a journey of discovery—watching each other learn, adapt and embrace the experience (including some fantastic ululations!). People saw that some of the South African ideas might just work in Greater Manchester, and that they might be the ones to make this happen. </p> <p>The trust they gained in South Africa by staying in people’s homes, accompanying them in their work and being part of their lives (even for a short time) meant that they were comfortable enough to share their doubts and fears—and to be open to the doubts and fears of their hosts in return. As Rose Molokoane from SDI shared:</p> <blockquote><p>“We are still doubting ourselves saying how can we keep driving this forward…it’s too big for us…especially because we are informal but the outside world wants to see us being formal. Most of our members are not educated; you have to create enough time and enough space to educate people about what you are.”</p></blockquote> <p>Rose also explained the significance for the older black South African activists of sharing their homes and their organising tools with white British women after living through apartheid, and as women continuing to struggle for justice in a highly segregated society. </p> <p>The exchanges seem to have come at a critical time for the British participants. Combined with rising living costs, public service cuts and welfare sanctions, low-paid work, under-employment and unemployment are fostering severe precarity in post-industrial inner-city neighbourhoods. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/16/child-poverty-in-uk-at-highest-level-since-2010-official-figures-show">Thirty per cent of British children (and one quarter of children in Salford) are now classified as living below the poverty line</a>, with two thirds living in families with working parents. </p> <p>Manchester looks set to become the next beacon of social cleansing after London, with luxury high rise flats and the privatisation of the city centre making it increasingly difficult for individuals and families on low-incomes to find affordable accommodation. People in low-income areas around the edges of the central business district live in constant fear of relocation as they watch rents skyrocket in the plush developments that now surround their estates.</p> <p>In many of the city’s low-income neighbourhoods, social and economic changes and cuts in public sector funding mean that people don’t come together in the ways they used to through <a href="http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/more-twenty-greater-manchester-churches-12457923">faith</a>-, <a href="http://www2.mmu.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/story/?id=1616">place-</a> or <a href="https://escarpmentpress.org/globallabour/article/view/1073/1129">work-</a>based forms of voluntary association. Libraries, pubs and community centres have closed down, making it almost impossible in some areas for groups to find somewhere to congregate together regularly. Rising living costs and cuts in benefits are pushing people towards pay-day loans and credit-based living, leaving them drowning under the burden of debts they struggle to repay. </p> <p>The surge in support for the British Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership (which is particularly visible in urban centres) suggests that increasing numbers of city-dwellers believe it is indeed, ‘<a href="https://twitter.com/jeremycorbyn/status/872113372216475649">time for a change</a>.’ But how will low-income communities organize themselves and enter into movements ‘<a href="http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/Images/manifesto-2017/Labour%20Manifesto%202017.pdf">for the many and not the few</a>’ in the years to come? That’s where networks like SDI can play an important role by inspiring new forms of mobilisation, and by linking local action into international networks for learning, advocacy and mutual support. </p> <p>The savings groups they nurture are encouraged to federate, enabling them to have more influence over city and national governments in ways that are grounded in real experience. Members survey, map and profile their neighbourhoods, turning invisible challenges into concrete evidence and <a href="http://sasdialliance.org.za/what-we-do/community-based-planning/">locally-proposed solutions</a>. The South African Alliance, for example, has successfully advocated for a more progressive housing policy that has led to over 15,000 permanent new, affordable homes being constructed. </p> <p>The SDI network used to have members in 37 countries. Thanks to a group of mums from Manchester, it may soon be 38.</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/hanna-brooks-olsen/if-you-ve-never-lived-in-poverty-stop-telling-poor-people-what-the">If you’ve never lived in poverty, stop telling poor people what they should do</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 World Forum for Democracy 2017 Sophie King Activism Economics Environment Tue, 26 Sep 2017 22:18:07 +0000 Sophie King 113577 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Humanizing technology https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kaliya-identity-woman/humanizing-technology <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It’s easier to turn technology in the direction of democracy and social justice when it’s developed with social and emotional intelligence.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Kaliya4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><span>Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/board-personal-email-at-1391679/">Pixabay/Geralt</a>. CC0 Creative Commons.</span></p> <p class="BodyA">Can we use the internet to enhance deep human connection and support the emergence of thriving communities in which everyone’s needs are met and people’s lives are filled with joy and meaning?</p> <p class="BodyA">That’s a very challenging question, and the answer isn’t just about technology, at least not in the conventional sense of that word. It’s not about any of the emerging trends that are already impacting our societies like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin">bitcoin</a>,<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmanned_aerial_vehicle"> drones</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality">Virtual Reality</a>, <a href="http://www.perey.com/mobileaugmentedreality.html">Augmented Reality</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperloop">hyperloops</a> or any of the things that the <a href="https://su.org/">Singularity University</a> thinks will converge.</p> <p class="BodyA">It’s not just a matter of finding new technologies either, even if they are more user-centric or built on self-sovereign digital identities in place of corporate ownership and control—the field that forms my own techno-specialty. And the solutions can’t be driven by a government need to find a military advantage—which is the case for a vast range of everyday innovations today—as <a href="http://www.cddc.vt.edu/host/delanda/">Manuel DeLanda </a>outlines in his book, <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/83650.War_in_the_Age_of_Intelligent_Machines">War in the Age of Intelligent Machines</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p class="BodyA">Our work on ‘<em>technical</em>’ technologies won’t generate broad <em>human</em> gains unless we invest an equal amount of time, energy and resources in the development of <em>social and emotional</em> technologies that drive how our whole society is organized and how we work together. I think we are actually on the cusp of having the tools, understanding and infrastructure to make that happen, without all our ideas and organizing being intermediated by giant corporations. But what does that mean in practice? </p><p class="BodyA">I think two things are absolutely vital.</p> <p class="BodyA">First of all, how do we connect all the people and all the groups that want to align their goals in pursuit of social justice, deep democracy, and the development of new economies that share wealth and protect the environment? How are people supported to protect their own autonomy while also working with multiple other groups in processes of joint work and collective action?</p> <p class="BodyA">One key element of the answer to that question is to generate a digital identity that is not under the control of a corporation, an organization or a government.</p> <p class="BodyA">I have been co-leading the community surrounding the <a href="http://www.internetidentityworkshop.com/">Internet Identity Workshop</a> for the last 12 years. After many explorations of the techno-possibility landscape we have finally made some breakthroughs that will lay the foundations of a real internet-scale infrastructure to support what are called ‘user-centric’ or ‘<a href="https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Self-Sovereign_Identity">self-sovereign</a>’ identities.</p> <p class="BodyA">This infrastructure consists of a network with two different types of nodes—people and organizations—with each individual being able to join lots of different groups. But regardless of how many groups they join, people will need a digital identity that is not owned by Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Google or Facebook. That’s the only way they will be able to control their own autonomous interactions on the internet. If open standards are not created for this critical piece of infrastructure then we will end up in a future where giant corporations control all of our identities. In many ways we are in this future now.</p> <p class="BodyA">This is where something called ‘<a href="https://disruptiveviews.com/shared-ledger-technology-future-banks-1956/">Shared Ledger Technology</a>’ or SLT comes in—more commonly known as ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockchain">blockchain</a>’ or ‘distributed ledger technology.’ &nbsp;SLT represents a huge innovation in terms of databases that can be read by anyone and which are highly resistant to tampering—meaning that data cannot be erased or changed once entered. At the moment there’s a lot of work going on to design the encryption key management that’s necessary to support the creation and operation of these unique private channels of connection and communication between individuals and organizations. The <a href="https://www.sovrin.org/">Sovrin Foundation</a> has built an SLT specifically for digital identity key management, and has donated the code required to the <a href="https://www.hyperledger.org/">HyperLedger Foundation</a> under ‘<a href="https://www.hyperledger.org/blog/2017/05/02/hyperledger-welcomes-project-indy">project Indy</a>.’</p> <p class="BodyA">While this critical infrastructure is being birthed we need to think about how to leverage it for the world that we want to create—a world of interconnected humanness in place of centralized social networks controlled by profit-driven and publically-traded companies whose mission is to manipulate us into buying more stuff. These networks are selling access to us and limiting our ability to connect and organize independently. They have deals with companies like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Analytica">Cambridge Analytica</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palantir_Technologies">Palantir</a> to suck up the digital exhaust of our lives, spy on us, and collectively manipulate us for their own ends.</p> <p class="BodyA">As the basis of this next generation of user-centric or self-sovereign identities, Shared Ledger Technology is crucial if corporate control of the internet and our lives is to be reversed, but this &nbsp;won’t be enough to humanize&nbsp; technology, and that’s my second key point: social and emotional ‘technologies’ are also vital.</p> <p class="BodyA">Social technologies are the tools we use to interact with each other in groups of any size, from the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) and other neighborhood organizations to national governments and international bodies. They are increasingly important in the shift that is taking place from an exclusive reliance on representative political processes and institutions to an expanded range of deeper and more deliberative forms of democracy. The social technology of voting for representatives was a breakthrough 300 years ago, but these systems are breaking down and are not serving us well enough today.</p> <p class="BodyA">Emotional technologies are the tools we use to interact with ourselves internally and in our relationships with other people. They are more critical than ever because the mental health of everyone is now a key concern—since one lone individual can inflict enormous harm through high-tech weapons or by hacking into our core infrastructures. Such technologies are well known and include mediation and meditation practices of different kinds, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga">yoga</a> and <a href="http://pemachodronfoundation.org/articles/">mindfulness</a>, <a href="http://www.cnvc.org/">Nonviolent Communication</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Co-counselling">Co-Counseling</a>, and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-step_program">12 Step processes</a> like Alcoholics Anonymous.</p> <p class="BodyA">Social technologies work a lot better if people have a range of these emotional tools and practices to draw on, because they are better able to manage themselves and interact with others. We want security and have been putting billions of dollars into the security-surveillance-industrial complex post 9/11, but what about the deeper issue of how we connect to each other and solve problems together? What are we doing to address everyone’s mental and emotional wellbeing to reduce alienation and disconnection?</p> <p class="BodyA">How do you get people on vastly different sides of controversial issues to collaborate to solve what seem to be intractable problems? How do you structure inclusive deliberations that involve whole communities and build up social capital and connection? Individuals like <a href="http://thefearlessheart.org/">Miki Kashtan</a>, <a href="http://co-intelligence.org/tomatleebio.html">Tom Atlee</a> and <a href="http://shariff.commonway.org/">Sharif Abdulah</a> and groups like the<a href="http://www.ncdd.org/"> National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation</a> have been working on these questions for many years but deserve much more investment and support. Without further <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations">innovations</a> in these social and emotional technologies, no ‘technical’ technologies will save us.</p> <p class="BodyA">To take a concrete example, my ‘sweet spot’ is in designing and facilitating interactive meetings for professional, scientific and technical communities in what are called ‘<a href="http://www.unconference.net/">unconferences</a>.’ I’ve been co-leading one of these unconferences—the <a href="http://www.internetidentityworkshop.com/">Internet Identity Workshop</a>—twice a year for over a decade, during which we’ve developed many innovations built on nurturing the emotional capacities &nbsp;of the people involved and the social processes we’ve been using at our meetings.</p> <p class="BodyA">They are organized primarily through <a href="http://openspaceworld.org/wp2/">Open Space Technology</a> where the agenda is co-created live on the day of the event with all the participants. We throw in an hour of demonstrations on the second day after lunch and we eat dinner together every night. The patterns described in the <a href="https://groupworksdeck.org/patterns_by_category">Group Works Deck</a> have been particularly useful—things like ‘<a href="https://groupworksdeck.org/patterns/Embrace_Dissonance_and_Difference">Embracing Dissonance and Difference</a>’ (meaning that anyone is welcome in the conversation); and <a href="https://groupworksdeck.org/patterns/Opening_and_Welcome">opening</a> and <a href="https://groupworksdeck.org/patterns/Closing">closing</a> every day in a circle while diverging into as many as 15 different sessions every hour during the rest of the time we spend together—what in Open Space terms is called the rhythm of ‘<a href="https://groupworksdeck.org/patterns/Divergence_and_Convergence_Rhythm">Convergence and Divergence</a>.’ Taken together these processes have been very successful in building a stronger <a href="https://groupworksdeck.org/patterns/Group_Culture">Group Culture</a>.</p> <p class="BodyA">I got excited by the possibilities of user-centric identity technologies over 15 years ago while part of the <a href="http://asn.planetwork.net/">Planetwork Community</a>, which came together to look at global ecology and information technology and think through how planetary challenges could be addressed more effectively. But through the process of co-leading efforts to build that infrastructure it became clear that we must also invest in the social and emotional technologies that make it possible to collaborate and work together at all scales.&nbsp;</p> <p class="BodyA">All three forms of technology are essential to the transformation of our relationships to each other and our bigger social/societal systems. Technical technologies provide the tools that can empower individuals to connect and work together for their own wellbeing and that of their communities. Social technologies enable these tools to be used effectively and inclusively in processes of collective action. And emotional technologies support everyone’s mental health as a precondition for engaging in these processes with more chance of success.</p> <p class="BodyA">To put it simply, technical technologies are easier to turn in the direction of democracy and social justice if they are developed and applied with social and emotional intelligence. Combining all three together is the key to using technology for liberating ends.</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/kaliya-%E2%80%9Cidentity-woman%E2%80%9D/open-protocols-and-open-people-preserving-transformational-po">Open protocols and open people: preserving the transformational potential of social media</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ziyaad-bhorat/do-we-still-need-human-judges-in-age-of-artificial-intelligence">Do we still need human judges in the age of Artificial Intelligence?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/stephen-hopgood/why-social-media-won%E2%80%99t-transform-our-politics">Why social media won’t transform our 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 World Forum for Democracy 2017 Humanising technology Kaliya Identity Woman Social media and social transformation Activism Culture Economics Tue, 19 Sep 2017 22:50:49 +0000 Kaliya Identity Woman 113460 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/nazis-afraid-clowns/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SarahWoolpert.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">English Disco Lovers protest against the English Defense League. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/timbuss/14091580865/in/photolist-nte33M-KNX5P1-nnLCrg-fLsDMx-nmS1gE-otnt3q-BHVJyG-ekhBkL-9JFWWs-dXg18b-oKQ2Y1-dXajBn-fM8bns-oyYBV2-noY5Lf-HQQ2Jp-oKA72P-5GkbYG-fkJocs-ekhyVY-oKRUpc-ekhBMS-dctsXE-fM8bvC-ef11qw-5jtYqL-ekhBpf-oHQ6">Flickr/Tim Buss</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0.</a></p> <p>Trolls chanted in the streets the day of a planned neo-Nazi rally in the small ski town of Whitefish, Montana earlier this year. But they were not the trolls that residents had been expecting—namely, white supremacists from around the country, who had been harassing the town’s Jewish community with death threats.</p> <p>These trolls wore bright blue wigs and brandished signs that read “Trolls Against Trolls” and “Fascists Fear Fun,” cheerfully lining the route where the neo-Nazi march had been slated to take place. Due to poor organizing and the failure to obtain proper permits, the demonstration had fallen through, leading to what the counter-protesters gleefully deemed a “Sieg Fail.” So locals held their own counter-event, gathering together to share matzo ball soup and celebrate the town’s unity, which—with a dose of humor and a denunciation of hatred—had&nbsp;<a href="https://www.yahoo.com/news/how-the-tiny-montana-ski-town-of-whitefish-defeated-its-neo-nazi-trolls-and-became-a-national-model-of-resistance-225557686.html">successfully weathered a right-wing anti-Semitic “troll storm”</a>&nbsp;and strengthened the community as a whole.</p> <p>Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich, from&nbsp;<a href="https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/0411.htm">jokes and cartoons employed by Norwegians</a>&nbsp;against the Nazi occupation to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8HdOHrc3OQ">“The Great Dictator” speech</a>&nbsp;by Charlie Chaplin. In recent years, humor has continued to be used as a tactic to undermine Nazi ideology, particularly in the unlikely form of clowns—troupes of brightly-dressed activists who show up to neo-Nazi gatherings and make a public mockery of the messages these groups promote. This puts white supremacists in a dilemma in which their own use of violence will seem unwarranted, and their machismo image is tainted by the comedic performance by their opponent. Humor de-escalates their rallies, turning what could become a violent confrontation into a big joke.</p> <p><a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/the-best-way-to-fight-neo-nazis-is-to-laugh/">Satirical imitation</a>&nbsp;was used in Olympia, Washington in 2005 when a dozen members of the National Socialist Movement paraded around the state capitol to recruit members for the coming “race war.” They were met with clowns mimicking the “Seig Heil” salute and goose-stepping in a public mockery that drew attention away from the Nazi demonstration and undermined their image to would-be supporters.</p> <p>In 2007, the group&nbsp;<a href="http://www.neatorama.com/2007/09/03/clowns-kicked-kkk-asses/">Anti Racist Action</a>&nbsp;staged a full-fledged clown performance at a neo-Nazi rally in Knoxville, Tennessee. The clowns feigned confusion at demonstrators’ cries of “White power!” and called back, “White flour?” as they threw fistfuls of flour into the air.</p> <p>“White power!” the neo-Nazi group shouted, and the clowns pretended they finally understood their mistake. “Oh, white flowers!” they cried out, handing white flowers to passersby, including some of the neo-Nazis themselves.</p> <p>“White power!” they yelled again. “Tight shower?” the clowns called back, holding a shower head in the air and crowding together in a ridiculous attempt to follow the directions of the white supremacist group.</p> <p>They tried once more: “White power!” And the female clowns exclaimed, as though they finally understood, “Wife power!” raising letters in the air to spell out the words and hoisting the male clowns in the air, running around and carrying them in their arms.</p> <p>The clowns stole the show, and continued parading through the streets with the police smiling happily at their sides while the neo-Nazi group called off their demonstration several hours early. This action inspired&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/white-supremacist-rally-clowns_n_2118890.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&amp;src=sp&amp;comm_ref=false#slide=more9277">clowns in Charlotte, North Carolina</a>&nbsp;to also yell “Wife power!” at a white supremacist rally. They also held signs that said “Dwight Power!” next to photos of the NBA player Dwight Howard.</p> <p>Anti-Nazi clowning can also turn into a wider community event, bringing local people together in solidarity and fun. A recent&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/opinion/how-to-make-fun-of-nazis.html?mcubz=0"><em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;editorial</a> highlighted an “involuntary walk-a-thon” in Wunsiedel, Germany, organized in response to an annual neo-Nazi march. The organizers drew chalk markers on the pavement marking the starting point, halfway point and finish line. Local residents and businesses pledged to donate 10 euros for every meter the white supremacists marched to a group called EXIT Deutschland, which is dedicated to helping people leave right-wing extremist groups.</p> <p>People came out to cheer the marchers the day of the event, flanking the route with signs that read “If only the Fuhrer knew!” and “Mein Mamph!” (or “My Munch”) by a table of bananas offered to the walkers. This turned the marchers into involuntary supporters against their own cause, and brought the community together in unity to counter the messages of white supremacy.</p> <p>Other European cities have employed clowns to counter anti-immigrant groups. For example, the “<a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-35343392">Loldiers of Odin</a>” formed in Finland to counter a citizen patrol called Soldiers of Odin. The clowns danced around the streets the same nights that the patrols went out in the community, bringing acrobat hoops and a hobby horse. They also danced around the “soldiers” while playing in the snow. Their actions countered right-wing propaganda of making the streets “safer” from immigrants by bringing humor and silliness to their actions.</p> <p>Clowning as a tactic of creative resistance was first developed by a group of U.K. activists who started the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fifthestate.org/archive/397-winter-2017/playing-in-the-key-of-clown/">Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army</a>, or CIRCA, in 2003. Mixing slapstick humor and improv theater with civil disobedience, the group had—at its height—over 150 trained clowns in Edinburgh, and their tactics were adopted by activists across Europe and the United States.</p> <p>Humor has wide-reaching potential beyond clowning in countering neo-Nazis. It can be employed in the form of a serenade, like the sousaphonist who played his instrument to a crowd of Confederate flag-wielding marchers in Columbia, South Carolina. There’s also the parody song “<a href="https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/us-couples-nazi-parody-song-performed-in-response-to-charlottesville-is-going-viral-a3615721.html">Tiki Torch Nazis</a>,” written and performed by a couple from San Francisco, that went viral after Charlottesville and hilariously undermines the serious image neo-Nazis strive to present. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, a group called the&nbsp;<a href="https://qz.com/1059410/disco-isnt-dead-its-being-used-as-a-secret-weapon-for-disarming-british-neo-nazis/?utm_source=qzfb">English Disco Lovers</a>, or EDL, uses its acronym along with dance music and 1970’s style wigs to subvert public gatherings of the racist English Defense League.</p> <p>To build on past successes of anti-Nazi clowning, activists and local organizers can draw on the creativity of the community to devise actions and events that mock white supremacist ideology and those who support it. This could be done in the form of a carnivalesque “Fascist Fair,” complete with a dunk tank and jousting match. It could take the form of dressing up in costumes that satirize the labels white supremacists have given counter-protesters, like vermin or Communists. Events can draw in various local groups, from marching bands to theater troupes to intramural sports teams so that resistance to white supremacy becomes a community expression of solidarity, like in Whitefish, Montana.</p> <p>Counter-demonstrations can employ a tactic called&nbsp;<a href="http://beautifultrouble.org/tactic/detournementculture-jamming/">détournement</a>, or culture jamming, to draw on existing cultural symbols that resonate with a wider audience. This could involve staging a humorous match in which one side represents neo-Nazis dressed as Death Eaters from Harry Potter, and the other side represents Gryffindor, or the Avengers, or Wonder Woman and the Amazon warriors. Their marches can be accompanied by a mass choir drowning out their chants with refrains of “You’re So Vain” or JoJo’s “Leave (Get Out).” They could also be met with “Flash Mobs Against Fascist Mobs.” The street where the march is planned could be covered in rainbow paint and glitter that will coat the bottoms of their shoes.</p> <p>Beyond the marches themselves, clowning can undermine Confederate statues and symbols when their removal would lead to an escalation of violence, as activist&nbsp;<a href="http://davidswanson.org/creative-anti-nazism/">David Swanson</a>&nbsp;has suggested. Dressing up Confederate statues as clowns or jokers with signs like “You must be joking!” mocks the statue itself and undercuts the veneration of historical figures who represent the country’s legacy of slavery.</p> <p>Other creative tactics can be used to counter neo-Nazi propaganda with less direct confrontation. Activists around the world have&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2H8LXIYv9w">turned Nazi graffiti into art</a>, like the #PaintBack campaign transforming Swastika’s into cartoon animals. These actions not only deflate the macho image of neo-Nazis to their own supporters—which is strengthened by violent confrontation—but they also engage the community in planning fun collective actions to counter hate and intolerance. Humorous counter-demonstrations unleash a storm of creativity, as activists and local groups collaborate to design creative actions together. In the end, the actions bring communities together against hate speech.</p> <p>Since humor and clowning can incorporate so many community members—children and the elderly, musicians and athletes, politicians and school teachers—they draw everyone into a joyful, silly expression of solidarity. That’s something a band of tiki torch-wielding neo-Nazis don’t stand a chance against.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler-karen-ridd/humor-but-not-humiliation-finding-sweet-spot-in-nonviolent-">Humor but not humiliation: finding the sweet spot in nonviolent conflict resolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy">The subversive power of joy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ira-chernus/trying-to-save-world-should-be-fun">Trying to save the world should be fun</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 Culture Thu, 14 Sep 2017 22:31:44 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert 113146 at https://www.opendemocracy.net