Transformative nonviolence https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/13235/all cached version 21/10/2018 14:10:45 en The everyday power of movement activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/laurence-cox/everyday-power-of-movement-activism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Activism is normal; what’s strange is that we don’t see it that way.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LaurenceCox.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Dublin Castle after the abortion referendum results were declared, 26 May 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:REPEAL_YES04.jpg">Katenolan1979 via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>On September 29th 2018 I took part in Ireland’s annual “<a href="https://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/2018/09/16/march-for-choice-29th-september/">March for Choice</a>” to pressure the government for “free, safe, legal” abortion following the pro-choice vote in May’s referendum. You could feel the demo coming for miles on the train: people got on displaying rows of badges in fantastic costumes and holding placards. The march was cheerful, confident and determined.</p> <p>A conservative cliché has it that ‘Irish people don’t protest,’ and that they are afraid of standing out or saying something controversial. Yet from the start of the referendum campaign people with no previous experience of activism wore “Repeal” jumpers in the streets, told their often horrendous stories in public, and knocked on strangers’ doors, usually meeting a positive response (66.4% of voters voted ‘yes’). </p> <p>As this shows, it doesn’t take so much for social expectations and personal behaviour to change, for a country to become a “<a href="https://medium.com/colloquium/why-social-movements-matter-316eaef9bcf6">movement society</a>” where activism is a normal everyday thing rather than strange or alien – and where its results can transform not just laws but lives. </p> <p>Women’s movements have powerfully changed the vast majority of the world’s countries over the past half-century – and continue to do so, as the #MeToo movement testifies. As that movement also shows, public controversy and private transformation are not so separate. Between the high-profile challenge to a Harvey Weinstein and a non-celebrity woman quietly telling her story lies the slow and difficult process of challenging workplace cultures, community norms, family relationships and adolescent culture. </p> <p>Moving further back in time, most of the world’s countries including Ireland became independent from European empires within living memory. Others overthrew fascism, state socialism, apartheid, other dictatorships and the odd monarchy. The idea that activism is something other than a normal, everyday part of human activity is just a story.</p> <p>In working-class and ethnic minority communities where struggle is routine to get basic services, resist police oppression, self-organise to meet everyday needs or assert community pride, those who do much of this work often resist the term ‘activist’ because it drives a wedge between them and their friends, neighbours, families and other community members who are also involved, if perhaps not so frequently or determinedly. </p> <p>But more generally, when activism is seen as separate from the rest of life or as an eccentric leisure activity we need to ask why this is. What happens to make movements seem so impossibly distant?</p> <p>I once took part in a discussion about engaged Buddhism in my local meditation centre. Participants talked in hushed tones about earth-shattering decisions like choosing to buy this rather than that or voting for a different party as the outward limit of what they could imagine. It reminded me of other Buddhist discussions about ethics where similarly young, well-educated, ethnically-privileged people talked about helping others as a strange, radical step to support their meditation practice.</p> <p>The questions that struck me were: what sort of world do you have to live in to think that <em>helping other people</em> is unusual? How do you imagine people actually survive when they don’t have money to meet their needs? What is it about working together to make things better that seems so hard to imagine? </p> <p>One answer is that much of what is represented in our media as normal is anything but. As <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/jan/24/comment.politics">Oliver James</a> notes in his book <em>Affluenza</em>, the US and UK&nbsp; – whose cultural production dominates both global media and academia and which are often taken as the norm for psychological research – show particularly high levels of social and family disconnection and isolation, especially among the wealthy (and, I would add, men, whites and straight/cis populations). But these post-Reagan, post-Thatcher subcultures that revolve around individuals and their bank balances are not the human norm, and their disconnect from everyday solidarity, caring labour and collective action is not representative of our species as a whole.</p> <p>In the rural west of Ireland, for example, things are very different. Here too people can be very nervous of activism, but for other reasons. In small communities, people are so involved with one another for everyday practicalities like lifts, childcare, lending or giving things, and helping out that the costs of falling out are very high. As a result, people watch carefully to find out which way the wind is blowing before putting their heads above the parapet. And when such communities do engage in action it is typically collective for this reason. </p> <p>Neither situation – being so disconnected from other human beings that collective action seems emotionally impossible or being so dependent on others that individual decisions seem too threatening to take – is particularly good for us. And despite what the inhabitants of these different worlds often think, neither represents the human norm. </p> <p>In fact, despite the stories they tell themselves, people in these worlds also engage in social movements. For example, early second-wave feminism had strong bases among college-educated women (among others), and pro-choice canvassers in rural Irish communities met with remarkable levels of support. As Galileo is supposed to have said, “and yet it does move.” Why?</p> <p>A simple answer is that activism and movements express real human needs against the structures and cultures that deny them, and which block our development and force us into narrow and stunted lives; they are part of a fuller human life. </p> <p>The Italian communist Antonio <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gramsci">Gramsci</a> put this particularly clearly: against the “common sense” that seeks to resign us to the way things are right now and to get our consent for the power structures in society, we need to develop a “good sense.” This good sense articulates stifled needs and tries to find ways of helping them to breathe: but for them to breathe fully, real change is needed in an oppressive and exploitative world.</p> <p>This means that we have to overcome the “<a href="https://www.academia.edu/8707364/_The_muck_of_ages_Reflections_on_proletarian_self-emancipation">muck of ages</a>” as Marx put it - the ways in which we routinely buy into this common sense; develop relationships that reproduce existing structures of wealth, power and status; battle one another for relative privilege within a social order that we fail to challenge; and internalise our own forms of oppression, exploitation and stigmatisation. </p> <p>In this<em> </em>sense, changing the world and changing ourselves are not two separate things: if there is one consistent finding from the history of social movements, it is that the <em>means </em>of how we organise, theorise and strategise, and the forms of personhood we encourage and reward among activists, all too predictably become the <em>ends</em>. Or put another way, what we do to and with each other in organising has real and direct effects on participants, whether or not we are successful in the much chancier business of reorganising wider society. </p> <p>We remake ourselves, not individually but collectively, in movements. Notably, we move away from a local and ethnocentric sense of ‘we’ to a much broader identity through the process of solidarity and alliance-building – and to a much longer one as we come to situate our activism in a movement history that is not restricted to our own immediate concerns.</p> <p>In these ways, participating in movements can be emotionally healthy in very basic ways - a form of deeper maturing beyond the restricted possibilities presented by a world shaped by capitalism, patriarchy and racism. This means articulating our needs together against how things currently happen to be. It means coming to live in a wider world than the one that is immediately presented to us. </p> <p>It also means coming to <em>make</em> our world in a way which is less and less available in modernity. For most of us, most of the time, our lifeworld is presented to us for relatively passive consumption, not something we actively create. This is why the greatest satisfaction in alienated workplaces is often found either in manual skill or in helping people effectively – against the profit, power and <a href="https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/">bullshit</a> that actually structure most jobs; and why gardening, cooking, DIY, craft and other forms of shaping our own environment are so rewarding. </p> <p>Social movements are transformative not only in the changes they bring about in the worlds we live in. They are transformative <em>because</em> we are attempting to bring about these changes, because we are experiencing ourselves as subjects rather than objects in the big structures that shape our lives, and so living a fuller adulthood. In this sense movement activism is a fundamental aspect of emotional health and maturity.</p> <p><em>This essay draws on Laurence Cox’s new book </em><a href="https://whysocialmovementsmatter.com/">Why Social Movements Matter</a> <em>(Rowman and Littlefield International), available from the publishers at a 30% discount using code WSMM18.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frances-lee/no-justice-without-love-why-activism-must-be-more-generous">No justice without love: why activism must be more generous</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/john-picton/social-activism-and-economics-of-mental-health">Social activism and the economics of mental health</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ghazal-tipu/is-it-time-for-voluntary-poverty">Is it time for voluntary poverty?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Laurence Cox Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 16 Oct 2018 19:21:17 +0000 Laurence Cox 120037 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How does change happen? One man’s journey through the personal and the political https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jason-angell/how-does-change-happen-one-man-s-journey-through-personal-and-political <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first step to building a new world is to start living it, but don’t stop there.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jason Angell.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="normal">J<span class="image-caption">ason Angell at Longhaul Farm in the Hudson Valley, New York. Credit: Theo Angell. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p class="normal">For most of my life I‘ve been a political activist, believing the story that social transformation comes through radical legislation pushed along by brave elected leaders. I once imagined becoming one of those leaders myself, and had a mental picture of giving a speech to a massive group of people in what looked like the National Mall in Washington DC.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> I know I inherited that picture from my father, who harbored dreams of being a politician who had something true to say to people that would lead them out of the wilderness. He ran for Congress in 1972 unsuccessfully in the same community where I now live and have a farm, but my path to becoming a farmer was unexpected, paved by three experiences that challenged my belief that the change I hoped to see in the world could be won through the current political system.<br /> <br /> The first was a brief run for the New York State Senate in my early thirties in the Hudson Valley.&nbsp; Most of my days were spent alone, calling people to ask for money which I dreaded. Sometimes I would stand in front of civic groups, introduce myself, and tell them why <em>I</em> had the answers (which I didn’t). So I dropped out.<br /> <br /> Eventually I got a job as Director of the Center for Working Families—a think-tank allied to the <a href="http://workingfamilies.org/">Working Families Party</a> (WFP) and a place where ideas could be translated into direct action through the Party’s political muscle. It was 2009 and New York State faced one of the largest budget deficits in the country. The old debate raged on: increase taxes or cut public services drastically? This was a fight I wanted to be a part of. I still remembered the visceral wrongness of walking by homeless people on frigid winter streets when I moved to New York City as a kid in 1986.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Now Manhattan was the playground of the world’s wealthy elite—bankers and hedge fund managers bringing home bonus check millions while the economy collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage lending greed. My job was to design a tax reform proposal to increase taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers, which had been slashed for decades.<br /> <br /> Progressives united around the cause—teacher and healthcare unions, poor people’s organizations, private foundations, (some) Democrats and WFP legislators—and the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/nyregion/29tax.html">“Millionaire’s Tax” became law</a>. But in the aftermath of this victory I grew increasingly skeptical.&nbsp; The tax reform was won on the argument that putting a few hundred dollars in people’s pockets was better for economic growth than cutting public services.&nbsp; But what about putting capitalism’s unregulated greed on trial or questioning the spiritual damage of living in a culture that maintains money should remain our highest aspiration? Things were changing on the surface but not deep down.<br /> <br /> As a third party in New York (and active in 17 other states), the WFP organizes to drag the Democratic Party left by organizing progressive voters in close elections.&nbsp; It’s good at what it does, using the remaining power of organized labor to place working people’s issues on the agenda.&nbsp; But at the end of the day, it is still very much a creature of the political system, often constrained by the narrow agendas of its most powerful union leaders and more dedicated to winning a seat at the table where political decisions are made than democratizing decision-making so that regular people have more power.</p><p class="normal"> As I came into the office everyday to craft more powerpoints and papers, was I happy or fulfilled or convinced that any of this would lead to transformation? Life in the city was expensive, so both I and my partner Jocelyn had to work full-time. The city was pushing us towards a way of living that seemed to be just as much a part of the problems I hoped to solve through new policies and laws. Cracks began to appear in the first story I had told myself about how change is accomplished, and I didn’t have another to replace it.</p> <p class="normal">A year after that blank page moment we quit our jobs and moved to Argentina. I had to imagine a new story of life and needed as much space as possible to create it. We moved to El Hoyo, a small rural town in Patagonia a friend had traveled through years ago and rented a small cottage on a farm called Chacra Millalen, run sustainably by a family for 20 years. Our mornings were spent thinking, writing, and exploring what was most important to us and in the afternoons we worked in the garden and learned how to farm. I had grown up privileged, never really doing much physical labor, and I found that the balance of the mental and the physical left me more content at the end of the day than I had ever been before.</p> <p class="normal">Living in El Hoyo exposed us to a much larger sense of community than any we had experienced in New York. We were eating and cooking together. A lot of neighbors bartered, trading vegetables for having a car fixed for example. Large jobs like hauling wood for the winter were collective and people relied on each other more. Everything was treated as invaluable, so was cooked, canned, preserved, fixed and sharpened until the bitter end. <br /> <br /> One day we woke up and realized that we had built a new story of a life for ourselves, one that involved farming and trying to build the same kind of communities back home. We realized that the first step to building a new world is to start living it.<br /> <br /> So we moved back to the Hudson Valley and started <a href="https://www.instagram.com/longhaulfarm/">Longhaul Farm</a> and the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/ecologicalcitizensproject/?hl=en">Ecological Citizen’s Project</a> to create spaces, programs and podcasts through which people can <a href="http://ecologicalcitizens.org/nextstopnow">learn about&nbsp; ways of life that are built around different values and routines</a> than those offered by mainstream America. But we didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes we saw in the ‘back to the land’ and earlier Utopianist movements, which became islands of personal improvement and perfect community creation cut off from larger political work required to transform society.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It’s very difficult to sustain a countercultural personal life in a society that doesn’t value that kind of life nor is built to support it. Farming at our scale doesn’t pay all the bills or provide benefits.&nbsp; Eventually, we were able to find flexible teaching work that allowed us to share child care duties, get our healthcare through a mix of work-based and state programs, and reduce our housing costs through a farming tax credit. Transformation requires that we both pioneer new personal ways of life while also working together to enact policies and build new social institutions that will sustain them.<br /> <br /> I’ve begun to reconsider the old picture that I had in my head, the one where I’m delivering the speech on the Mall. I’ve realized that a lot of that dream came from my ego, which is a barrier to greater progress.&nbsp; Our culture celebrates the greatness of the individual—celebrities, business icons and agents of social change—without acknowledging the collectives around them that are the true source of greatness.<br /> <br /> We’ve built a political industrial complex made up of candidates, political operatives, lobbyists and think tankers that keep people far from the privileged places of decision-making. It’s no wonder that <a href="https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf">what the majority of people want</a> doesn’t really matter if it runs counter to moneyed interests. Conventional politics treats citizens largely as consumers, whose only power is to vote for the best person to represent them from a field of candidates culled by donors. Since campaigns follow a zero-sum dynamic that leads candidates to tear down all their competitor’s ideas and magnify their negatives in the pursuit of winning office, the bitter partisan divide grows ever wider.</p><p class="normal"> Who really believes that the problems we face can be addressed by selecting the right candidate in this kind of system? To bridge the divide between our personal and political lives we need to build new democratic norms and institutions that abandon the ego-driven ‘great individual’ model and allow mass participation in coming up with solutions, while also demanding that we enact them in our own lives. <br /> <br /> Over the past year, we’ve tried to do this by conducting a <a href="https://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2017/11/13/civic-engagement-thriving-democracy/852677001/">local experiment</a> in the Town of Philipstown called the <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/551bf6b6e4b088e1f8030880/t/5b6c9928aa4a9997a24e1023/1533843763178/HVCC%2C+Process+%2B+Impact+%285%29.pdf">Community Congress</a>. We asked any resident to answer the question, “What’s your idea for preserving and promoting a strong community?” Over the course of three public forums, residents proposed 40 ideas across a range of issues. Then we invited all Philipstown residents age 13 years and older to name their top three priorities through an online and mail-in ballot. <br /> <br /> Over 750 residents voted, and even more hopefully 450 identified themselves as willing volunteers to roll up their sleeves and get to work turning the priorities they voted for into reality. In the next few years we’ll begin the work of building other Community Congresses throughout the Hudson Valley, forging a more people-centered democracy to build the world that people want.</p><p>I realize now that the path to social transformation is not a binary choice between personal or political change.&nbsp; We must live our political values within the daily routines of our personal lives and grow a new kind of politics that’s grounded in a higher quality of human relationships—unafraid of asking much more of us than our votes. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi">What we can really learn from Gandhi?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/liam-barringtonbush/you-can%E2%80%99t-love-whole-planet">You can’t love a whole planet</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ted-fertik/can-working-families-party-succeed-in-america">Can the Working Families Party succeed in America?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jason Angell Transformative nonviolence Trans-partisan politics Care Activism Sun, 09 Sep 2018 17:20:13 +0000 Jason Angell 119499 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How repression can fuel a movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lester-kurtz-lee-smithey/How%20repression%20can%20fuel%20a%20movement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Repression often energizes resistance and undercuts the legitimacy of elites.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-repression-can-fuel-a-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a></em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LesterKurtz.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Rally "for a free Russia without repression and despotism" Moscow, June 10 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:For_a_free_Russia_without_repression_and_despotism_163.jpg">Don Simon via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/choose/zero/">CC0</a>.</p> <p>From Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses attacking U.S. civil rights demonstrators to the massacre at Amritsar in colonial India, the use of coercive force against dissidents often backfires, becoming a transformative event that can change the course of a conflict. Rather than demobilizing a movement, repression often ironically fuels resistance and undercuts the legitimacy of a power elite. Although a long scholarly tradition explores the unintended consequences of martyrdom and other acts of violence, more attention could be paid to what we call the paradox of repression—that is, when repression creates unanticipated consequences that authorities do not desire. Efforts by power elites to oppress movements often backfire, mobilizing popular support for the movements and undermining authorities, potentially leading to significant reforms or even a regime’s overthrow.</p> <p>As civil rights activist, clergyman and author Will Campbell writes, “Of one thing I am certain: [the civil rights movement] was not destroyed by hooded vigilantes and flaming crosses. Nor by chains used on school children, dynamiting of churches and homes, mass jailings. All those things were an impetus to the movement and brought determination to the victims.” Repressive coercion can weaken a regime’s authority, turning public opinion against it. Paradoxically, the more a power elite applies force, the more citizens and third parties are likely to become disaffected, sometimes inducing the regime to disintegrate from internal dissent.</p> <p>According to political scientist Christian Davenport, repression is often defined as “actual or threatened use of physical sanctions against an individual or organization, within the territorial jurisdiction of the state, for the purpose of imposing a cost on the target as well as deterring specific activities and/or beliefs perceived to be challenging to government personnel, practices or institutions.” We prefer to see repression as a much more complex phenomenon that goes far beyond physical threats or sanctions. We find it conceptually helpful to place these methods along a continuum stretching from overt violence, on one end, to hegemony on the other. Viewing repression from this broad perspective helps to correct some of the narrowness of previous research.</p> <p>Overt violence includes the actions we usually think of when we consider repression, such as beatings, torture, shooting unarmed demonstrators and arrests. They are the repressive tactics most likely to cause moral outrage within the broader population and are, therefore, more likely to precipitate backfire. Because authorities are sometimes aware of the risks involved in using brute force, they may employ less-lethal methods such as pepper spray or “active denial systems” or simply intimidate activists with indirect threats, harassment or surveillance. </p> <p>Soft repression, a concept developed by Myra Marx Ferree, includes such actions as stigmatization of protesters and their movements, framing contests, and manipulative attempts to divide, divert, or distract social movement organizations or their pool of potential recruits. “The distinguishing criterion of soft repression,” Marx Ferree explains, “is the collective mobilization of power, albeit in nonviolent forms and often highly informal ways, to limit and exclude ideas and identities from the public forum.” Although she develops the concept to explain gender-based movements, it is a strategy widely used by power elites to minimize the participation of movements and dissidents. Finally, the most effective demobilization technique used by authorities is the promotion of hegemony, in which dissidents censor themselves.</p> <p><strong>Nonviolence and the paradox of repression.</strong></p> <p>As Jonathan Schell eloquently asserts in “The Unconquerable World,” one of the most profound legacies within modernity has been the realization of popular nonviolent power. The last century produced a surge of innovation in nonviolent conflict strategies and methods, many of which have made effective use of the paradox of repression. (Violent insurgencies may also sometimes benefit from the paradox of repression, but their own use of violence can undermine and diminish support within their own communities and especially among third parties.)</p> <p>Despite its ubiquity, the obscurity of the paradox of repression should not be particularly surprising. It is most apparent in conflicts in which one party employs strategic nonviolent strategy. However, it is only in the 20th century that we witness the prodigious expansion of nonviolence corresponding with globalization and accelerating technological development. In a globalizing world where communications, travel and arms technologies have become widely available, even small pockets of resistance have developed the capacity to challenge more traditionally powerful institutions, such as corporations and states.</p> <p>Greater international interdependence requires economic and political cooperation across an increasingly complex network of cross-cutting alliances. The use of coercive force in this environment may offend or inconvenience mutual allies and neighbors and leave an aggressor isolated. The United States has experienced this dilemma in connection with the invasion of Iraq. Despite considerable support from the United Kingdom, the Bush administration encountered significant obstacles in cobbling together a coalition of smaller, less influential states. Larger states on the United Nations Security Council, such as France, Germany, and Russia, probably declined to participate in part because of significant economic interests in the region, but they were also under pressure from their own citizens who sympathized with the Iraqi people and considered the invasion unjustified aggression.</p> <p>The structure of insurgent groups has also changed to take advantage of ever-emerging electronic communications technologies, such as fax machines, the internet, cell phones and instant messaging, while limiting the ability of authorities to repress resistance. Nonviolent direct action sometimes takes on the form of cell or affinity groups developed by non-state terror organizations to avoid repression. However, this trend may diminish the paradox of repression. </p> <p>As explained later in the book, the paradox of repression relies in large part not on avoiding repression but on enduring and sometimes provoking it. In order for insurgents to invoke the sympathy and outrage of bystander publics, these publics must relate to and identify with the target of repression. Although affinity groups may make resistance groups appear shadowy and unrecognizable, much important organizing for nonviolent campaigns has taken place underground. The latter approach is more likely to prove effective in highly asymmetrical scenarios, where there is little ambiguity over public sympathies and the illegitimacy of a regime.</p> <p>The paradox of repression is one manifestation of what the pre-eminent scholar of nonviolence, Gene Sharp, calls “political jiu-jitsu.” In the martial art of jiu-jitsu, one uses the weight and momentum of one’s opponent to throw the opponent. Similarly, in strategic nonviolent action, one can use an opponent’s resources, needs and culture to one’s own advantage. Thus, for example, arrests and imprisonment have always been a primary tool of governmental authorities against agents of social change. </p> <p>Nonviolent activists, however, have often prepared for arrest and willingly accepted or even sought incarceration in order to overload jails and strain government bureaucracies. The same dynamic can apply to the use of cultural resources to trigger the paradox of repression. Social philosopher Richard Gregg first wrote about this dynamic as “moral jiu-jitsu,” drawing on Gandhi’s idea that self-suffering would induce conversion by an opponent, who, when confronted by a nonviolent resister, would lose “the moral support which the violent resistance of most victims would render him.”</p> <p>As students and activists of nonviolence understand, the paradox of repression can be cultivated. True, in some cases, such as the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, repression has been so complete as to overcome nearly all resistance. In other cases, however, where the relationship between opponents has been better integrated and where those traditionally considered less powerful have developed effective methods of resistance (such as cell structures and nonviolent collective action techniques), imperial and authoritarian states have found themselves unable to contend with grassroots opposition, often because the movement was able to rob the regime of some of its legitimacy. </p> <p>While the overtly systematic use of nonviolent collective action theory varies widely from case to case, training and strategic planning continues to spread. The cases we offer as illustrations do not always document an intentional preparation for the paradox of repression (though preparation is common, as we elaborate below) but indicate how challengers adopted collective action tactics that often both amplified and subverted attempts to repress and intimidate nonviolent activists.</p> <p><strong>An overview of the book.</strong></p> <p>The chapters in this book have two main goals: to gain a more nuanced understanding of how the paradox of repression works and when it has happened, on the one hand, and to examine how nonviolent activists have managed it, on the other, to enhance the extent to which it empowers movements and undermines unjust systems. We hope this book will be valuable to scholars and activists alike, and we have recruited both scholars and activists as chapter authors (including several authors who are both). </p> <p>The first task of the contributors is thus to look at various aspects and cases of the paradox of repression to get a better sense of its topography beyond the isolated anecdotal cases diffused through the scholarly literature and activists’ lore. We provide a conceptual and empirical overview and bring together quantitative and qualitative scholarship with activists who have experienced repression and experimented with its management. We begin with Erica Chenoweth’s quantitative birdseye view of the phenomenon across the globe over half a century. Chapter two, “Backfire in Action: Insights from Nonviolent Campaigns, 1945–2006,” analyzes her large data set comparing 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns for major change to evaluate how backfire works and which movement features are most likely to provoke it.</p> <p>Chenoweth identifies three critical factors facilitating a positive outcome from repression: (1) sustained high levels of campaign participation, (2) loyalty shifts among security forces and civilian leaders, and (3) the withdrawal of support from its foreign allies.</p> <p>Doron Shultziner’s conceptual chapter addresses a key aspect of the paradox of repression by delving into two historical cases. In chapter three, “Transformative Events, Repression, and Regime Change,” he focuses on the central tension between the parameters of opportunity structures and the agency of collective action. He explores the social psychological impact of “transformative events,” which can sometimes suspend the habits and assumptions that normally underpin the political status quo and open up new opportunities for resistance. Transformative events that involve repression can thus operate as a causal mechanism or path to regime change and democratic outcomes. Shultziner focuses on cases such as the Soweto Uprising in South Africa and the Montgomery bus boycott to illustrate the relationship between repression and backfire as transformative events.</p> <p>Elite defection has been identified as an important factor in the success or failure of nonviolent civil resistance campaigns, demanding that we delve into the ways in which agents of repression experience the repression they carry out. In her exploration of successful nonviolent revolutions, Sharon Erickson Nepstad found that defections by security forces were an important strategic factor. Nonviolent resistance has an advantage in managing and framing repression because it can create dilemmas for repressors.</p> <p>Rachel MacNair reminds us in chapter four, “The Psychology of Agents of Repression: The Paradox of Defection,” that aggression and fear are not physical properties that people hold in their hands, but are psychological experiences. Agents of repression do not merely follow orders; they are caught up in complex psychological dynamics and risk suffering what she calls perpetration induced traumatic stress.</p> <p>In recent years, the nature of civil resistance has changed with the increased role of the internet and social media in political processes. Jessica Beyer and Jennifer Earl bring their extensive expertise in this emerging field to bear in chapter five, “Backfire Online: Studying Reactions to the Repression of Internet Activism.” It is crucial to understand the ways in which online activism and the activists behind it interact with the state and other entities interested in silencing them. Drawing on recent cases studies, Beyer and Earl systematically present various forms of online repression and show how it has backfired on elites. They explore the affinities between different types of internet activism and repressive tactics, identifying multiple levels of analysis of how backfire and deterrence can be differentiated according to the actors involved (individual versus group and public versus private).</p> <p>A second major aspect of the book turns to repression management — that is, how nonviolent resisters, but also repressors, have attempted to shape the outcome of repression to their benefit. We begin with the firsthand experience of Jenni Williams, founder of the movement Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA. In chapter six, “Overcoming Fear to Overcome Repression,” Williams emphasizes the importance of establishing a movement culture that prioritizes nonviolence and encourages empowerment through shared leadership and the creative use of traditional cultural themes to withstand and blunt repression. </p> <p>When WOZA transformed the traditional role of motherhood to scold and challenge the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe, the activists were met with a brutal repression of their movement. By accepting and even courting arrest, Williams argues, the activists took away the regime’s major weapon of repression, turning it instead into a source of empowerment for the movement and individual participants, increasing the costs of the regime’s efforts to thwart them. They mobilized a campaign of “tough love,” transforming a culture of fear into a culture of resistance and constructing a creative leadership structure that allowed them to be more flexible in their tactics than the rigid authoritarian police establishment bound by its limited repertoire.</p> <p>Chapter seven, “Culture and Repression Management,” focuses on the symbolic aspects of repression and its backfire. We conceptualize nonviolent struggle as a dance between an establishment and its dissidents, a regime and its insurgents, as they contest the frames used to make meaning of repressive events. This chapter explores proactive efforts by nonviolent activists to choreograph actions in ways that help to ensure the backfire effect of repression by clearly establishing the aggression of the agents of repression. In chapter eight, “‘Smart’ Repression,” we address the growing efforts by elites to be more strategic about how they use repression, in order to mitigate the effects of its potentially backfiring. That chapter examines a relatively unexplored aspect of repression, the use of tactics that are deliberately crafted to demobilize movements while mitigating or eliminating a backfire effect.</p> <p>Dalia Ziada gives us a participant’s-eye-view of the Egyptian revolution of 2011 in chapter nine, “Egypt: Military Strategy and the 2011 Revolution,” although she is also familiar with the literature on strategic nonviolent action. What she found most remarkable was that the army in some instances chose not to use violence during the citizen uprising, and ended up collaborating with the activists to oust President Hosni Mubarak, although they returned to the usual armed forces modus operandi after seizing power from Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in 2014. Ziada provides a firsthand account of the events of 2011 based on her own participation in the revolution and draws on her interviews with Egyptian and American military personnel.</p> <p>In chapter 10, “Repression Engendering Creative Nonviolent Action in Thailand,” Chaiwat Satha-Anand explores activist creativity following repression in Thailand. He argues that repression, such as the violent actions in 2010 of the Thai government against protesters in the Red Shirts movement, created space for new movement leadership and the introduction of creative nonviolent resistance. He calls this dynamic “the cleansing effect of violent repression.” In this Thai case, Sombat Boonngamanong developed a series of highly symbolic and creative flash mob actions that drew on a history of nonviolent resistance in Thai society.</p> <p>Finally, veteran activist, scholar and trainer George Lakey concludes the volume by providing insights from decades of practical experience and reflection in chapter 11, “Making Meaning of Pain and Fear: Enacting the Paradox of Repression.” According to Lakey, nonviolent activists create narratives that provide meaning for their risks, injuries, suffering and losses, helping them to transform pain and fear into opportunities for mobilization. These stories in turn have consequences for the tactics and strategies they choose and help to trigger the paradox of repression. Activists use these stories to prepare in advance for repressive events by training and shaping confrontations.</p> <p>By weaving together these case studies, scholarly analysis and activists’ reflection, we aim to shed light on how the paradox of repression works in multiple contexts and how activists have managed repression to enhance its potential to backfire and empower resistance.</p> <p><strong>Repression as relational conflict.</strong></p> <p>Nonviolent resistance is based in large part on the strategic harnessing of relational power. We focus on one subform in this volume: the strategic cultivation of the paradox of repression. Sometimes, when one party takes coercive action that violates basic norms, its ability to rally support and cooperation—its legitimacy—is undermined, threatening its capacity to meet its own goals. The contributors to this volume present cases in which authorities or elites used intimidation, coercion and sometimes violence in attempts to crush dissident movements. However, in each case, intimidation and physical force were seen to violate norms of proportionate response and helped to mobilize movement recruits. Elites’ efforts rebounded on them, undermining their legitimacy and diminishing their ability to govern as they wished.</p> <p>Moreover, activists can rhetorically frame the actions of their opponents or can choreograph their own actions in ways that draw attention to repression by opponents. By adopting nonviolent tactics, activists can generate a striking contrast between their own actions and the “unfair” tactics of their opponents. The dissonance that gap creates can, in turn, provoke a moral outrage that increases the support and involvement of local and third parties. Such a contrast can also cause factions to develop among a movement’s opponents as some withdraw their cooperation and refuse to participate in further repression. When repression does occur against nonviolent civilians, it may serve as a deterrent to other regimes, as when Gorbachev took note of the negative consequences worldwide of the Tiananmen Square massacre and decided not to back communist states across Eastern Europe with force when they faced nonviolent uprisings a few months later.</p> <p>Activists may also draw on local indigenous cultural resources to sensitize potential recruits and sympathetic publics to acts of repression. Legacies may be framed that perpetuate the paradox of repression long after the immediate crisis has passed. Dissidents in Czechoslovakia in 1989 commemorated the death of a young student, Jan Palach, who self-immolated in response to the 1968 invasion of Prague by Warsaw Pact troops two decades earlier. Similarly, the legacy of the British Army’s killing of civilians on Bloody Sunday in 1972 continues to influence Northern Ireland politics today, more than 40 years after the event. </p> <p>Figuring out how to harness cultural resources requires indigenous creativity or what sociologist James Jasper has called “artfulness” in developing effective tactics. The ability of activists to design effective nonviolent collective action creatively that mitigates repression or induces it to backfire may develop out of rational strategizing, but it will often emerge instinctively from the habitus, the intimate, unspoken and inarticulable perception of relations that is uniquely local. This creativity is the source of agency, which complicates cost-benefit paradigms since it is elusive and difficult to measure, and yet can significantly enhance the power potential of groups who might otherwise be considered susceptible to repression.</p> <p>In short, although the paradox of repression is a phenomenon that is widely glossed over in both policy and academic circles, it seems an obvious and ubiquitous fact in 21st century political culture and a key element in the history of successful nonviolent movements. We hope that this collection of studies will enhance understanding by reconceptualizing repression as an interaction between conflicting parties, by expanding our scope of the spheres in which repression occurs, by delving into the social, psychological and cultural dimensions of repression, by thinking more closely about the costs of repression among agents of repression, and by introducing repression management to explore ways in which strategic nonviolent activists become powerful agents within repressive contexts.</p> <p><em>Purchase a copy of “The Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements” at&nbsp;<a href="http://syracuseuniversitypress.syr.edu/spring-2018/paradox-repression.html">Syracuse University Press</a>.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi">What we can really learn from Gandhi?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/steven-parfitt/us-teachers-strike-in-historical-perspective">The US teachers strike in historical perspective</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/james-rowe-mike-simpson/lessons-from-front-lines-of-anti-colonial-pipeline-resistance">Lessons from the front lines of anti-colonial pipeline resistance</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lee Smithey Lester Kurtz Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 31 Aug 2018 07:00:00 +0000 Lester Kurtz and Lee Smithey 119213 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No justice without love: why activism must be more generous https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/frances-lee/no-justice-without-love-why-activism-must-be-more-generous <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">I want to be a member of a thriving and diverse social movement, not a cult or a religion.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FrancesLee.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Occupy Love, Hella Love Oakland March, February 14 2012.<strong> </strong>Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ghalog/6880222317/">Flickr/Glenn Halog</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0.</a></p> <p class="normalCxSpMiddle">As an intersectional activist who is concerned about the future of our movements, I’m really worried that social justice activism in the West is stuck in a dangerous state of disrepair. Ideological purity has become the norm. Social justice movements, which were originally about freeing marginalized people from oppressive institutions and social structures, have become imbued with their own narrow framework of morality.</p> <p class="normal">Our knowledge base is made up of reactionary think-pieces, self-righteous social media posts, romanticized narratives of movement histories and prescriptive checklists of how to stop being problematic. &nbsp;Activists who are deemed <a href="https://www.theroot.com/the-6-degrees-of-wokeness-1819384614">“woke”</a> are praised and accepted, while others who are judged not to possess a sufficiently layered analysis of power and oppression on the axes of race, gender, sexuality and disability are demeaned or excluded. In many social justice communities, fear and shame are regularly used to control other people’s behavior and shut down contentious discussions.</p> <p class="normal">As someone who is deeply embedded in activist communities in Seattle that organize around anti-racism, prison abolition, and queer and trans folks of color this affects me every day. I’m so afraid of being <a href="https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/6-signs-your-call-out-isnt-actually-about-accountability/">called out</a> in this way by another member or group—and possibly losing access to my networks of belonging and support—that &nbsp;I am very, very careful about the political opinions and ideas I put out into the world, especially if they are still in development.</p> <p class="normal">After publishing an <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/why-ive-started-to-fear-my-fellow-social-justice-activists-20171013">essay</a> in YES! Magazine about this anxiety I received countless letters from readers around the world expressing similar stories. Many of them identified as <em>former</em> activists and leftists, having been pushed out of activist spaces for ‘not being radical enough’ or ‘being too privileged.’</p> <p class="normal">Some readers relayed that they wept with relief to read that they weren’t the only ones feeling utterly ostracized. Others shared that they felt like they were not allowed speak up in activist spaces because they were newer to activism and weren’t familiar with social justice language, norms and analyses. Readers who identified as having privilege expressed feeling turned off by the ways they had to perform unquestioning allyship to marginalized people and respond to the guilt by shrinking themselves into nothingness.</p> <p class="normal">This pattern is hugely counterproductive because movements need critical masses of people to function in ways that transform the structures of power. It doesn’t make sense to push out members because they don’t go about doing social justice work in exactly the same way you do. Sometimes people make horrible mistakes that reinforce the status quo of power, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need them alongside us.</p> <p class="normal">Heated debates are unfolding in progressive spaces around <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/the-dos-and-donts-of-cultural-appropriation/411292/">cultural appropriation</a>, <a href="https://thoughtcatalog.com/sade-andria-zabala/2017/01/7-famous-white-feminists-im-so-over/">white feminists co-opting activist movements</a> and ‘<a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2013/07/intentions-dont-really-matter/">intent vs. impact</a>’ among other issues, and such debates are important; but while we argue the finer points of detail among ourselves the Trump administration has been largely left to its own devices to <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-trump-immigration-bill-negotiating-tool-20180615-story.html">separate immigrant families</a>, <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/30/eye-popping-payouts-for-ceos-follow-trumps-tax-cuts-747649">increase corporate tax cuts</a>, <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/26/supreme-court-rules-in-trump-muslim-travel-ban-case.html">reinforce the Muslim travel ban</a> and <a href="https://splinternews.com/the-state-department-is-retroactively-revoking-transgen-1827946847">revoke trans women’s passports</a>. The danger is that intra-group debates create rifts within, or even implode, communities that have to be strong and united in the fight for justice.</p> <p class="normal">Modern activists are now expected to follow specific sets of standards to be trusted and heard by the larger group. These standards are largely driven by the evolving conversation on power, privilege and oppression on social media. Rather than opening up discussions ideas are often presented as diktats in uncomplicated listicles like <a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2018/07/white-people-this-is-how-to-check-your-privilege-when-asking-people-of-color-for-their-labor/">“This Is How To Check Your Privilege When Asking People of Color For Their Labor”</a> or in viral infographics like <a href="https://upload.democraticunderground.com/100210942645">“Cool Kids vs Organizers.”</a></p> <p class="normal">I have no problem with the well-intentioned content of these pieces since they often bring up forgotten voices or conveniently-ignored viewpoints. But the way they are presented, re-shared and absorbed into activist culture as infallible gospel truths removes people’s agency to think for themselves. I want to be a member of a thriving and diverse social movement, not a <a href="http://www.catalystwedco.com/blog/2017/7/10/kin-aesthetics-excommunicate-me-from-the-church-of-social-justice">cult or a religion</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Furthermore, I worry that identity is being deployed as a way to separate people rather than to create coalitions to work together <em>en masse</em>. There is so much distrust of white, male, and/or straight people that marginalized identities often serve to regulate the makeup of activist communities. To tell the truth, I’ve also participated in this kind of behavior myself in queer and trans people-of-color spaces.</p> <p class="normal">After being rejected from dominant society for so long, it felt good at first to have full permission to turn away from the kinds of people who had invalidated me for much of my life. While I do believe it’s critical to curate identity-specific spaces, at this point I wonder if judging all people with more privilege hurts more than it helps. As former US president Barack Obama <a href="https://mobile.twitter.com/ABC/status/1019233996943683591">tweeted</a> recently about democracy: "You can't do it if you insist that those who aren't like you because they're white, or because they're male...that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters."</p> <p class="normal">What’s the antidote to this situation? I believe that social justice activists must be committed to rooting out supremacy, dogmatism, and unhealthy behaviors inside themselves while fighting for justice in society. And that means prioritizing the building of healthy relationships both with ourselves and with others, choosing alternatives to rage, and honoring ourselves as whole beings.</p> <p class="normal">So much of modern activism is a public performance, amplified by the lightning-quick churn of the internet. What does it tell us about the condition of our hearts when we are reactive and not engaging in slow contemplation? The ancient Chinese philosopher <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/100074-d-o-d-j-ng">Lao Tze reminds us</a> that “knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.” Tending to our internal landscapes and cultivating wisdom and character is paramount to maintaining integrity as an activist. Whether through practices steeped in spirituality, religion, movement, ancient texts, nature or any kind of higher power, some sort of internal practice is necessary for sustaining ourselves.</p> <p class="normal">For example, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza goes against popular opinion and <a href="https://mic.com/articles/166720/blm-co-founder-protesting-isnt-about-who-can-be-the-most-radical-its-about-winning#.AX4Sq69Gw">espouses</a> an attitude of welcome and forgiveness towards newer activists, especially toward white feminists who are still trying to grasp the uniquely harsh struggles of Black women. As she says, “if our movement is not serious about building power, then we are just engaged in a futile exercise of who can be the most radical.” This means setting aside the desire to be seen as the ‘most woke’ or the ‘most correct’ and accepting people at all stages of their activist journeys, no matter how outdated their politics may appear.</p> <p class="normal">Another internal quality that strengthens and grows activist movements is compassion. So often, when we as marginalized people are disregarded and abused by society we respond with rage and fighting back. How can we challenge ourselves to cultivate care and compassion for those we perceive as our enemies, so that they can be transformed into accomplices and allies? How can we hold anger and love in balance at the same time in our hearts?</p> <p class="normal">One great example is the life and work of Civil Rights elder <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_Sales">Ruby Sales</a>. In a recent <a href="https://onbeing.org/programs/ruby-sales-where-does-it-hurt/">radio interview</a> she called for a ‘liberating theology’ for poor, white people that shows them that they worthy of recognition. She understands that speaking to the redeeming parts of white people is essential for bringing them along in the fight for racial justice. This is a profoundly different message from the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/06/my-travels-in-white-america-a-land-of-anxiety-division-and-pockets-of-pain">flurry</a> of <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/12/31/trump-white-working-class-history-216200">think-pieces</a> that have blamed working-class white people who ‘voted against their own interests’ to elect Donald Trump.</p> <p class="normal">My new book, <a href="https://hellofranceslee.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/toward-an-ethics-of-activism-20182.pdf">Toward An Ethics of Activism: A Community Investigation of Humility, Grace and Compassion in Movements for Justice</a>, maps out a whole range of ways to address the relational problems of progressive activism. For example, trans activist and law professor Dean Spade outlines a toolkit for resolving interpersonal conflicts within activist organizations so that they can stay intact. He draws on the embodied practice of <a href="http://www.generativesomatics.org/content/what-somatics">Generative Somatics</a> to lead the reader into a set of self-reflective questions when feelings of anger, hurt or disappointment arise towards another person. This includes taking space to recognize how you are feeling in your body, identify past wounds that are being triggered, ask yourself what else is true about the person who harmed you, and attempt to seek reconciliation privately.</p> <p class="normal">At the root of all this work is a long and deep-seated history of oppression. Marginalized people have every right to fight back and rage about the injustices we and our ancestors have experienced in the face of colonization, slavery, imperialism and capitalism. At the same time, holding onto a constant state of antagonism towards those who are more privileged than you is exhausting and <a href="https://www.lennyletter.com/story/how-i-overcame-anger-as-a-black-writer-online">leads to devastating personal burn out.</a></p> <p class="normal">Aligning on the ‘right side of history’ in struggles for justice doesn’t mean that our own communities don’t have serious areas of growth to address, including patterns of <a href="https://selfishactivist.com/the-hidden-cost-of-call-out-culture-is-bigotry/">intolerance</a> and dominance. I believe that we must create ample space for rage and critique and also humility and gentleness, understanding that they are all valid expressions of the spectrum of human emotions. We must honor our full humanity, especially the parts of ourselves that aren’t in alignment yet with our liberatory values. And part of honoring our humanity means honoring the humanity of others, even that of our enemies and oppressors. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/pacita-rudder/building-different-form-of-power-young-people-s-voices-from-california-">Building a different form of power: young people’s voices from California’s Central Valley</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Frances Lee Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 28 Aug 2018 18:47:30 +0000 Frances Lee 119358 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Navigating the white water of these turbulent times https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/george-lakey/navigating-white-water-of-these-turbulent-times <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The struggle for liberation has never been about safety; justice is gained by confronting reality, however dangerous it may be.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article first appeared on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/navigate-turbulent-times/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GeorgeLakey4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">White water rafting, Rangitata Valley, NZ. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_water_rafting,_Rangitata_Valley,_NZ.jpg">Flickr/Rob Chandler via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The latest lurch in global statecraft—Trump’s dissing NATO allies then playing footsie with Vladimir Putin—leaves many scrambling to maintain some balance. Republicans for whom the enemy status of Russia is an article of faith are beside themselves. Democrats are running out of adjectives to describe Trump’s behavior. And activists who have been around for longer than the last election are wondering how to steer a steady course in the midst of extremities.</p> <p>It reminds me of whitewater rafting on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia, the kind where people aren’t supposed to even get into the raft unless they’ve had prior experience. I never paddled so hard in my life. At one point, even our guide was tossed out of the raft; thankfully a nearby kayaker grabbed him and returned him to us.</p> <p>When the activist and lesbian feminist writer Barbara Deming encountered Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth,” she praised his raising the question of balance. Fanon, involved with with the Algerian war of independence from the French empire, was writing about armed struggle for liberation. He said a major challenge for revolutionaries at a time of accelerating turbulence is how to avoid vertigo, the dizziness that accompanies highly emotional events happening around us.</p> <p>Deming’s personal experience in the 1960s civil rights movement brought that kind of challenge, she said in her reflection “<a href="https://www.warresisters.org/store/revolution-and-equilibrium-barbara-deming">On Revolution and Equilibrium</a>.” Deming found in the midst of turbulence that her commitment to nonviolence was steadying for her and others. Locked up in jail in Albany, Georgia, as one of a group of pacifists arrested for breaking the segregation laws, Deming undertook a fast that—when I saw her in the courtroom—left her hardly able to walk. The group won their struggle with the infamous Sheriff Laurie Pritchett.</p> <p>When I read her essay, I saw that her nonviolent commitment had a steadying ability to lead her more deeply into her center—where, as organizer and trainer Starhawk teaches, one source of power lies.</p> <p><strong>What does the white water mean for strategizing?</strong></p> <p>Whichever practices we choose for self- and group-centering, there is still the question of strategy. When paddling to keep up with the river, it matters whether you avoid the biggest rocks and how you handle the waterfall that lies just ahead. Black historian Vincent Harding&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/There_is_a_River.html?id=ppCEJb_lZh0C">likened the history of his people to a river</a>, sometimes so placid that the current was hardly noticeable, and other times racing at a furious pace. His metaphor helped me to see that in black history the ability of people to make the most of the rapids was linked to the group capacity they’d built in the quieter times.</p> <p>Community organizers know this, nurturing leadership skills and supporting group solidarity—so that when the white water comes, the team will paddle together. But what do we do now that we’ve already entered the white water?</p> <p><strong>Use opportunities efficiently.</strong></p> <p>We need to choose tactics that achieve strategic goals. Venting is not enough reason to have a demonstration. For a hundred years we can express ourselves through one-off actions and not make a difference. Corporate executives and politicians know that we can gather a hundred thousand or a million people together and that we’ll go home the next day. From their point of view, no problem.</p> <p>A politician running for office knows that winning requires more than holding a rally and then counting the votes. To win, they need a campaign. That’s exactly the case for activists: direct action campaigns give us a chance to win. A campaign has a demand, a target (the decider who can yield the demand), and a series of escalating actions that reflect campaign growth and increased campaign militancy.</p> <p><strong>Expect attitude change.</strong></p> <p>In the accelerating 1960s, a number of white segregationists began to accept the need for integration. In the turbulent 1930s, stoutly racist white auto workers in Michigan&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/unions-have-been-down-before-history-shows-how-they-can-come-back/">began to see the value of an integrated United Auto Workers</a>. I’ve watched patriots supporting the Vietnam War start to oppose it and family members contemptuous toward LGBT people embrace us. A century ago, while war and industrialization accelerated change, male chauvinists became willing to give the vote to women.</p> <p>As the river runs faster, the big problem becomes rigidity among activists who grew accustomed to excluding those who weren’t “in the know.” Judgment becomes more important than effectiveness, when activists would rather be right than learn how to unite to win.</p> <p>I’m told that increasing numbers of young people are now realizing that “the calling out culture” was a toxic trap, creating activist groups on campuses and elsewhere that marginalized themselves.</p> <p>As a gay man brought up working class, I am in touch with the fear that leads me to judging, to differentiating myself from people who I expect through long experience will keep the micro-aggressions coming. These days I rage and cry, at home, about the professional middle-class activists whose description of Trump supporters is riddled with prejudice against my class.</p> <p>It helps me to know that the struggle for liberation has never been about safety, about protecting myself inside a bubble apart from the reality that is out there. Justice is gained through campaigns confronting the reality and changing it. Ironically, the greatest availability for change is in those political moments when the ugly reality is most apparent, when the bigots yelled “fag” at me and my people as we campaigned for equality.</p> <p>In the midst of turbulence humans tend to “gird ourselves for defense” instead of continually scanning for the changes in attitude that happen around us. Then we miss opportunities to support the changes. It helps to watch revealing films like John Singleton’s “Higher Learning,”<em>&nbsp;</em>or listen to reformed white nationalist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510298/ted-radio-hour">Christian Picciolini tell his story</a>.</p> <p><strong>Support growing interest in alternatives.</strong></p> <p>Most people experience political turbulence as stressful, since it comes on top of what can be challenging personal lives. Some respond with nostalgia for the “good old days,” but others open their minds to an alternative vision.</p> <p>The 1850s in the United States was a period of whitewater. In the turbulence surrounding the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision, black abolitionist Martin R. Delany published a utopian novel “Blake.” Feminists and ecological writers famously published visions in the 1970s. We see the theme now again in the hit movie “Black Panther.”</p> <p>Alternative visions help in vital ways. They express hope, especially needed now by those distracted by the negativity of Trump. Visions help to create platforms for uniting a movement of movements, an essential if we want a living revolution. They also add significance to the new economy institutions that are being built in our midst, the start-ups for what needs to happen after a power shift opens the way to the new society.</p> <p>In her book “No Is Not Enough,” Naomi Klein shares the process Canadian civil society groups went through to come up with&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/resistance-cant-win-without-vision/">their vision of a just Canada: The LEAP Manifesto</a>. They intentionally called it a “leap” to distinguish from the step-by-step incrementalism that held many Canadian progressives in its soggy embrace.</p> <p>In short, acceleration of the pace of change opens opportunities that activists need in order to launch mass movements. After the failure of Occupy, we’ve been in a period of what I’ve called “low-grade depression,” a dogged determination accompanied by a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.</p> <p>Symptoms include plodding through tactical rituals (marches and rallies) and indulgence in blaming and guilting. The choppy white water of the river we’re traveling on invites a different orientation: to devise creative tactics as part of ongoing campaigns that can produce wins, to invite everyone to join whether or not they’re hip or use our favorite language, and to plant alternatives while taking seriously the need for a vision to replace the imploding status quo.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/reaching-trump-supporters-with-promise-of-vision">Reaching Trump supporters with the promise of vision</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 09 Aug 2018 18:26:17 +0000 George Lakey 119084 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The rise of resistance and resilience to tear gas https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/anna-feigenbaum/rise-of-resistance-and-resilience-to-tear-gas <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tear gas turns the square, the march and the public assembly into a toxic space.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This text is adapted from “<a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2109-tear-gas">Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of World War I to the Streets of Today</a>” and was first published in&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/resistance-tear-gas/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AnnaFeigenbaum1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A whirling sufi wearing a gas mask during the 2013 protests in Turkey in Gezi Park. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whirling_Sufi_Protester_wearing_gas_mask_in_Gezi_Park.jpg">Wikimedia/Azirlazarus</a>. <a title="Creative Commons" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/en:Creative_Commons">Creative Commons</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en">Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported</a>&nbsp;license.</p> <p>All around the world people invent, adapt and share techniques for resilience and resistance to tear gas. In doing so, they care for each other. They transform this weapon into a collectivizing tool. There is a growing transnational solidarity of tear gas resilience, aided by social media and mobile technologies that help protesters circulate relief remedies, gas mask designs and grenade throwback techniques. Displaying what social movement researcher Gavin Grindon has called “grassroots cultural diplomacy,” these tips are tweeted from Greece to New York, from Palestine to Ferguson, from Egypt to Hong Kong.</p> <p>In places like Bahrain and Palestine, widespread and even daily use of tear gas has made this chemical weapon a part of life. As a way of exhibiting and collectively processing this trauma, people sometimes transform tear gas canisters into other objects. Acts of anger, grief and memorializing emerge as artistic practices. For example, in Bahrain, people designed a throne made out of tear gas canisters to signify their royal family’s role in the suppression of democracy protests.</p> <p>In Palestine, tear gas canisters have been used as Christmas tree ornaments to send a holiday message to the United States about the role of its tear gas and arms manufacturers in the violence of the Occupied Territories. In 2013, images of a Palestinian garden made out of plants potted in empty tear gas shells went viral, picked up by mainstream media outlets as an image of hope and quiet resistance. Yet, as Elias Nawawieh&nbsp;<a href="https://972mag.com/photos-what-the-press-missed-in-bilin-tear-gas-flower-garden/80129/">pointed out</a>&nbsp;in&nbsp;<em>+972 Magazine</em>, absent from the news stories, Twitter photos and Facebook posts was the grave built as the garden’s centerpiece. It bears a translucent photo of Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was killed by the IDF in 2009 after being shot in the chest at close range by a tear gas grenade.</p> <p>In 2013,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/what-turkey-should-remind-us-about-tear-gas/">Occupy Gezi in Turkey</a>&nbsp;became a site of innovation, a place where people designed, adopted and adapted novel modes of resistance and resilience to tear gas. There was Ceyda Sungur, the woman in the red dress, pepper-sprayed at close range and turned into a movement icon. There were dancing ballerinas in whirling, brightly colored skirts that contrasted against the harshness of the full-cover gas masks they wore as they spun around. Penguins wore gas masks to symbolize the media’s failure to cover police violence, after television news stations attempted to block out news of the uprisings by screening a documentary about penguins instead of footage from the protests. Christian Gubar writes that “as both political commodities and stage props, goggles and gas masks were embraced for their eerie theatricality, speaking volumes to the grotesque banality of living under billows of noxious gas.”</p> <p>Rampant tear gas use on protesters and point-blank pepper-spray blasts are as common today as they were in the 1990s and early 2000s, with their use rapidly increasing across the Middle East and Eastern Africa. Like mobile video recording the decade before, the emergence of digital social media has meant that images of police violence against public demonstrators can circulate around the world in seconds. People directly hit with aerosol CS, pepper spray, and other tear gases take photos and videos that travel around Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, spreading stories often before the release of any official news reports. Such images can become movement icons.</p> <p>The 2011 Occupy movement in the United States was marked by a number of these tear-gassed iconic images. First there were the young women penned in plastic while unarmed and peacefully protesting. Images of this action went viral, picked up by social and mainstream media. Then there was retiree Dorli Rainey, who was sprayed directly in the face at Occupy Portland.</p> <p>These objects were as much about material reality as symbolism. Protesters in Gezi borrowed, translated, and reproduced instructions for making a gas mask out of a plastic bottle, and for using Maalox and other household ingredients as remedies for the painful effects of tear gas. Talcid Man appeared after a rumor spread that Talcid (a liquid medicine to relieve stomach inflammation) could help ease the effects of pepper spray. He emerged onsite, distributing the medicine as an embodied mobile care unit, and became a symbol of the movement’s resilience and generosity—depicted in stencils and sketches that circulated far beyond the occupied park.</p> <p><strong>Street medics.</strong></p> <p>In the gas-flooded streets, a variety of shops, sidewalk stands, ground-level flats and even a hotel became makeshift medical field stations, providing remedies and treatments to protesters. At these sites, health workers and those with basic first-aid skills converged. These medical volunteers often have a clearer and more accurate understanding of the real-world impact of “less lethals” than scientists running tests in sterile laboratories. It is here, under the tarpaulins of protest architecture and in the pop-up clinics, amid the chaos these weapons intentionally provoke, that the bruises and bleeding, the choking and vomiting, the inability to breathe, the concussions, and the paralysis are immediately felt.</p> <p>At the site of protest, pain is not a toxicity count or a threshold percentage. “Less lethal” is no longer a technical term but a vision of how much torment a body can take, of how close someone can come to death without dying. Measured in human experience, the medical field stations of protests can make visible the reality of riot control. Their ways of seeing and knowing medical injury can move us beyond the flames and smoke of media screens. They can provide far more accurate and detailed on-the-ground accounts than hospital records can. Their testimony can be mobilized to challenge the clinical trials produced by military-paid scientists.</p> <p><strong>Stopping shipments.</strong></p> <p>The export chains that enable the sales of less lethal weapons are also often targeted by campaigns seeking to intervene in what Amnesty International calls the “trade in torture.” In an act of defiance that ignited the unions in Egypt, customs worker Asma Mohammed, a member of her union’s women’s committee, refused to process a shipment of seven tons of tear gas from Combined Systems Inc. According to the War Resisters League, which honored her with its 2012 Peace Award, Mohammed recalled, “I said ‘No, I refuse—because I don’t want to be the cause of someone’s pain or death.’ So in solidarity with me, or with the cause, my co-workers said, ‘No, we’re not going to work on it either.’”</p> <p>In 2014, Bahrain Watch launched a #stoptheshipment campaign targeting Korean manufacturer Dae Kwang Chemical, which had contracted to supply more than a million canisters of tear gas to Bahrain—a country where more than 40 people have died and thousands more have been injured as a result of tear gas. Campaigners worked with Amnesty South Korea, Korean unions and local campaigns, as well as journalists at agenda-setting publications such as the&nbsp;<em>Financial Times</em>and&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>. These longstanding tactics were combined with sophisticated, contemporary uses of social media, including a catchy, action-based hashtag, timed retweets and a campaign-specific website. They succeeded in pressuring the South Korean government into placing an embargo on tear gas to Bahrain, stopping the Dae Kwang shipment.</p> <p><strong>Engaging in direct action.</strong></p> <p>Another way to resist excessive uses of riot control and protest profiteering is engaging in direct actions that intervene at sites where the transnational training of police forces takes place.</p> <p>In October 2013, the Facing Tear Gas campaign brought together organizations to&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/2014/05/urban-shield-will-make-boston-safer/">protest against Urban Shield</a>, an annual SWAT team training session and security sales expo that promotes the use of military tactics for protest policing. The campaign built a coalition of more than 30 local groups in Oakland, including the Oscar Grant Foundation and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.</p> <p>The next year they came back more organized, more informed and determined to make a difference. They created online petitions, held dedicated coalition-building meetings with council members, adopted a preemptive press strategy, and staged a demonstration outside the expo site that drew hundreds to the streets. Their efforts paid off: The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office announced that Urban Shield would no longer be held at the Marriott, and Mayor Jean Quan said that the City of Oakland would not renew its contract with Urban Shield. This was a small victory in a much larger struggle to change policing policies and practices.</p> <p>A key part of the success of the Stop Urban Shield campaign is sometimes called “going for the low-hanging fruit.” Trying to counter police use of force at the level of government policy or even at the sites of corporate headquarters will likely be slow and require legal action. Expos and SWAT training events held in public, or in spaces that have some public access (like hotel lobbies), are often easier to reach. They offer a convergence site for demonstrations, architecturally and territorially. Likewise, as sites where policing products are sold and displayed, expos offer activists an opportunity to make the secretive world of the arms trade visible. As the wide circulation of Shane Bauer’s 2014&nbsp;<a href="https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/swat-warrior-cops-police-militarization-urban-shield/">video exposé</a>&nbsp;of Urban Shield for&nbsp;<em>Mother Jones</em>&nbsp;evidenced, in today’s journalistic world of fake news, seeing verified information is believing.</p> <p>In addition, social media has changed PR, making image management a two-way process where customers’ influence is bigger than ever before. This transition is expanding the field of image-based activism, as people find key image locations—moments and partnerships—that are ripe for intervention. While this can appear to be auxiliary, targeting theaters or museums sponsored by arms dealers hits PR teams where it hurts. In this case, by linking Urban Shield to ongoing events in Ferguson and to Oakland’s past cases of police brutality, particularly against young black men, the Stop Urban Shield coalition’s multi-ethnic, queer membership made it impossible for the city council to support the expo without further damaging the city’s image.</p> <p>Importantly, it was not just the act of showing up and demonstrating at an arms fair that had this effect: It was making a global struggle local through grassroots mobilization and antiracist critique. Similarly, in explicitly targeting the Marriott, a large international hotel chain popular with families, Stop Urban Shield forced the company to weigh the profits of running this policing event against the risks of tarnishing its image. Getting the Marriott to pull out of Oakland’s Urban Shield is no guarantee that it will stop hosting similar expos elsewhere. However, Stop Urban Shield’s success in Oakland reveals a key pressure point that could become the grounds for a sustained campaign to get for-profit policing out of the Marriott.</p> <p><strong>Resisting from within.</strong></p> <p>In 2013, after I began writing in the media about tear gas, I received an email from a police trainer working in Eastern Europe. “I hope you will continue to read my message after I confess [my job] … I worked in this field for 20 years, and I realized that the high-profile policing (using force against demonstrators) is a dead-end, and I campaign for the communication-based or low profile approach. Now I lead a police training center and hope I can use my influence to spread this idea.” The officer went on to ask for training materials that he might be able to translate for his trainees. Letters like this one serve as a much-needed reminder that other worlds are possible. They remind us that we often have more in common than we think.</p> <p>It is not an easy thing to question the principles and protocols that shape your job and the way it is done. While my focus has been on advocacy from the outside, there are also a number of ways you can help transform how police are trained from the inside. In doing so you are likely to upset others around you, and you will certainly upset all those private consultants and experts who make money off the Saturdays you spend in their classrooms. </p> <p>Yet, by speaking out from within, you will be joining the ranks of many officers who have fought against the way excessive force is taught, enacted, and then covered up and protected within police departments. You will be speaking out against the cycles of trauma that can produce and perpetuate unnecessary uses of force. Change cannot just be about better public relations; it must also come from the bravery of speaking out from your heart and mind against systems you know are broken or corrupt.</p> <p><strong>What now? What next?</strong></p> <p>The increasing deployment of tear gas around the world has led to more canister strikes to the head, more asphyxiation from grenades launched in enclosed spaces, more tear gas offensives coupled with rubber bullets and live ammunition. These violent deployments of chemical weapons continue to leave people dead, disfigured, and with chronic physical and mental health conditions. If the century-long medical history of modern tear gas shows us anything, it is the problem with for-profit science. When science is leveraged for the profit of the few instead of the protection and health of the many, all of society suffers. At the most basic level, people deserve to know more about the chemicals that can be used against them. This is an issue of public health that must be researched independently and disclosed in ways that allows people to clearly understand the effects.</p> <p>Tear gas must also be considered in its material form—as an object designed to torment people, to break their spirits, to cause physical and psychological damage. No amount of corporate public relations or safety guidelines can hide that foundational truth of chemical design. Tear gas is a weapon that polices the atmosphere and pollutes the very air we breathe. It turns the square, the march, the public assembly into a toxic space, taking away what is so often the last communication channel people have left to use. If the right to gather, to speak out, is to mean anything, then we must also have the right to do so in air we can breathe.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/protest/anna-feigenbaum/tear-gas">Tear gas and protest: &#039;there’s a vested interest in escalating force&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/marijn-nieuwenhuis/tear-gas-at-eu-border">Tear gas at the EU’s border</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/julian-sayarer/twitter-and-tear-gas-on-power-and-fragility-of-networked-protest">Twitter and tear gas: on the power and fragility of networked protest</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Anna Feigenbaum Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 27 Jul 2018 01:08:18 +0000 Anna Feigenbaum 118184 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Remembering Dorothy Cotton, freedom educator https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lucas-johnson/remembering-dorothy-cotton-freedom-educator <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need to believe ourselves capable of something greater than the dehumanizing roles our society has given us.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/dorothy-cotton-movement-educator-democracy-freedom/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LucasJohnson.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Dorothy Cotton was the director of education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Martin Luther King years<em>. </em>Credit: Twitter/@natcivilrightsmuseum. All rights reserved.</p> <p>On June 10 2018, the world lost another veteran of the 20th century struggles for freedom and democracy. Dorothy Cotton, director of education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC, when it was led by Martin Luther King Jr., passed away at the age of 88.</p> <p>As an invaluable member of a legendary team of preachers and organizers, she was one of the few women at SCLC to have served in a senior leadership position. Amid the efforts to register black voters in the segregated South, SCLC came to realize that registration was not enough for a population that had been disenfranchised for centuries. Cotton wanted people to understand the mechanisms of a government that had never really represented them or their interests and, ultimately, make that government their own—a process that would involve much more than voting.</p> <p>She devoted herself to this work in the 1960s, ensuring that black people were taught black history and lessons important to economic empowerment, alongside classes on the constitution and ways to pass literacy tests. After the movement years, she went on to become the director of student activities at Cornell University and, among other things, supported students who were organizing in solidarity with the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.</p> <p>I didn’t meet Dorothy until long after she retired from Cornell. In 2012,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/remembering-vincent-harding-enduring-veteran-hope/">Vincent Harding</a>&nbsp;had asked me to join a historic delegation to Palestine that was being organized by the Dorothy Cotton Institute. I was uneasy about joining the delegation—which was mainly veterans of the black freedom struggles of the 1950s and ‘60s—but eventually agreed.</p> <p>It was a tremendous honor to be among such a remarkable group. Led by Cotton and Harding, the delegation was, in part, a testament to her commitment to education. Even before leaving, we read, discussed and shared insights. Since the delegation was composed mostly of African Americans and Jews, we delved into the complicated history of relationships between the two groups in the United States. But that was just one part of the journey we undertook together.</p> <p>I learned an incredible amount on that delegation, and I owe Dorothy a great deal for it. Perhaps one of the most significant lessons was one I didn’t notice I was even learning. Dorothy would use movement to push us forward during the more difficult moments of the delegation. She was modeling for me, and the rest of us, the role of music in the movement. She would sing because we needed it and call us to song because she needed it.</p> <p>I had learned about the important role of music in the movement before—that it gave strength and courage to weary and sometimes frightened marchers. I knew of the power of song, but the demonstrations of my generation had more chants than songs. To experience Dorothy Cotton leading us all in song, in an effort to renew our souls on a hot and exhausting day, is among the greatest blessings of my life.</p> <p>We sang often during the trip. I don’t recall exactly when we began, but there was a notable moment for me in the West Bank, after our group of travelers had been listening all day to the painful stories of the occupation. We had heard of the destruction of homes, the stories of beatings, brutality and unequal treatment under the law. The truth of the occupation of Palestine is difficult for anyone to hear and see, much less a group of people who witnessed and survived similar treatment in the segregated United States.</p> <p>Our bus had stopped in front of the “separation barrier,” which interrupts the ancient route of the Jericho Road. We had gotten off to see the tear gas canisters marked “Made in the U.S.A.” The canisters added the burden of our complicity to the weight of all that we had seen and heard. In my memory, we were quite silent when we returned to the bus, and it was Dorothy Cotton’s singing that broke the silence. “Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumblin down.” </p> <p>It seemed at once an expression of lament and a defiant call to hope. The song represented a strange juxtaposition of time: the story of the ancient Israelites, carried in a song composed by our ancestors while they were enslaved, being sung in a location closer to the original story, but at a time far removed.</p> <p>Palestine in 2012 was also quite far from the movement years of the 1960’s. But the lessons Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark and others involved in SCLC’s Citizen Education Program could be felt in that moment. They understood the importance of vigilance in the struggle ahead. Then, as much as now, in order to transform the world, we have to see ourselves and each other differently. We will need to believe ourselves capable of something more than the dehumanizing roles our society has given us. We have to look beyond the caricatures of ourselves, caricatures that we are so often tempted to become.</p> <p>In 1960, that meant that African Americans needed to free ourselves of the beliefs we internalized about our own inferiority, our own criminality. This was the importance of black history in the citizenship education workshops. The lies told about us for centuries were so pervasive and so penetrating that even if they had stopped 50 years ago, the struggle to free ourselves from them would still be necessary.</p> <p>For all of us in this country, and most especially for white Americans, our task was and still is to free ourselves of the corrosive myth of white supremacy — a myth that has touched every fabric of American life from local economic structures to foreign policy. It is a myth that so distorts one’s sense of self that it has the power to suppress empathy, perhaps the key component of our humanity.</p> <p>We know today, as clear as ever, that this myth is not easily defeated. This was the vigilance for which Dorothy and others prepared us. They knew democracy, equality and freedom would not be secured by the right to vote. To have considered this and prepared for it at a time when people were being killed for such efforts is a testament to the remarkable foresight and tenacity within the movement.</p> <p>Dorothy’s vigilance and commitment to freedom is what inspired her to travel to Palestine while in her 80s. She was unsatisfied with the official narrative of events. Through the pain of what we saw, the difficult conversations we had upon our return and the relationships we risked to tell the truth, she wrestled alongside us. Dorothy demonstrated a consistency of courage, even at a time when she could have rested on her well-deserved laurels. She modeled a life dedicated to the destruction of walls that divide us, and she was anchored by the belief of who we could become.</p> <p>I will remember her and celebrate her life not only because of who she was in the 1960’s—and the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/why-civil-rights-movement-veterans-didnt-fail-us/">sacrifices of her generation</a>&nbsp;that made my life possible—but also because of all she continued to be. She taught us how to be a citizen and how to be more fully human, even until the end.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/where-are-all-leaders">Where are all the leaders?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lucas Johnson Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 12 Jul 2018 20:50:32 +0000 Lucas Johnson 118780 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Building a different form of power: young people’s voices from California’s Central Valley https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/pacita-rudder/building-different-form-of-power-young-people-s-voices-from-california- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We are proud to be Black and Brown, we are proud to be immigrants and refugees, and we are thriving.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PatriciaRudder1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Members of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/99Rootz/">99Rootz</a> in California’s Central Valley. Credit: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/99Rootz/">99Rootz</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Driving down Route 99 in California mile upon mile of grapes, nuts, lemons, and tomatoes line the land next to the asphalt. Highlighted within this landscape of farmland and truck-filled highways are young people: strong, beautiful, Black and Brown young people full of fire and wisdom, unapologetically organizing amidst big agriculture and small towns. They are organizing for a Central Valley that provides all of its residents with what they need to be whole. At the center of this energy is “<a href="https://www.facebook.com/99Rootz/">99Rootz</a>.” </p> <p>99Rootz is a regional youth and young adult leadership initiative specific to the Central Valley, and was launched in early 2018 by Mobilize the Immigrant Vote and YVote. MIV-YVote (soon to be&nbsp;Power California) harnesses the energy of California’s diverse majority to create a state that is fair, inclusive and just for everyone who calls California home. MIV-YVote builds the power of young, immigrant and refugee voters of color and their families to win policy victories, elect and hold leaders accountable, and meet the aspirations of their communities.</p> <p>As a youth organizing project rooted in social justice, 99Rootz builds leadership pathways and safe spaces for growth and development for young people in the towns that surround Route 99. Working out of two offices in Sanger and Merced, Alicia Olivarez, 99Rootz Strategy Director and Crisantema “Crissy” Gallardo, their Senior Organizer, know firsthand the joys and struggles that young people experience in the region. Alicia and Crissy were born and raised here, left to attend university at Harvard and UC Berkeley respectively, and then returned to their hometowns to help build a movement of young people of color who are transforming their communities. </p> <p>Crissy describes her own upbringing in the Central Valley like this:</p> <blockquote><p>“In Atwater, I always felt like there was never anything to do. Public transportation was pretty much non-existent so getting around to the bigger towns was hard. Monday through Thursday my [farmworker] immigrant parents worked in the fields and on Sundays, their only day off, we would go to mass and then grocery shopping. That was our routine.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>My older siblings got involved with drugs and gangs and law enforcement was constantly at my house. My older sister was murdered when I was sixteen and my older brother was in jail at the time. That moment made me feel like I was the last child that could do something to make my parents proud. They worked really hard and their biggest dream was for one of us to make it to college.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I left for UC Berkeley [and] was fortunate to find a support system composed of womyn of color [who] helped me unlearn all the lies I was taught by the school system in the Central Valley, like if I spoke English well enough I would succeed and if I assimilated everything would be fine. My time at UC Berkeley challenged me to think for myself to find my own identity.” </p></blockquote> <p>&nbsp;Alicia told me a similar story:</p> <blockquote><p>“My neighborhood [in Sanger] was made up of hard-working, largely immigrant, farm and packinghouse workers. This included my family who worked the surrounding fields. My parents could not be around for numerous reasons, including needing to work, so it fell on me as the oldest child to take care of my siblings. I did this as best as a child can take care of other children.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Growing up all I could think about was how badly I wanted out of my reality, which included being accustomed to drive-by shootings, worrying about loved ones with meth addictions, and living in housing infested with roaches and mice. I just felt incredibly alone and hopeless.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Through all of these challenges I learned about my own capacity for resilience and transformation. To resist, I had to learn to cultivate my own hope and a different narrative of our communities and carry this with me in my work with 99Rootz. To resist collectively as a region, we have to plant, nourish, and cultivate our own narratives and hope.”</p></blockquote> <p>The scale of problems in the Central Valley creates a heightened sense of the absence of community safety and wellbeing. Elected officials and law enforcement maintain power by fabricating a performance of safety through excessive criminalization. True safety requires the inclusion of people who are the least engaged in decision making—especially youth and women of color, queer, and disabled folks—while also lifting up their power. </p> <p>99Rootz is shifting the ways in which these communities are viewed and the ways in which they participate in the political spaces of the Central Valley by utilizing a combination of culture and organizing. They are helping residents to create a future where all people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives; power that truly rests with the people.</p> <p>This year, youth organizers at 99Rootz are campaigning for safe schools and communities. The 99Rootz office serves as a cultural hub for young people to experience and create art; a base from which to run phone banking and door knocking campaigns; and a resource for political education and voter registration.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the majority of people in leadership positions in the region hold values that run counter to the needs of the majority of the population who are Black and Brown. As Alicia told me:</p> <blockquote><p>“The Central Valley continues to be a political battleground when it comes to hotly contested seats, conservative congressional leadership, and prominent local criminal justice agencies allied with the racist federal administration.”</p></blockquote> <p>99Rootz works to change this from the ground up by organizing to elect decision-makers who have a genuine knowledge and understanding of the communities in which they work. They are helping to train the next generation of leaders in the values and skills they will need to govern faithfully for all.</p> <p>As part of 99Rootz’ commitment to providing young people with the skills and resources they need to thrive they lead a “Freedom Summer” in partnership with the University of California campuses at Santa Cruz and Merced. In the footsteps of the 1964<a href="https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/freedom-summer"> Freedom Summer</a> where young Black folks travelled to Mississippi to register as many Black people as they could to vote, 25 students from the Central Valley have come back to their hometowns as 99Rootz interns to organize young people in low-income communities and organize voter education and registration drives. </p> <p>They will also help to facilitate 99Rootz Summer Academies for young people of color. The academies include deep training on identity, political education, and campaign planning as well as a culture track through which young people can gain opportunities to create art and attend workshops that acknowledge collective trauma and create the space and trust to heal together.</p> <p>Crissy and Alicia’s vision is expansive, and rooted in love for community.</p> <blockquote><p>“[99Rootz is] a pathway that amplifies the local talent and resources that already exist in our communities,” Says Crissy, “Young people in the Central Valley are powerful. We are proud to be Black and Brown, we are proud to be immigrants and refugees, and we are thriving.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>More freedom centers will open up across the valley and more young people of color are going to be in the forefront fighting for justice. I want 99Rootz to be the vehicle youth use to transform our schools, cities, and region.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>We are going back to the basics, #eachoneteachone, sharing our stories, building our leadership, and taking it to the streets and ballots. The contributions of Hmong refugees, Punjabi immigrants, and Latina farm workers will be acknowledged and represented brightly in community murals, school curriculum, and elected positions. Our Central Valley is full of color, art, and pride. The Central Valley is the HEART of Cali.” </p></blockquote> <p>Alicia continues:</p> <blockquote><p>“I came back to the Valley because, although I was talking about social justice work and wanting to create change, I kept finding myself further and further away from those most impacted. By the time I got to Harvard, literally across the continent in one of the most concentrated institutions for power and privilege, I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Our communities deserve to be healthy by design and free from corporations that seek to profit off our people. My vision is for 99Rootz to help create pathways that are bigger than us, that are unapologetic about where we are from, and that build collective power.” </p></blockquote> <p>The model 99Rootz represents is important because it places power directly in the hands of young people from the Central Valley. They register other young people to vote in their high schools, talk to their peers on the phone, and walk in their own communities talking to their neighbors. </p> <p>What makes this work even more impactful is the integration of art and culture into organizing. 99Rootz recognizes that this movement is not whole until people start connecting to each other in new ways. When those in power want us to be quiet we scream louder. When they want us to be still we dance joyously with all our loved ones. </p> <p>99Rootz is making space for the creativity and joy that comes from art and culture to surround organizing work and provide what people truly need to grow and imagine a different future. They are leading the way and showing us that&nbsp;it is&nbsp;possible to be woke, to dream, and to change the power structures of self and society all at the same time.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/dan-silver/taking-pictures-that-mean-something-everyday-life-in-salford">Taking pictures that mean something: everyday life in Salford</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Five ways to build solidarity across our differences</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Pacita Rudder Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 26 Jun 2018 19:52:55 +0000 Pacita Rudder 118569 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we can really learn from Gandhi? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Social struggle calls for true transformation, a trading in of old lives for new.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ChrisMooreBackman.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marche_sel.jpg">Yann via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Once again I’m thinking back to the 16th of February 2003. By that time, my own experiments with nonviolence had formed my lukewarm (at best) opinion of the marches and rallies currently in fashion. But February 16th was not a day to let skepticism reign. The Iraq War was imminent and people were taking to the streets. I knew I ought be among them. And, while I cannot claim that I stepped out on that winter morning with every bit of my hard-earned skepticism left at the door, I did step out. With an earnest and open heart, I stepped out. </p> <p>Downtown, I met up with a small group from my Quaker meeting. We wove among many thousands of our fellow San Franciscans, adding our voices to a resounding “no,” collectively and clearly pronounced in the face of the looming re-invasion of Iraq. It was an exhilarating day. It was a day of passion and purpose. Perhaps most dazzling and heartening was the knowledge that our voices were lifted in concert with millions of others the world over.</p> <p>Remember that? We were experiencing a taste of the immense potential of people and of the great underlying solidarity that bound us together. It was a marvelous day. And, it was one of the loneliest days of my life. The profound loneliness I experienced wasn’t simply a case of my skeptic shadow getting the best of me. On the contrary, it was the relaxed grip of my skepticism that opened me to the truth I encountered that day. In the painful isolation I had that singular experience of clearly seeing something for the first time that at some level I had known all along.</p> <p>Amidst the day’s exhilaration it was plain to me that something essential was missing—that there was, in fact, a gaping void at the very heart of it all. Deep down, I knew that this marvelous day was a day of certain failure. I knew that our massive mobilization to stop the war would inevitably and necessarily fade, and it would do so quickly.&nbsp;During the march, my eyes were invariably drawn by particular phrases scrawled on several of the signs and banners. And I couldn’t help but think of the person behind those catchy one-liners: Gandhi.</p> <p>Like every great prophet Gandhi is customarily placed on a pedestal. We revere him as a patron saint of nonviolence, a mahatma—the Sanskrit term of veneration meaning great soul—a larger-than-life figure we can never hope to fully emulate. We hold him at this comfortable distance, deeply impressed and inspired, while remaining free and clear from what he actually taught. Gandhi himself bristled at the thought of being called mahatma, doubting his worthiness of the accolade, and knowing well that such veneration would necessarily distract people from what he was actually doing. Gandhi urged his fellow Indians not to exalt him but to look at the nuts and bolts of nonviolent transformation. </p> <p>Over the last decade, I’ve seen my primary work as that of taking Gandhi down off the pedestal. I’ve studied him closely, including his teachings about Satyagraha, a term coined by him and variously translated as “truth force,” “soul force” or “clinging to truth,” generally used in reference to nonviolent resistance or a specific nonviolent campaign. I am committed to listen to Gandhi as a trusted guide with concrete instructions relating to my here-and-now, day-to-day life. Following February 16, 2003, this quest became particularly focused. I felt compelled to understand both the gaping hole I experienced that day and the nature of its possible remedy. I hoped Gandhi’s life and work would offer guidance. And in due time, I found this guidance in the space&nbsp;of a single paragraph penned by Gandhi at a critical point&nbsp;in his life.</p> <p>On February 27, 1930, two short weeks prior to launching the Salt Satyagraha, a pivotal episode in India’s struggle for independence from the British Empire, Mohandas Gandhi wrote a short article for a national publication. The article was called “When I am Arrested.” While the Salt Satyagraha has been the subject of immense interest to scholars and activists, this article appears to have gone mostly unnoticed. This is understandable, given the drama of the “great march to the sea” and the massive civil disobedience that followed it.</p> <p>The British, in order to maintain their monopoly on the salt industry, had prohibited any unsanctioned production or sale of salt. Gandhi defied British imperialism by leading a 385-kilometre trek to the Dandi seashore and lifting a now-iconic fistful of salt above his head in contravention of the salt laws. It stands as one of the most potent touchstones in the history of nonviolent resistance.&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s hard not to get lost in the drama, power and personality of the Salt Satyagraha, but if we look closely at “When I am Arrested,” we catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the inner workings and design of India’s independence movement. Gandhi published the article to put the masses of India on alert and to give them a final set of instructions. It also offered an impassioned battle cry, culminating with Gandhi’s declaration that this time not a single nonviolent devotee of Indian independence “should find himself free or alive at the end of the effort.”</p> <p>Within this call to action I found the paragraph I believe we activists most need to hear. The paragraph refers to the ashram that was Gandhi’s home, a place where religious devotees lived, raised their food and worshipped together. It was also the starting point of the march to the sea.</p> <blockquote><p><em>"So far as I am concerned, my intention is to start the movement only through the inmates of the Ashram and those who&nbsp;have submitted to its discipline and assimilated the spirit&nbsp;of its methods. Those, therefore, who will offer battle at the&nbsp;very commencement will be unknown to fame. Hitherto the Ashram has been deliberately kept in reserve in order that by a fairly long course of discipline it might acquire stability.&nbsp;I feel, that if the Satyagraha Ashram is to deserve the great confidence that has been reposed in it and the affection lavished upon it by friends, the time has arrived for it to demonstrate the qualities implied in the word satyagraha.&nbsp;I feel that our self-imposed restraints have become subtle indulgences, and the prestige acquired has provided us with privileges and conveniences of which we may be utterly unworthy. These have been thankfully accepted in the hope that some day we would be able to give a good account of ourselves in terms of satyagraha. And if at the end of nearly 15 years of its existence, the Ashram cannot give such a demonstration, it and I should disappear, and it would be well for the nation, the Ashram and me."</em></p></blockquote> <p>What struck me that day in San Francisco, on the eve of war, was that we peace-minded folk were entirely unprepared for the battle at hand. Our so-called “movement” lacked the depth necessary to sustain it. It came as no surprise, then, to see that after the bombs started dropping, we returned, with few exceptions, to our lives—to business, “progressive” though it may have been, as usual. Though committed nonviolent practitioners dappled the crowd that day, the marching thousands were not grounded by the presence of a core group such as that which gave such depth to India’s independence movement or the civil rights movement, which drew heavily on Gandhi’s teaching and example. Try as we might to organize faithful and effective nonviolent resistance, if we proceed as though the battle doesn’t require that kind of depth, discipline and training, our efforts will necessarily continue to come up short. And where does such depth come from?</p> <p>In Gandhi’s article, “When I Am Arrested,” he offers us a valuable clue: 78 people prepared for 15 years. In community life, they underwent the training of spiritual discipline and constructive work of social uplift. Though they were the core of the Salt Satyagraha, those 78 did not carry it out on their own. The great power of that movement was many-layered, involving literally millions of individuals responding to the direction of a superlative leader. But the role of that core of 78 was essential to the Salt Satyagraha’s success and the ultimate success of India’s struggle for independence.</p> <p>If we want to truly benefit from Gandhi’s guidance here, we need to enter into a deep and soulful investigation of this ashram experience, and discover what Gandhi meant when he said that the Salt Satyagraha would only be started by those who had “submitted to its discipline and assimilated the spirit of its methods.” Gandhi calls for true transformation, a trading in of old lives for new. What is remarkable about Gandhi the teacher is not that he introduced novel concepts—he said himself that nonviolence is as “old as the hills”—but that he so deftly systematized the transformative work of building a nonviolent life, and that he did it in a way that can be effectively translated for our time and place.</p> <p>Gandhi’s approach to nonviolence, which was the foundation of his ashram communities, points us to interrelated, mutually supportive spheres of experimentation. Nonviolence scholar Gene Sharp notes three such spheres in Gandhi’s writings: personal transformation, constructive program (work of social uplift and renewal), and political action, prioritized in that order. At the heart of Gandhi’s approach to social change is his understanding that the building blocks of a nonviolent society are the vibrant, productive, nonviolent lives of individual women and men.</p> <p>Effective nonviolent political action does not spring from a vacuum; it grows out of daily living grounded in personal and communal spiritual practice, and in constructive service to one’s immediate and surrounding communities. Nonviolence on the political stage is only as powerful as the personal and&nbsp;community-based nonviolence of those who engage in it. The importance of the ashram experience flows from this understanding.</p> <p>This fundamental aspect of the Gandhian design almost entirely eludes us in our North American context. Here, we most often employ the reverse order of Gandhi’s threefold approach, seeking a political response first, the building up of a constructive alternative second and the stuff of all-out personal reformation third, if at all. This reversal allows North American activists of faith to sidestep some of the most foundational aspects of Gandhi’s nonviolent recipe: namely, radical simplicity, solidarity with the poor and disciplined spiritual practice.</p> <p>Because we do not believe nonviolence requires these of us, we miss the necessity of the ashram experience. No one can build a nonviolent life as an individual. I may be able to practice some measure of piecemeal nonviolence more or less on my own, but if I’m going to pluck the seeds of war from every part of my life that I possibly can, if I am going to renounce and abandon the violence of my first-world way of life, I need to be surrounded by others whose knowledge, wisdom and experience will complement mine, and whose example and company will inspire me to stay the course.</p> <p>The 78 members of Satyagraha Ashram who were the cadre of “foot soldiers” Gandhi chose to be the nucleus of the Salt Satyagraha were doing all of this for one another for a period of nearly 15 years. This prepared them for the high level of self-sacrifice that Gandhi foresaw when he said, “Not a single believer in nonviolence as an article of faith for the purpose of achieving India’s goal should find himself free or alive at the end of the effort.” Until faith communities embrace this level of commitment and clarity of purpose, it is up to those of us who feel called in this direction to seek each other out.</p> <p>We need to hold one another accountable to this magnificent charge. We need to manifest our shared strength and leadership. We need to move together toward the key ingredients in Gandhi’s nonviolent recipe—radical simplicity, solidarity with the poor and disciplined spiritual practice. As we walk that long, disciplined, grace-filled path we and our religious communities will be rightly stretched. And in time, I trust that we will be gradually readied for sustained nonviolent struggle.</p> <p class="image-caption">Syndicated from <a href="http://www.earthlingopinion.files.wordpress.com/">www.earthlingopinion.files.wordpress.com</a>.This article originally appeared in&nbsp;<a href="https://geezmagazine.org/">Geez magazine</a>.&nbsp;Geez is an independent quarterly Canadian magazine dealing with issues of spirituality, social justice, religion, and progressive cultural politics.&nbsp;A version of this article appeared in Friends Journal, April 2006.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mark-engler-paul-engler/how-did-gandhi-win">How did Gandhi win?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/danielle-batist-arun-gandhi/arun-gandhi-grandfather-mahatma-nonviolence-peace">Stopping war comes from each of us: Arun Gandhi on his grandfather Mahatma</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Chris Moore-Backman Transformative nonviolence Activism Love and Spirituality Thu, 21 Jun 2018 17:45:10 +0000 Chris Moore-Backman 118071 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Eight lessons from climate organizing for today’s youth-led movements https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nick-engelfried/eight-lessons-from-climate-organizing-for-today-s-youth-led-movements <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As a young person, there’s nothing less empowering than listening to an older person tell you how real activism was done in the 1960s.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/lessons-youth-activism-climate-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NickEngelfried.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Climate justice activists protest the Dakota Access pipeline outside the White House in February 2017. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenmelkisethian/page1">Flickr/Stephen Melkisethian</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>.</p> <p>On March 24 2018 I stood in the rain in front of City Hall in Bellingham, Washington with some 3,000 people for the local March for Our Lives demonstration. It was one of 800 similar events happening nationwide that day, with about two million people participating coast to coast.</p> <p>The March for Our Lives against gun violence is one example of the wave of massive demonstrations that have swept the country since the Trump administration took office. From the Women’s March, to responses to Trump’s attacks on Muslims and immigrants, to protests against police violence, rallies for healthcare, and uprisings against pipelines, the last two years have been characterized by mass movements unparalleled in the United States in decades. Many, like the March for Our Lives, involve young people in leading roles. As someone who spent most of the past decade as a “youth activist”—in my case, a climate activist—I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.</p> <p>I became an activist while attending Portland Community College at age 17 in 2005. Inspired by a political science professor who discussed social movements in class, I researched projects like the Campus Climate Challenge, a campaign to pressure school administrations to curb campus carbon emissions. I got involved in pushing for recycling at my college.</p> <p>Fast forward a couple years to when Energy Action Coalition organized Power Shift 2007, a gathering of about 5,000 students in Washington, D.C. that included a multi-day organizing conference and a rally at the Capitol. At the time, it was the largest-ever demonstration for climate action in the United States. For many of us, this stands out as the moment the “youth climate movement” became a distinct force in progressive politics.</p> <p>I didn’t make it to Power Shift 2007. But I was in D.C. in 2009 for the next Power Shift, an even larger gathering of some 12,000 youth. Then a senior at Oregon’s Pacific University, I convinced three classmates to fly across the country with me.</p> <p>A lot has changed since those early years of youth climate activism. For one thing, many of us who got involved then are no longer “youth”—I recently turned 30. More importantly, the movement has grown in remarkable, unexpected ways, overlapping with other progressive organizing efforts. Indeed, my sense is that there’s no longer a distinct “youth climate movement” the way there was in 2009. It’s become several movements—for fossil fuel divestment, opposition to pipelines and solidarity with indigenous nations. Another way of looking at it is youth climate activists are just one part of a much larger coalition of progressive movements that simply didn’t exist on this scale 10 years ago.</p> <p>For almost exactly a decade, I identified as a youth climate activist. After graduating from Pacific University in 2009 I volunteered for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, focusing on involving college students in the effort to close Oregon’s only coal-fired power plant. In 2011 I moved to Missoula, Montana and spent four years rallying students and others to oppose coal export and mining projects. These last few years I’ve made a transition to supporting the growth and leadership of a new generation of young activists working on climate change or other issues.</p> <p>Like all large movements, youth climate activism has had its successes and setbacks, its enormously inspiring moments and others when it failed to live up to its ideals. What follows are some reflections on lessons from the movement, necessarily limited by my own experience and position as a white male organizer from a middle-class background. Despite this bias, I hope these reflections may be of use to people involved in today’s fast-growing youth-led movements.</p> <p><strong>1. Trust in students’ abilities.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the best things the youth climate movement did early was stop telling young people they were apathetic—as media figures&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/opinion/10friedman.html">like Thomas Friedman</a>&nbsp;were doing—and start saying they were powerful and inspiring. Events like Power Shift promoted positive messages about the abilities of youth. This inspired many young people, including me, to think we could make a difference and try to do so.</p> <p>Still, some national groups have not fully realized this lesson, limiting their work with youth to voter turnout drives, trainings and large rallies. With some exceptions, large national groups have been more reluctant to trust students’ ability and willingness to engage in tactics like civil disobedience.</p> <p>I first got arrested at a protest when I was 23, at a&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/montana-coal-protesters-argue-necessity-defense/">sit-in I helped coordinate</a>&nbsp;in the Montana State Capitol. I had studied the philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience and concluded that this was a step I was ready to take. I was less sure my slightly younger peers, who possibly lacked this background, would be willing to do the same. Yet, over the next few years, I was pleasantly surprised to see students who’d only recently gotten involved in activism step forward and risk arrest&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/stop-coal-train-tracks/">blocking the paths of coal trains</a>&nbsp;and sitting in at lawmakers’ offices.</p> <p>We tend to underestimate the ability of young people to intuitively grasp the significance of nonviolent direct action as a strategy. Of course, the opportunity to engage in this kind of activism must be presented in a way that feels accessible and meaningful—but when this is done, youth will step up. Have faith in their abilities.</p> <p><strong>2. Follow-up is hugely important.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Building a sustained movement means following up with those who participate to ensure they stay involved. A campaign that failed to do this well was Power Vote in 2008, a national multi-organization effort focused on getting students to pledge to vote ahead of the election. I was the campus lead for Power Vote at Pacific University and only later realized the flaws in how the national campaign was structured. We gathered hundreds of pledge cards with students’ contact information—but this valuable data wasn’t collated in a timely manner that would have allowed it to be used for following-up.</p> <p>Follow-up is important in all campaigns, not just those with students. But it can be especially important for young people who are mostly new to political engagement. Following up and reminding students to fill out their ballots, show up to the next rally, and contact their elected officials helps build habits that will likely keep for years—but it requires mechanisms to ensure their data is preserved and used.</p> <p><strong>3. Teach transferrable skills.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best activism serves two purposes: It accomplishes a campaign objective while helping participants master skills they can put to use in other contexts. This is especially important with young people, who often have little formal activist training but can take what they learn and apply it again and again.</p> <p>Many activist skills—setting up meetings with public officials, testifying at hearings, holding nonviolence trainings—aren’t actually that complicated but can seem vastly mysterious to someone who has never done them before. Once armed with the right knowledge, young people become empowered to transfer skills to new campaigns and situations. Accomplishing this means structuring movements in such a way that youth have leadership roles and get hands-on experience building campaigns from the ground up.</p> <p><strong>4. Be specific about movement goals.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I got involved in climate activism, we talked a lot about “comprehensive climate legislation” and “creating green jobs.” This sounded great, but it was sometimes unclear exactly what these words meant. This came back to bite the movement in 2009-2010, during the fight over national climate legislation that eventually went down in flames.</p> <p>The problem with vague terms like “comprehensive legislation” is they mean many things to many people. As it turned out, to lawmakers—like then-Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Lindsay Graham—they meant a cap-and-trade plan riddled with loopholes and giveaways to polluters. This truly terrible piece of legislation split the climate movement—including youth activists—between those who saw it as a small step forward, and those who believed it was worse than nothing.</p> <p>On the other hand, the campaigns that have done most to strengthen the climate movement have very specific goals tied to clearly defined strategies. These include efforts to stop oil pipelines, close coal plants and divest universities from fossil fuels. These campaigns have accomplished concrete wins while building coalitions that leave the movement stronger—whereas the push for national legislation left climate groups fragmented and demoralized. Fossil fuel divestment is a particularly good example of a student-focused campaign with an easily understood goal and clear framework for building power.</p> <p><strong>5. Partner with frontline communities.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not only is this the right thing to do, but it’s strategic, fun and empowering. Some of the most inspiring moments I can think of from youth climate campaigns involved students interacting with people on the frontlines of extraction and polluting industries. I’ve seen student activists collaborate with farmers impacted by natural gas pipelines, residents of working-class rail line neighborhoods affected by coal trains and indigenous groups fighting oil infrastructure. In each case, the partnerships that developed were (I believe) mutually rewarding for both groups.</p> <p>That said, building effective, lasting partnerships with frontline communities takes work. It’s not just about saying the words “people of color” and “climate justice” in every press release. This kind of work requires commitment to lasting relationships built on good faith and the belief in a shared stake in a better future. It requires learning form the people most affected by pollution so as to challenge fossil fuel industries effectively.</p> <p><strong>6. Partner with older activists.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another of the most empowering experiences youth activists can have is the opportunity to work with no-longer-quite-so-young individuals who have a whole different set of life experiences. For students, it can be heartening to see that their generation isn’t the only one concerned about the status quo. Similarly, non-youth activists tend to find it encouraging to see young people rising to build a movement.</p> <p>This doesn’t mean student and older activist groups should merge. There’s real value in youth-specific organizations that let young people bond and learn from their peers in a familiar setting. Different activist generations also tend to have different organizational cultures, which don’t always mesh well in the meeting room. However, none of this prevents youth and non-youth from collaborating on campaigns, attending each other’s events and building strong alliances. I’ve seen college freshmen and retirees sit down for campaign conversations that were eye-opening for both parties.</p> <p><strong>7. Have hard conversations about equity and inclusion.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the movement’s early days, national youth climate organizations have used a lot of language about racial and economic justice. This positive language hasn’t always been supported by the kind of on-the-ground organizing needed to truly combat environmental injustice and oppressive hierarchies embedded in the movement itself.</p> <p>The mainstream climate movement and environmentalism generally continue to be overwhelmingly white middle-class affairs. But today’s students seem more ready than ever to have tough conversations about dismantling racism and deconstructing environmentalism’s Euro-centric dominant narratives. As a white teenager, I wasn’t asking the kinds of questions that I should have been about these subjects—and I’m continually impressed by how much more aware today’s students, including white students, tend to be.</p> <p>This isn’t to say white students don’t have a lot of hard work to do to address the implications of their privilege—and some will do it clumsily, especially at first. However, while the hard work remains to be done, I see a willingness to begin it that seems more widespread than it was 10 years ago. To do this work effectively, students need support from mentors and organizations that are committed to equity and inclusion as much more than catchphrases or boxes to be checked.</p> <p><strong>8. Youth need mentors, not sages.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a young person, there’s nothing less empowering than listening to an older person tell you how real activism was done in the good old ‘60s (or the ‘90s, ‘00s, etc.). Young people don’t need sages telling them what to do. What they can use are mentors—people who’ve left their 20s behind and have experience and knowledge they’re willing to share, but do so humbly and with the realization that youth also have their own knowledge and skills to share.</p> <p>As a student, I was never particularly motivated by the argument that because the generation before mine screwed up, it was my generation’s job to fix things. I wanted to know, since that older generation was still around, why they couldn’t pitch in and help. I’ve also known many, many older activists who have tried to help in just this way, and taught me things I never could have learned by myself.</p> <p>The “youth climate movement” of today looks very different from the one of 2007. To become more effective it has both narrowed and broadened its focus. The narrowing is a result of it zeroing in on winnable campaigns like divestment and stopping pipelines, while the broadening is due to a growing focus on building bridges with other movements. Done effectively, both of these approaches may succeed in generating the kinds of incremental wins that could cascade into a national wave of climate and progressive victories.</p> <p>I’m deeply humbled by campaigns like the March for Our Lives, which succeeded in building a truly massive youth-led movement in a way climate activists of my generation never quite managed to do. Yet, when 5,000 students came together for the first Power Shift in 2007, few movements were prioritizing youth leadership the way climate organizers were. The story of youth activism these last 10-plus years has been one of gradually building power, learning hard lessons and setting examples of what dedicated organizing looks like. The climate movement made a significant contribution to this process. Without the work of climate and other youth activists over the last decade, some of the larger mass movements of today might not have come into being.</p> <p>What will youth climate activism, and young people’s organizing more generally, look like over the next 10 years? I don’t know, but I look forward to finding out.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-hoggett-rosemary-randall/sustainable-activism-managing-hope-and-despair-in-socia">Sustainable activism: managing hope and despair in social movements</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-davenport/strengthening-our-ecological-imagination">Strengthening our ecological imagination</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/robert-holtom/environmental-movement-blockbuster-in-making">The environmental movement: a blockbuster in the making?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Nick Engelfried Transformative nonviolence Environment Activism Thu, 14 Jun 2018 18:57:35 +0000 Nick Engelfried 117751 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is it time for voluntary poverty? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ghazal-tipu/is-it-time-for-voluntary-poverty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Alternative forms of charity could have a deeper impact on the forces that underpin moral and social transformation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GhazalTipu2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Catholic Worker logo. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/albums/72157604288324537">Flickr/Jim Forest</a>. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</p> <p>Revelations of sexual harassment and abuse in the charity and NGO sectors have triggered <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/it-s-time-to-take-our-charities-to-cleaners">deep questions</a> about the nature of voluntary action today. What are the costs of increased size and bureaucracy and the distancing of not-for-profit agencies from grassroots constituencies and concerns? Are there alternative forms of charity that avoid these problems while achieving a different kind of impact on power relations, human relationships and values—the things that really underpin long-term moral and social transformation?</p> <p>For the last six months, I’ve been volunteering with the Catholic Worker movement in London which tries to do just this. While there’s certainly a place for formal charities that are run by paid managers and employees, the Catholic Workers and other groups like them build their activities around an individual and collective commitment to serve the most vulnerable and destitute in society that eschews personal, material gain. With its roots in pacifism and Christian anarchism—which attracts people from all Christian denominations and none—the movement represents a concrete re-imagining of the nature of charity and serves as a counter example to many other contemporary institutions. </p> <p>It was founded by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Worker_Movement">Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the US in 1933</a>, who initially joined forces to found a radical newspaper. When homeless people started enquiring about the ‘houses of hospitality’ that the newspaper described, Day felt compelled to act, and opened the first such house in New York to those who had been made homeless by the Great Depression. Since then, more than 150 other houses have been founded across the United States and Europe, providing food and lodging to homeless people and refugees within a supportive community environment that also acts as a hub for broader strategising and organising.</p> <p>The movement’s way of life is simple but challenging. As the writer and researcher Carol Rakoczy put it in an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">article for Transformation</a>: “For Day there was no dichotomy between the spiritual and the material; both were part of the same reality in which the Gospel text about feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless was a daily joy and challenge. Love was the measure of her life, but Day was very realistic about the cost of this path, which was everything—comfort, reputation, misunderstandings, and the lack of a stable family life with a partner. She often quoted a phrase from the writings of&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fyodor_Dostoyevsky">Fyodor Dostoyevsky</a><strong>:&nbsp;</strong>‘Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing.’”</p> <p>Hence, both concrete action and self-sacrifice lie at the heart of the Catholic Worker movement, and it’s this relationship that distinguishes its work from that of other more formal charities. What makes the movement effective is the simplicity of this call-to-action in which everyone in the house or community is part of the same, shared endeavour. </p> <p>Live-in volunteers commit to what Day called ‘voluntary poverty.’ “We cannot see our brother in need without stripping ourselves,” she wrote in her book<em> <a href="https://www.orbisbooks.com/loaves-and-fishes.html">Loaves and Fishes</a>, “</em>It is the only way we have of showing love. Voluntary poverty is the answer.” By stripping oneself of the desire to make material gains from charitable activity it is possible to foster a personal transformation that allows people to work with others in radically different and more egalitarian ways—not as clients or ‘others’ who are ‘poor.’ </p> <p>But the movement is not just about personal transformation; it also carries a broader political message, and from the 1930’s it has sought to challenge the injustices of the time. Day highlighted the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while several other Catholic Workers were imprisoned for their acts of civil disobedience against the Vietnam War. It’s the linking of these two levels of action together that’s still the essence of the movement today—a different form of individual motivation that supports, and is supported by, a much broader call for social and political change. </p> <p>It’s in this spirit that London Catholic Worker provides meals and accommodation for up to 18 destitute asylum seekers at <a href="http://www.londoncatholicworker.org/gchouse.html">Giuseppe Conlon House</a>, an ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/intentional-communities">intentional community</a>’ in North London. The aim is to provide concrete support for those who have no recourse to public funds, and to resist hostile immigration policies. Every month, live-in volunteers hold a silent vigil outside the Home Office to remember those who have died in fleeing war and persecution.</p> <p>“Because we are able to work for free here—as a community—we can support the people who for political reasons aren’t getting support,” says peace activist <a href="https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/judge-acquits-protesters-who-blocked-road-to-dsei-arms-fair">Nora Ziegler</a> who’s a long-term community member and volunteer at the house. “So, I see our work as resistance to capitalism, to the hostile environment of policy, and I feel very privileged that I have the freedom to do this. I feel like I am free to do the work that is important to me, because I don’t have to worry about finding someone who will pay me for it.”</p> <p>Ziegler tells me that she once attended an event with senior staff at homeless charities. She noted that they weren’t interested in discussing homeless people who had no recourse to public funds. If refugees don’t have approved ‘leave to remain,’ they told her, it means that they’re illegal in the UK, while other staff said they ‘don’t have the funding’ to support such refugees. But if charities aren’t supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society who will? Perhaps that requires thriving models of charity outside the formal charity sector. Many charities rely on government funding, while others have a close relationship with government that affects their political neutrality. </p> <p>Leading homelessness charity <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/05/st-mungos-homeless-charity-helped-target-rough-sleepers-to-deport">St Mungo’s</a>, for example, was recently accused of working with the Home Office to find and arrest homeless people deemed to be staying illegally in the UK. In this context, the Catholic Worker movement is relevant because everybody is deserving of support and no questions are ever asked of them. “We never ask why they are here,” writes Day in <em><a href="https://www.orbisbooks.com/loaves-and-fishes.html">Loaves and Fishes.</a> </em>For me, this approach is the heart of charitable work; recognising the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.</p> <p>What makes Giuseppe Conlon House and other houses of hospitality different to a night shelter is that those who are welcomed—whether refugees or homeless people or anybody else—are not treated as ‘service users’ as in the vernacular of many charities; they are ‘guests.’ They live together with volunteers in an intentional community in which friendships can develop between guests and volunteers. Guests also move out of the house whenever they are ready. </p> <p>“I think for a lot of people who are victims of the immigration system here it just crushes their self-worth, their self-esteem,” Ziegler says, citing the story of an asylum seeker who previously lived at the House. “He was a handful for us—there were many times where we had to ask him to leave at night because he came home very drunk, which was really hard. But I think at the same time, being here was really, really good for him. Not just because of what the volunteers did but also because of the other guests who were looking out for him. And I think he really needed that environment where it felt like people care.”</p> <p>It is this type of community which has helped to create ‘wholeness’ for guests at the <a href="http://thecatholicworkerfarm.org/">Catholic Worker Farm</a> in North West London, which caters for destitute female asylum seekers and their children by providing temporary lodging, meals, counselling and English lessons. As Scott Albrecht told me (who calls himself the ‘kindly abbot’ of the farm), “The most significant thing is the lives of the women. They go from severe confusion and chaos to wholeness and wellbeing. That is the most rewarding and satisfying, like a woman from Afghanistan having her bones literally crushed. She has recovered.” The guests are called ‘sisters’ and over 500 women have been supported at the farm since August 2006.</p> <p>Day implored others to return to the roots of Jesus’ teaching in order to support the most marginalised in society. The same teachings inspire Albrecht today. “I describe ourselves as ‘homo emptor’” he says, “Man the consumer. We’re constantly consuming. I think the Catholic Worker movement is an antidote to that with its teaching of voluntary poverty…The government has austerity measures and the Catholic Worker movement has teachings of dignity and every person is Christ. The movement is an antidote to systemic failures.” </p> <p>Speaking as a charity professional myself, I don’t believe that everyone has to give up their salary in order to be effective. That would be unsustainable, and it could act as a barrier to people with less means who want to get involved in social action.</p> <p>What we really need is a vibrant and dynamic civil society in which charitable institutions are just one part of the equation in forging a just and equitable society, and in which the most vulnerable people who ‘fall through the cracks’ are supported. Indeed, the initial findings of an <a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org/1-year-reports/">inquiry</a> into the future of civil society found that people are losing trust in big institutions, including charities.</p> <p>That’s why voluntary action must exist outside of formal institutions, through self-organised networks like the Catholic Worker movement. Because there are no central headquarters for the movement, houses of hospitality work in agile and dynamic ways that are not hampered by bureaucracy, like the <a href="https://mariaskobtsova.org/">Saint Maria Skobtsova House</a> which was founded in 2016 in response to the Calais 'jungle' and which supports refugee minors.</p> <p>The Catholic Worker model is not utopia. There are still power inequalities between volunteers and guests because volunteers have a right to work and guests do not, just as volunteers choose to live in a house of hospitality and guests may not have a choice at all. However, the choice for volunteers to live in ‘voluntary poverty’ helps to mitigate these inequalities in power. It’s a lesson from which other charities might learn.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ghazal-tipu/flash-mob-iftars-and-ramadan-tent-islamic-organizing-for-social-justice">Flash mob iftars and the Ramadan Tent: Islamic organizing for social justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/it-s-time-to-take-our-charities-to-cleaners">It’s time to take our charities to the cleaners</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ghazal Tipu Transformative nonviolence Activism Wed, 30 May 2018 07:00:00 +0000 Ghazal Tipu 118064 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fifty years later, the spirit of the Catonsville Nine lives on https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/frida-berrigan/fifty-years-later-spirit-of-catonsville-nine-lives-on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Those who burned hundreds of draft files to protest the Vietnam War deserve to be honored, remembered and emulated.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="wp-caption-text"><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/catonsville-nine-50-years-later/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FridaBerrigan4.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Frida Berrigan stands in front of the newly unveiled Catonsville Nine historical marker in Catonsville, Maryland with her children. Credit: Waging Nonviolence. All rights reserved.</p> <p>It was a big moment. More than a hundred people watched as a college professor held one end of a heavy vinyl cover, helping an 88-year-old woman, pull it from the top of a tall metal sign. Together, they unveiled a familiar looking historic marker—the kind that draws attention to battlefields drenched in centuries-old blood and the birth places of famous men all over the country.</p> <p>This one, however, was different.</p> <p>It read: “On May 17, 1968, nine Catholic activists raided the selective service office in Catonsville and burned hundreds of draft files to protest the Vietnam war.” It now stands on Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland—about a block from the building that housed the young men’s draft files.</p> <p>The 88-year-old woman was&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=16">Marjorie Melville</a> one of those nine Catholic activists and, along with&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=14">George Mische</a>, one of only two still living. After the unveiling, which took place on May 5, she shared recollections of the action at a nearby church, including a funny story about her husband,&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=17">Thomas Melville</a>, who responded with a rousing and immediate “I’m in,” when invited to join the action. The two had recently married after leaving the Maryknoll order, where they served as a priest and a nun. “I was mad,” she recalled. “He didn’t consult me, but then I thought about it and decided, ‘I’m in too.’”</p> <p>In its few sentences of block letters, the historic marker only mentions “priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan” by name. It doesn’t capture Melville’s motivation to join the Catonsville action and draw attention to U.S. military involvement in Guatemala as another Vietnam. She and Thomas shared their experiences in that Central American country in searing testimony captured in my uncle Daniel Berrigan’s play, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine.”</p> <p>The Melvilles brought&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=18">John Hogan</a>—a former Maryknoll brother who they had served with in Guatemala—into the action.&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=15">Mary Moylan</a>, another one of the nine, had been a nurse in Uganda, while George Mische had worked in the Dominican Republic. They all said that part of their radicalization, part of the journey that led them to Catonsville, was a result of seeing the far-flung damage wrought by U.S. foreign policy.&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=13">David Darst</a>, a Christian brother, and&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=19">Tom Lewis</a>, an artist and recidivist, had both lived in the inner cities and saw a less exotic version of the same brutal dynamic.</p> <p>The hallmark of so much of our political expression is reactive outrage. It was then too. “Hell no, we won’t go,” was a slogan to be chanted by the young men who were drafted. There is so much to be outraged about, and our outrage matters. But the members of the Catonsville Nine were not outraged. And their action was not a response to the massacre du jour, but to the whole of U.S. foreign policy. </p> <p>As John Hogan said at the trial, “I just want people to live. That is all.” And it was not carried out by those most affected by the draft. In fact, every member of the action was personally exempt from military service by their age, gender or profession, as priests and brothers. It was nine people stepping out of comfort and into commission and conscience.</p> <p>My father knew he was but one of nine; he was moved by Mary Moylan and Marjorie Melville and her husband. He learned from David Darst, John Hogan and Tom Lewis—his dear friend and co-conspirator in many actions. He was challenged and inspired by George Mische and his brother Daniel Berrigan. He would be quick to point out that the Catonsville Nine was not just the “Berrigan Brothers.”</p> <p>I don’t have any recollections of the action, since I wasn’t born until six years later. My father also wasn’t one to sit around and tell the peace movement’s “war stories.” But I learned the lasting impact of this one action by listening. Strangers would come up to my father—men of a certain age—while he was pumping gas, buying a newspaper or attending a demonstration to confirm his identity and then share some version of this: “I’m alive today because you destroyed my file. My card was at Catonsville. I was about to be sent to Vietnam. Thank you.” </p> <p>My father would accept their thanks with discomfort and pride. Now, from a greater distance, I can understand the discomfort as part of a veteran’s process of atonement, a life saved from war after so many lives lost in war, and an affirmation of the path—narrow, rocky, grueling and lonely—that he had chosen for himself.</p> <p>And then there were the friends, fellow community members—people as close as family. One was a young mother on Long Island, raising five boys. On May 17, 1968, she was sitting in her kitchen, listening to the radio, busy with some household task. The news announcer reported that nine Catholic antiwar activists were arrested after destroying draft records. She was a devoted Catholic, and this was an action involving two priests, a brother, a former priest, a former nun and four lay people. “I was sitting down, and I stood up. I haven’t sat down since,” she said. She went on to be a Catholic Worker, peace activist and a dear friend. I have heard that story countless times, from her and many others who were similarly catalyzed into activism by the Catonsville Nine.</p> <p>Learning about this one day in May through the prism of the transformations of both strangers and friends has helped me see the draft board raid as living and continuing. It may have been 50 years ago that my father was one of nine who broke the law to prevent a greater crime, but it was only a month and a half ago that my mother, Liz McAlister, was one of seven, acting in that same spirit. As a member of the Kings Bay Plowshares, she&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/kings-bay-plowshares-resisting-nuclear-weapons-racism/">gained access to the Kings Bay Trident Base</a>&nbsp;in Georgia and symbolically disarmed the warheads, marking them as criminal.</p> <p>From the Camden County Detention Facility in Woodbine, Georgia, she sent me a statement to share with those who gathered in Catonsville for the unveiling: “May the disarmament continue.” This was in keeping with the message the Kings Bay Plowshares carried onto the naval base, which&nbsp;<a href="https://www.kingsbayplowshares7.org/action-statement/">read, in part</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“We come in peace on this sorrowful anniversary of the martyrdom of a great prophet Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifty years ago today on April 4, 1968 Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee as a reaction to his efforts to address the ‘giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.’ We come to Kings Bay to answer the call of the prophet Isaiah to ‘beat swords into plowshares’ by disarming the world’s deadliest nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine.”</p></blockquote> <p>For this action, they face more than 20 years in prison. It seems like a very long time.</p> <p>The Catonsville activists were sentenced to two and three year prison terms, which is also a long time. How do we use our time? My uncle, Dan Berrigan wrote in “Portraits of Those I Love” that “on the one hand, I do not want to live in a world without anger; on the other hand, I am not interested in dying just yet. But I don’t want anger to burn uselessly as a waste flame from an oil stack. Living on, nursing my flame I write. It is a way of surviving. It tells me my soul is my own.”</p> <p>Action, community, collective courage—that’s the spirit of the Catonsville action. It is a way of survival. It tells us our souls are our own. So, thank you, Brother David Darst, John Hogan, Thomas Melville, Marjorie Melville, George Mische, Tom Lewis, Mary Moylan. Thank you Uncle Dan. Thank you Dad.</p> <p>And thank you, Kings Bay activists, friends, family: Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, Father Steve Kelly, Patrick O’Neil, Mark Colville, Carmen Trotta. Thank you Mom.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/how-do-you-tell-kids-that-grandma-is-in-jail-for-resisting-nuclear-wea">How do you tell the kids that Grandma is in jail for resisting nuclear weapons?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/making-our-movements-work-for-kids-and-families">Making our movements work for kids and families</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/preparing-for-long-haul-under-trump-administration">Preparing for the long haul under the Trump administration</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation 1968 1968 Frida Berrigan Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 25 May 2018 10:46:07 +0000 Frida Berrigan 117946 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can antifa build an effective broad-based anti-fascist movement? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/brian-martin-sue-curry-jansen/can-antifa-build-effective-broad-based-anti-fascist-mov <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Using violence and suppressing free speech is no way to build a just society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/antifa-effective-broad-anti-fascist-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MollyWallace_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Antifa graffiti. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/old_olsen/7875897238">Flickr/Oliver Wunder</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In March, Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist, cancelled his speaking engagements at U.S. universities, saying he was deterred by “antifa,” a loose international network of radical anti-fascist groups that aims to shut down far-right talks and rallies. For antifa members and supporters, Spencer’s capitulation was both&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/17/richard-spencer-college-tour-antifa-alt-right/">vindication of their aggressive tactics</a>&nbsp;and a sign of their success in opposing fascism.</p> <p>These confrontations between far-right activists and antifa groups—on the rise since the election of Donald Trump—are often presented as involving two opposing values: free speech on one side and the danger of allowing fascists to appear in public on the other. What is missing in this framing, however, is an understanding of the dynamics of censorship and of nonviolent action as an alternative.</p> <p>At the forefront of this clash of values is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mhpbooks.com/books/antifa/">Mark Bray’s 2017 book</a>&nbsp;“Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” which provides the most comprehensive justification for antifa tactics available. It has sold briskly and received considerable attention among its target audience of antifa activists.</p> <p>Bray readily acknowledges that “Antifa” was written “on the run” during the early days of the Trump era to meet the demand for information about newly visible anti-fascist activists.</p> <p>The immediate catalyst was the assault on Spencer by a masked man in 2017, which generated a&nbsp;<a href="http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/richard-spencer-punched-in-the-face">popular meme</a>&nbsp;and had many news outlets asking the question, “<a href="http://www.newsweek.com/richard-spencer-punch-nazi-ethicists-547277">Is it okay to punch a Nazi</a>?”</p> <p>Responding in the affirmative, antifa activists believe that the ends (“stopping fascism before it becomes unstoppable”) justify the means: violence. The more thoughtful members of antifa add the qualifier “when necessary.” </p> <p>As Murray, one of Bray’s anonymous U.S. informants puts it, “You fight them by writing letters and making phone calls so you don’t have to fight them with fists. You fight them with fists so you don’t have to fight them with knives. You fight them with knives so you don’t have to fight them with guns. You fight them with guns so you don’t have to fight them with tanks.” Beyond punching Nazis, antifa tactics drawing significant media attention include “no platforming”—or blocking or disrupting speeches—and “doxxing,” which consists of publishing private information about a target on social media to encourage harassment.</p> <p>Despite its genesis as instant history, “Antifa” is a serious book that raises fundamental questions about the viability of liberal tenets of free speech and the role of violence in political protests. Bray, a historian, visiting scholar at Dartmouth College and an Occupy Wall Street organizer, used his radical credentials to gain access to the antifa network, which generally operates in secrecy. He interviewed 61 active or former members of antifa groups from 17 countries. </p> <p>Supportive of the goals of antifa, but open to criticism of the movement, Bray argues that “militant anti-fascism is a reasonable, historically-informed response to the fascist threat that persisted after 1945 and that has become especially menacing in recent years.” The authorial voice he projects is humane and reflective, occasionally punctuated with references to his personal history and activist experiences.</p> <p>The first two chapters are devoted to the history of fascism and anti-fascism, from the 1899 founding of the anti-Dreyfusard League to the early 2000s when antifa groups began to rethink their strategies in light of the rise of new far-right parties in Europe. While historical contextualizing is essential to understanding antifa’s “never again” rationale for preventative violence, Bray packs too many facts into too little space for readers without a deep background in European history to readily absorb and retain, making these crucial early chapters a hard slog. </p> <p>This is unfortunate because the subsequent chapters are accessible and illuminating. Chapter Three addresses the recent emergence, in response to the refugee crisis in Europe, of “pin-stripe Nazis”: nationalists who cover their underlying fascist tendencies with a veneer of respectability. They claim to be protecting democracy against its enemies while providing a cover for racism, Islamophobia and restoration of patriarchal gender regimes.</p> <p>The remaining chapters focus on the theory and politics of antifa at more pragmatic levels: lessons to be drawn from history; no platforming and free speech; strategy, including internal criticism within some antifa groups; the dangers of machismo within antifa; fetishization of violence; feminism and antifa; nonviolent antifa tactics; militant anti-fascism and public opinion; antifa groups functioning as reserve police in some Nazi encounters; popular culture’s relation to antifa (via punk, hipster and hooligan subcultures) and much more. There are two appendices: One offers advice to recruits from veteran antifa activists, while the other provides a bibliography on North American and European works on anti-fascism. Unfortunately, the book lacks an index.</p> <p><strong>The conundrum of no tolerance for intolerance.</strong></p> <p>Bray defends no-platforming, saying one of history’s lessons is that “it doesn’t take that many fascists to make fascism.” Mussolini and Hitler demonstrated that once fascism is legitimized, it can expand rapidly and quickly consolidate its power. Another is that, historically, fascists gained power legally. Therefore, Bray concludes that fascism must be stopped at its source.</p> <p>He contends that most antifa groups do not reject freedom of speech in principle, but they maintain that the struggle against fascism takes precedence. On this point, he quotes Joe, one of his respondents, who says, “The idea that freedom of speech is the most important thing that we can protect can only be held by someone who thinks that life is analogous to a debate hall.” Bray argues that no one actually lives up to the absolutist free speech standard that liberals use to condemn antifa. History, he points out, is full of examples of liberal abridgments of free speech, including some systemic ones, such as wartime press censorship, incitement-to-violence prohibitions, obscenity laws, copyright infringement and incarceration.</p> <p>Bray argues that the liberal Enlightenment ideal of the best, most rational, argument prevailing in a free and open debate does not take into account the irrational and emotional appeal of fascism. Citing appeasement in the 1930s, Bray contends that liberalism has failed to provide a reliable bulwark against fascism. To be sure, free speech is fragile and liberalism’s failures are legion. That is why these positions do require radical interrogation in struggles for social justice. Free expression is, however, a fundamental feature of participatory democracy, whether liberal or socialist.</p> <p>When Richard Spencer announced on Twitter that he was canceling his “college tour” because antifa had escalated its efforts and—in his view—police were not responding adequately, it seemed like a victory for antifa. If so, it was pyrrhic. Antifa’s tactics, which attracted hostile media coverage, did little to advance struggles against racism, patriarchal gender regimes, ableism and the other causes the movement supports. Intentional bureaucratic obstructionism by various university administrators may have done as much to undermine Spencer’s tour as antifa. For example, he decided to quit the tour when only 12 people showed up for his appearance at Michigan State University, which scheduled his talk during spring break when most students were away from campus.</p> <p>Bray faults liberal free speech theory for its failure to live up to an absolutist standard of free speech and for its hypocrisy. Yet, in doing so, he unwittingly encounters the conundrum that has dogged free speech theorists for centuries: what Karl Popper referred to as “the paradox of intolerance” in his 1945 work “The Open Society and Its Enemies.” Any system that legally valorizes tolerance, regardless of its ideology, must—by logical extension—resort to intolerance of the intolerant. Like liberalism, antifa and Bray are also caught in this logical trap. As Bray puts it, “An anti-fascist outlook has no tolerance for ‘intolerance.’” Yet, antifa is founded upon aggressive intolerance of fascists.</p> <p>Presumably Bray means no tolerance for racism, misogyny, homo- and transphobia, etc. Intolerance of intolerance is the socio-logic, if not the formal rationale, for the European Union’s controversial 2007 measure outlawing Holocaust denial. That precedent also points to the possibility of legalistic tactics that antifa could use in some national jurisdictions, although it does not have the machismo appeal of violent confrontation.</p> <p>Democracy has always been aspirational. Free speech is a desired goal, though very unevenly realized in practice. Bray persuasively chronicles some of the many failures of liberal democracy and free speech, and underscores the importance of radical struggles for greater economic and social justice. Antifa’s binary framing of choices—speech or violence—does seem to give Bray pause at times, as it should. He contends that the society that anti-authoritarians seek to create would offer more opportunities for free expression than the liberal status quo. For antifa, that is a society inspired by revolutionary socialism; for Bray, preferably one that is anti-authoritarian and non-hierarchical.</p> <p>Suppression of free speech is a method fascists use to consolidate power and amplify the reach of the irrational emotional appeals of their propaganda. Hitler, for example, quashed opposition, banning trade unions and opposition parties, and established the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which controlled German media and cultivated anti-Semitism and the Aryan myth, most famously through films like “The Eternal Jew” and “Triumph of the Will.” Antifa, by seeking to suppress the speech of fascists, actually mimics their own techniques rather than providing an alternative.</p> <p><strong>Justifying violence on moral, not strategic, grounds.</strong></p> <p>Bray’s history of fascism and anti-fascism gives the most attention to violence on both sides. Fascists in inter-war Italy and Germany used violence and so did their opponents. Bray recounts clash after clash. From the 1940s to the present, he portrays anti-fascism as a continuing attempt to prevent fascists and neo-Nazis from being able to organize in public, with anti-fascists assaulting right-wing protesters and speakers. In some cases, this goes further, with anti-fascists assaulting anyone just wearing fascist garb, or bombing the offices and homes of prominent right-wingers. Bray recounts these events, presenting no reservations about any tactics used.</p> <p>Bray argues that fascists need to be cowed into submission before they gain any sort of profile, arguing that the failure of the left in the 1920s and 1930s was letting fascism grow without sufficient resistance, though his claim is&nbsp;<a href="https://theconversation.com/how-should-we-protest-neo-nazis-lessons-from-german-history-82645">questionable</a>. Most of Bray’s arguments concerning violence are about justifying it. The limitation of this approach is that even if one believes a violent action might be justified, morally or politically, it still may not be the most effective approach.</p> <p>Bray presents violence as the alternative to liberal approaches, which rely on rational discourse and policing. Certainly, liberalism has often failed to deal with right-wing threats. However, there is another alternative: nonviolent action, the strategic use of petitions, rallies, strikes, boycotts, sit-ins and a host of other methods. This alternative has a rich history—including, for example,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/nazis-afraid-clowns/">countering fascists</a>&nbsp;using clowning. Bray can hardly avoid discussing nonviolent action because it is now used widely in contemporary social movements.</p> <p>To his credit, Bray addresses nonviolent action. He spends much of his treatment countering the arguments about fascism presented by Erica Chenoweth, a leading nonviolence scholar and co-author with Maria Stephan of the acclaimed study “<a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">Why Civil Resistance Works</a>.” Bray cites particular cases in his attempt to counter the findings of Chenoweth and Stephan. This is strange because Chenoweth and Stephan do not claim violence is never effective, but rather that a statistical analysis of violent and nonviolent anti-regime campaigns shows that nonviolent movements are more likely to be successful and to lead to freer societies years later.</p> <p>More seriously, Bray does not come to grips with the assumptions underlying nonviolent action. As Chenoweth and Stephan show, and many others have argued, a key reason why nonviolent action is effective is because it enables participation by most sectors of the population, including women, children, elderly and people with disabilities. Anyone can participate in a boycott.</p> <p>A second key reason for the effectiveness of nonviolent action is precisely its avoidance of violence. Many people see violent attacks on peaceful, non-resisting protesters as unfair, even inhumane. As a result, such attacks can recoil against the attackers, generating greater support for the protesters. This effect, called political jiu-jitsu, is reduced or nullified when protesters are themselves violent.</p> <p>Bray is quite right to point out that many campaigns, categorized as primarily nonviolent, used some violence. But this does not mean the violence helped the campaigns. By the logic of political jiu-jitsu, it may have weakened them.</p> <p>Throughout “Antifa,” Bray actually gives examples of when fascist violence was counterproductive for the fascists and examples of when anti-fascist violence was counterproductive for the anti-fascists. For example, in Sweden in the 1990s, “neo-Nazi violence provoked a harsh societal backlash.” Then, in 2000, a Swedish neo-Nazi, Daniel Wretström, “allegedly was killed in a fight with immigrant youth,” and was seen as a martyr for his cause. The neo-Nazis subsequently held an annual march in his memory. However, Bray does not dwell on cases in which violence is counterproductive and does not link them to a backfire process.</p> <p>In terms of nonviolence theory, one of the shortcomings of much anti-fascist campaigning is that the use of violence limits participation. Bray notes the challenges that antifa groups have with excess machismo and the rise of feminist antifa (fantifa) groups in response. He gives no information about the demographics of antifa groups, in particular their age and ability profiles. It is reasonable to assume that most antifa activists involved in physical confrontations are young fit men, the same profile as most military forces and combatants in any armed struggle.</p> <p>“Antifa” succeeds in its primary mission: providing English-language readers with an overview of the antifa network, its purpose, diverse international groupings, ideology and tactics. The book is an informed and revealing, yet one-sided, account of efforts against fascism. What it omits is a sustained discussion of strategy to counter fascism by any means except using force to deter or fight the presence of the far right in public spaces. This one-dimensional approach limits the potential for participation of many sympathetic people. Furthermore, it can even alienate potential supporters who might be won over and involved using less confrontational tactics.</p> <p>Using violence sends a message that the way to oppose those with whom you disagree is to silence their speech. This can legitimate use of the same methods by opponents. Ultimately, suppressing free speech and using violence are not good ways to build the sort of free society Bray desires, because they fail to foster the attitudes and skills necessary for such a society to develop and flourish.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/strategic-naivet-of-antifa">The strategic naiveté of Antifa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/david-standen/is-it-ok-to-punch-nazis-in-face-thats-beside-point">Is it ok to punch Nazis in the face? That&#039;s beside the point</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence">Six principles of nonviolence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sue Curry Jansen Brian Martin Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 03 May 2018 20:07:57 +0000 Brian Martin and Sue Curry Jansen 117545 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The US teachers strike in historical perspective https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/steven-parfitt/us-teachers-strike-in-historical-perspective <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Previous waves of unrest offer clues to the possible regeneration of the American labor movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/StevenParfitt.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Teachers with the Chicago Teachers Union picket outside of the Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago, Illinois, on Monday, September 10, 2012. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/50864803@N03/16503056070/">Flickr/TMT photos</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. </p> <p>In the US, a teachers’ strike is spreading from one red state to another. It began in West Virginia when 34,000 teachers walked out on February 22 2018. They stayed out until March 7, against the advice of their own union leaders, until they received a deal that they could live with from the state government. They were soon joined by tens of thousands of teachers in Oklahoma, who struck from April 2 to April 12, and then their colleagues in Arizona followed them on <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/04/arizona-teachers-strike-unions-charter-schools">April 26</a>. </p> <p>Now there are rumbles of teachers’ strikes in the blue and purple states of Illinois and New Jersey, and in states elsewhere. NBC News reports a “<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/red-state-teacher-rebellion-hits-oklahoma-grows-arizona-n861851">Red-state Teacher Rebellion</a>.” There is no telling whether the rebellion will spread to more states and occupations. </p> <p>The teachers’ strikes come at a difficult time for American unions. Their total membership has <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm">fallen</a> from 17.7 million people in 1983 to 14.8 million in 2017, and the proportion of union members in the workforce has fallen even more dramatically, from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 10.7 percent in 2017. Unions continue to fund the Democratic Party, but their investment has seen few legislative gains. This is a story of failure, softened only by the occasional victory. </p> <p>Yet the teachers’ strikes may offer American unions a road back to health. Historians have long known that unions seldom grow at a slow, steady pace. They tend instead to push forward in a series of leaps, in a kind of chain reaction where a strike in one industry inspires strikes in others. The growth of unions in one part of the country leads to the growth of unions in other parts, and to use the British historian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/oct/01/eric-hobsbawm">Eric Hobsbawm’s</a> term, the labor movement recruits “in lumps” as striking workers join unions <em>en masse</em>. The American labor activist Kim Moody, in his recent book <em><a href="https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1106-on-new-terrain">On New Terrain,</a></em> describes this process as a “labor upsurge.” Could the strike by teachers in West Virginia be the spark for just such an upsurge in 2018?</p> <p>To answer this question it’s useful to look back to previous waves of strikes in the US like the <a href="http://isj.org.uk/1934-year-of-the-fightback/">rising of 1934</a>, when striking workers laid the groundwork for the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_of_Industrial_Organizations">Congress of Industrial Organizations,</a> or the mass strikes in coal, steel, the railroads and other industries during or immediately after the First World War, or the militancy of auto and other workers in the 1970s. </p> <p>We could also look to more recent <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2012/12/one-two-many-chicago-teachers-strikes-2">strikes in 2012</a> by the Chicago Teachers’ Union, the near-ousting in 2016 of President James P. Hoffa of the powerful Teamsters Union by the <a href="http://www.tdu.org/">Teamsters for a Democratic Union</a> (a rank-and-file movement), and the victories of <a href="https://fightfor15.org/">Fight for $15</a> in the last two years. But I would go <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/02/trump-fascism-gilded-age-knights-of-labor">even further back</a> to understand what an upsurge could mean for today’s American labor movement, to the ‘Great Upheaval’ of 1885/87. What happened then?</p> <p>American workers in the 1880s lived, as we do today, in the aftermath of a global financial crisis: in their case, the ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1873">Panic</a>’ of 1873. The ensuing depression wiped out many American unions. As today, the survivors faced a highly unequal society and a political system beholden to big money. In this historical picture, the infamous financier <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Gould">Jay Gould</a> substitutes for the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_family">Koch Brothers</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie">Andrew Carnegie</a> stands in for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates">Bill Gates</a>.</p> <p>Wages stagnated in nominal terms, at least for the rest of the 1870s and into the 1880s. Immigrants faced widespread discrimination, and Chinese immigrants were even excluded from the United States altogether from 1882 onwards. Black Americans endured the end of Reconstruction and the imposition of Jim Crow. American women faced exclusion from much public space and, when they worked for a wage, they faced a gender pay gap larger than that of today. Grievance piled on grievance.</p> <p>However, union organizing started to expand again at the start of the 1880s, when economic conditions improved. A working-class movement, the Knights of Labor, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00236568408584743?journalCode=clah20">rose from 10,000 to 70,000 members between 1878 and 1884</a>. Telegraph operators, glass workers and railroad workers waged bitter strikes, sometimes successfully, and the final spark was lit in 1885 by workers on the Wabash railroad and the Southwestern rail system. Both railroads were owned by Gould. </p> <p>In strikes during March and August, railroad workers twice forced him to reinstate strikers, grant overtime pay, reverse wage reductions, and tolerate their representatives, the Knights of Labor. Few strikes had ever succeeded against such a powerful adversary, and their victory over Gould gave workers in other places and industries the confidence necessary to down tools themselves. The Great Upheaval had begun.</p> <p>This is the stage that some commentators think we’ve also reached today: on the cusp of a strike wave, this time sparked by the teachers of West Virginia. In the 1880s version of a labor upsurge, the strikes on Gould’s railroads opened the floodgates to industrial action. In 1886, <a href="http://libcom.org/history/strike-jeremy-brecher">499,489 American workers engaged in 1,411 recorded strikes at 9,891 establishments</a>. This was more than double the number of strikers in 1885 and far higher than the <a href="http://libcom.org/history/strike-jeremy-brecher">129,521 strikers recorded in 1881.</a> </p> <p>Membership in the Knights of Labor <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Knights-of-Labor">rose to nearly a million in 1886</a>, including tens of thousands of black and women workers. In the same year, the movement for the eight-hour working day pushed forward the cycle of strikes, boycotts, and protests. It reached its height in May 1886, when tens of thousands of workers across the country struck simultaneously for eight hours.</p> <p>Workers pressed their case at the ballot box as well as in the workplace. Local labor parties sprang up to contest elections at local, state and federal levels. The radical economist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George">Henry George</a> ran for the mayoralty of New York on the United Labor Party ticket in 1886. He came a respectable second to the Democrat, Abram Hewitt, and beat the Republican candidate into third place—one <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/roosevelt_theodore.shtml">Theodore Roosevelt</a>.</p> <p>Across the United States, workers elected labor mayors, state legislators and even congressmen in Washington DC. The two-party system briefly faced challenges that have seldom been seen since. In this strange time, Eleanor Marx, the daughter of Karl Marx, and her husband Edward Aveling <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/eleanor-marx/works/wcia.htm">could argue</a> that “the example of the American working men will be followed before long on the European side of the Atlantic. An English or, if you will, a British Labour Party will be formed, foe alike to Liberal and Conservative.”</p> <p>We are certainly not at&nbsp;<em>that</em>&nbsp;stage yet. The <a href="https://go.berniesanders.com/page/content/join-us/">campaign of Bernie Sanders</a> in 2016, which saw a self-proclaimed socialist come agonizingly close to the Democratic Party presidential nomination, may have given new strength to the American left. A widely-cited Harvard University poll in 2016 may have found that most younger Americans now <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/get-rid-of-capitalism-millennials-are-ready-to-talk-about-it">prefer socialism</a>—whatever they think it means—to capitalism. But an electorally successful labor party is not likely to emerge in the next few years. If it does, it will take more time and require enormous energy on the part of the left, forces within the unions, and a wide cross-section of American workers.</p> <p>Yet we should not discount the possibility of a labor upsurge in the meantime. The grievances that are leading teachers to strike in state after state are shared by millions of public and private workers across the country. Like teachers, these workers have less and less to lose by industrial action, and falling unemployment means that finding replacements for them becomes more difficult. International events might further fan the flames that the teachers have set alight. Strikes by Amazon workers in <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-spain/spains-amazon-workers-call-two-day-strike-over-wages-rights-idUSKCN1GP13L">Spain</a>, for example, could spread to the <a href="https://theconversation.com/modern-capitalism-has-opened-a-major-new-front-for-strike-action-logistics-89616">great logistics clusters</a> of the United States and set off a chain reaction across the American heartland—much as the railroad workers did in 1885.</p> <p>There is, of course, a cautionary side to this tale. The Great Upheaval of 1885-87 ended in defeat for the unions and for the new labor parties. When railroad workers struck again in 1886, after Gould reneged on his promises, they lost. In May 1886, anarchists at Chicago’s Haymarket Square were accused of throwing a bomb at police. The events that followed set off America’s first ‘<a href="http://www.chicagohistoryresources.org/hadc/intro.html">Red Scare,</a>’ and the labor movement became one of its main victims. The Knights of Labor shed hundreds of thousands of members. The labor parties soon disappeared or were absorbed into the Democrats and Republicans. The labor upsurge of 1885/86 became the headlong retreat of 1886/87. Historians now see the Great Upheaval of 1885-7 as a great step forward, followed by an even greater step back.</p> <p>There are things we can all do to ensure that the rebellion of 2018 does not end in the same way. You can join the strike wave. You can show your face and your solidarity at the nearest picket line, or the nearest pro-strike protest. You can donate to strike funds, tweet support, sign petitions, and get involved in any movement that supports the strikers and tries to unite the different strikes under the same banner of political change. Each time you do these things, it becomes more likely that future historians will refer to the Great Rebellion of 2018 as a landmark in the renewal of American unions, and not as another episode in their long-term decline.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ernest-anemone/badass-teachers-and-future-of-american-democracy">Badass teachers and the future of American democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alex-nicoll/intimidation-new-normal">Intimidation: the new normal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Trade unions Steven Parfitt Transformative nonviolence Activism Economics Tue, 01 May 2018 19:12:48 +0000 Steven Parfitt 117556 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sacred activism: a movement for global healing https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/martin-winiecki/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our natural sense of interdependence has been replaced by an addictive focus on personal short-term profit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Leila Dregger_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Participants in the&nbsp;<em>Defend the Sacred</em>&nbsp;gathering on Odeceixe beach in Portugal, August 12 2017. Credit: Copyright Tamera Institute/Yuval Kovo. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Humanity is at the pinnacle of a historic death cult. Late last year, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a dramatic “<a href="http://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/">warning to humanity</a>” over biodiversity loss due to overconsumption of resources. They agreed that if we continue “business as usual,” we’ll shortly approach a point where it will be too late to shift our apocalyptic trajectory; worldwide ecosystem collapse will be inevitable.</p> <p>In its compulsion for unending growth, capitalism has developed a vampiric mechanism of planetary proportions, sucking the lifeblood out of the Earth’s body. In its addiction to mining, oil drilling, deforestation, the exploitation of billions of lives and the mental enslavement of humanity, today’s global economic system precisely embodies&nbsp;<a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/seeing-wetiko-on-capitalism-mind-viruses-and-antidotes-for-a-world-in-transition/" target="_blank"><em>Wetiko</em>, an Algonquin word for “cannibalism</a>” that illustrates the insanity we’ve fallen prey to. Wetiko is the psycho-spiritual “disease of the white man” which makes amnesiacs of us—our natural sense of basic interdependence with other beings is obliterated and replaced with an addictive focus on personal short-term profit.</p> <p>Through an insidious history of colonization, genocide, and imperialism, the Wetiko virus has gradually infected (nearly) all of humanity, brainwashing us into a mode of thought that proclaims that “the Earth is a dead exploitable resource,” “animals and plants have no soul,” “life is a game of competition and fight,” “love always ends in disaster,” “either we kill our enemies or they will kill us,” “we will be punished for our mistakes” and so on. </p> <p>Under the spell of this subconscious conditioning, we are sleepwalking towards an abyss, lacking the psychological and spiritual capacities needed to make sense of and respond to the crisis we’re facing. With our collective survival on the line, we need a wholly different vision of ourselves and our relation to the living world that’s able to awaken our primordial love for life and our desire to serve it without reservation. Only with a unifying narrative that addresses the human disconnection at the root of our global crisis will the many social, political and ecological movements converge into a relevant power for global system change.</p> <p><strong>The seeds of Standing Rock.</strong></p> <p>What is sacred? It might seem cynical to speak about something “sacred” after millennia of unspeakable atrocities committed in its name. Yet, living in a civilization that has defiled virtually everything, emptied this world of meaning and processed it into commodities, our longing for the sacred might, after all, be the crucial guide out of our dead end.</p> <p>When about 30 members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe confronted the fossil fuel industry and the U.S. government, setting up a camp at their burial ground which was to be bulldozed for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, they did so to “defend the sacred.” Ladonna Bravebull Allard, founder of the Sacred Stone Camp affirms, “We stood up because we had no other choice. Water is life. If there’s no water, we will die.”</p> <p>Such “sacred activism” comes as a deep re-membering:&nbsp;<em>We are of this Earth. There is no salvation outside of it.</em>Patriarchal religions told of some out-of-Earth entity making covenants with exceptional people and asking us to renounce this world. Yet the original covenant of all people is&nbsp;<em>with the Earth</em>&nbsp;and is therefore of an Earthly, sensual nature. Activism doesn’t become “sacred” merely because it works “on behalf of” something sacred; but by recognizing, honoring, embodying and celebrating the inherent sacredness of all that lives—which isn’t anywhere beyond this world, but right here. </p> <p>Sacred activism challenges us to make a choice at every moment, to decide for life, for solidarity and for trust despite the temptation of an overwhelming field of fear, greed and hatred. It was this clear orientation that fueled the resistance at Standing Rock – and drew in people from all directions to join it. Representatives of over 300 Indigenous cultures, black bloc anarchists, environmentalists, spiritual seekers and over 2500 army veterans banded together beyond their usual ideological divisions, because they were united by something more fundamental than ideologies – a shared spiritual center.</p> <p>Standing Rock inspired similar resistances globally. Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota People, writes in February 2018, “People all over the world are now beginning to understand that [water] is a living spirit: it can heal when you pray with it and die if you do not respect it. (…) Standing Rock has marked the beginning of an international movement that will continue to work peacefully, purposefully, and tirelessly for the protection of water along all areas of poisonous oil pipelines and across all of Mother Earth.”</p> <p>Around the world, movements are arising towards decentralizing power, culture and economies, leaving the mega-systems of nation states and globalized corporations behind and building a society based on autonomous regions in which people can reclaim their sovereignty while caring for each other and the Earth again. There are remarkable movements in the Global South, such as the Indigenous Zapatista movement in Mexico, the Rojava revolution in the Kurdish zones of northern Syria, the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil, peace communities, such as San José de Apartadó in Colombia and many more. In the Global North, we see a revival of socialist ideals and the emergence of municipalism.</p> <p>It’s worth noting that this revolution is feminine in essence. Women are the heart of many of these movements. From Rojava to Chiapas, from Standing Rock to Barcelona, we’re seeing the resurgence of feminine power fostering community, self-determination, healing and care for the Earth, shaking the foundations of patriarchal dominance.</p> <p>How can this revolutionary impulse succeed? Trump defeated the Standing Rock movement, Erdogan is cracking down on Rojava and Colombian peace communities are severely threatened by paramilitaries. Running up against a globalized trillion-dollar economic, political and military system, every group and place resisting will face the same destiny as long as they remain on merely the local, regional or even national levels. The victory over capitalist globalization can, logically, only be global. In other words, either we form an unbreakable global alliance or we’re bound to fail. Yet, in this struggle, failure is not an option.</p> <p><strong>A starting point for a global alliance?</strong></p> <p>As I see it, a global alliance bringing together the many movements in the North and South, and mobilizing the many millions wanting radical change, could emerge around the following five shared thematic areas:</p> <p>1) Fierce nonviolent resistance against the fossil fuel industry</p> <p>Stopping the fossil fuel industry before it’s too late is the first demand for our collective survival. As people stood up against the pipeline at Standing Rock, people must come together and stand up everywhere to both impede new fossil fuel projects and shut down existing ones. At the same time, let’s increase the pressure on municipalities, countries, companies and banks to divest from fossil fuels and end subsidies. </p> <p>The divestment movement reached a historic milestone in the first days of 2018 when New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced his city would divest from fossil fuels and sue leading oil companies over climate change. Activist and author Naomi Klein, who assisted the announcement, comments that “What felt politically impossible yesterday suddenly seems possible.”</p> <p>2) Transition to decentralized, clean energy and large-scale ecosystem restoration</p> <p>Let’s establish regenerative energy systems based on the inexhaustible sources of sun and wind. We must ensure the transition will be decentralized, instead of staying stuck in the corporate framework. Let’s organize to create a decentralized infrastructure for energy-autonomous cities and regions.</p> <p>Additionally, let’s rehabilitate ecosystems worldwide, as desertification, droughts, wildfires and misery aren’t only the results of carbon emissions but also of the destruction of ecosystems and natural water cycles. By creating systems of local rainwater retention, we no longer only need to adapt to climate change, we can actually restore and rebalance our destabilized climate.</p> <p>There are powerful examples to follow, such as India’s “Water Gandhi” Rajendra Singh and his NGO&nbsp;<a href="http://tarunbharatsangh.in/">Tarun Bharat Sangh</a>&nbsp;that mobilized villagers in Rajasthan to restore thousands of square kilometers of degraded land, through which they’ve revived several rivers, rebalanced rainfall, ended extreme weather events and secured an abundant self-sufficient water and food supply for about 100,000 people in less than 25 years. Following a&nbsp;<a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">New&nbsp;</a><a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">Water&nbsp;</a><a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">Paradigm</a>, let’s organize in communities united around watersheds for natural and decentralized water management wherever we live. “<a href="https://www.rainforclimate.com/">Rain for Climate</a>,” a movement initiated by the Slovakian hydrologist Michal Kravčík, offers a corresponding global action plan.</p> <p>3) Ethics of universal solidarity</p> <p>To truly heal this planet, we need the power of community, which is much more than simply a political coalition. Whenever people come together around a shared goal and practice solidarity, they connect with a power greater than the sum of their individual efforts. Thus, they’re unified and driven by meaning, trust and possibility, able to overcome any obstacle.</p> <p>We must recognize the crucial role of community, not just as an accidental side effect of camps or occupations, but as a vital aspect of post-capitalist society and so consciously engage in building and maintaining it. Thereby, politics becomes a matter of social design, because the divisions we’re suffering in our movements, most of the time, result from a lack of trust and solidarity among human beings. </p> <p>We all carry a wound that expresses itself as fear or anger, attack or retreat in one situation or the other. So far, this wound has mostly been more powerful than people’s will for change. Systems of domination have prevailed by exploiting this human weakness, sowing discord among activists and setting them against each other.</p> <p>A planetary community of sacred activists relies on living, breathing trust among its members. It will grow in power to the extent that we cultivate universal solidarity, truthful communication and mutual support. Instead of propagating moralistic heroism, let’s create places of encounter and new forms of coexistence that will allow us to heal our wounds and rebuild trust.</p> <p>4) A common focus on an emerging vision for humanity</p> <p>The world seems ready for radical change. The majority of the population in the West no longer supports the dominant economic and political system and is turning away from it in what journalist Chris Hedges calls the “invisible revolution.” Recent years have seen massive outbreaks of public anger and longing for a different society. Yet, little has changed. According to the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, we’re stuck in a state which most recognize as beyond insane, simply because no one can see a credible alternative.</p> <p>The necessary global shift begins by radically reimagining our civilization. If we have an authentic vision for a nonviolent and regenerative way of life, a culture of solidarity and trust, we’ll be able to midwife the global transition. This isn’t anything we can make up; a true vision is something fundamentally different from a constructed idea, wishful fantasy or ideology.</p> <p>As we abandon the mainstream mentality of dominant culture, we also overcome the drought of creativity which blocks people from imagining an alternative. We recognize that our spirit is deeply creative and that we always carry vision—this is why we’re alive. When a vision touches our heart and we allow it to guide our life, we’re driven by our deepest purpose and have enormous energies at our disposal. Yet we carry vision not only individually but also collectively. </p> <p>As Ladonna Bravebull Allard of Standing Rock puts it, “The shared vision for humanity exists, whether we see it or not.” Our task is to become receptive for it, to see it, make it visible and activate it, using all means of communication, so that our collective imagination will no longer be driven by dreams of downfall, but elevated by the possibility of worldwide healing and unification.</p> <p>5) A different principle of power</p> <p>The fight between capitalism and those defending life is a power struggle. We need to seize power, but we need a different kind of power than the one usually deployed by revolutionaries. We have no chance of trying to overcome a globalized system of violence by constructing a counter-force through mass mobilization and fight alone. Many attempts to overthrow the dominant systems didn’t originate from power, but powerlessness, because activists let themselves be corrupted by the fear and hatred those systems propagated.</p> <p>Native American activist Winona LaDuke writes, “Part of the mythology that they’ve been teaching you is that you have no power. Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul. (…) Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.”</p> <p>Despite terrible injuries, all life still automatically strives towards healing, regeneration and convergence, as this is necessary for its continuity. In nature, we find universal patterns at work, which operate according to what sociologist and futurist Dieter Duhm calls the “sacred matrix.” He writes:</p> <p>“The sacred matrix is the cosmic pattern which forms the basis for the organization of life. It steers the information and energies necessary for the evolution and maintenance of life. When the individual connects with this guidance, channels for healing open up. When humanity organizes itself in accordance with the sacred matrix, channels for global healing powers open up.”<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Beyond all alienation and division, there’s something all beings have in common, something we all deeply love. This something carries no name and is beyond description, but it is what people of all ages have experienced as “sacred.” When the veil of separation falls, we face the animated, eternal and truly sacred character of existence. </p> <p>When people enter into this resonance, they experience healing, regeneration and convergence and often find themselves under great protection. Studying and learning to live according to the principles of sacred power will allow our movements to succeed in ways that previously looked impossible. The key to this power doesn’t primarily lie in external activities and strategies, but in a conscious shift of the whole way we live, think, speak and act – from the matrix of fear and violence to the sacred matrix.</p> <p><strong>Utopia or oblivion?</strong></p> <p>Ultimately, our success will result from unprecedented collaboration between the different organs of the emerging global alliance. A key part of this is to establish experimental centers that concretely model post-capitalist societies on a small scale, developing social and ecological structures that invite in and no longer systematically block off the healing powers of life. Such centers (at Tamera, we call these “<a href="https://www.tamera.org/healing-biotopes-plan/">Healing Biotopes</a>”) as well as still-existing Indigenous communities could provide all those wanting to step out of the current system with the necessary knowledge to create functioning communities of trust and cooperation.</p> <p>More and more places could break out of the dominant system, creating autonomous regions, and so give rise to a new system based on a local sovereignty rooted in global interdependence. While social movements slow down the pace of destruction through their resistance, they could also restore ecosystems and implement the infrastructure for post-capitalism. </p> <p>Inventors could contribute new technologies to an ever-increasing number of regenerative communities and regions, donors could support them financially, journalists could provide the necessary public attention and allied progressive governments could create “free zones” for them to operate in. Guided by a shared global vision, an ever-increasing number of people would help birth a new era. Once a global alternative becomes realistic for a critical number of people, we would have created the conditions for the dominant system to implode and give way to a new one.</p> <p>This is no longer only a dream. As dystopian scenarios become imminent, “utopia” remains as the only realistic way out. We mustn’t forget that it has always been through existential necessity, vision, community and surrender to spirit that people have made the apparently impossible possible. Let’s come together to build a world where creativity, cooperation and mutual support become the foundations of a sacred way of life.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/news/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing/">Kosmos Journal</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Sacred activism: the story of Tamera</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/culture-shift-redirecting-humanity-s-path-to-flourishing-future">Culture shift: redirecting humanity’s path to a flourishing future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-catastrophe-only-cure-for-weakness-of-radical-politics">Is catastrophe the only cure for the weakness of radical politics? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Martin Winiecki Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Love and Spirituality Tue, 24 Apr 2018 20:06:42 +0000 Martin Winiecki 117458 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How do you tell the kids that Grandma is in jail for resisting nuclear weapons? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/frida-berrigan/how-do-you-tell-kids-that-grandma-is-in-jail-for-resisting-nuclear-wea <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Wait, these nuclear weapons…They are war things?” Seamus asked. “Yep, they are war things bud.” “Good for grandma.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><em>This article was first published in&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/kings-bay-plowshares-resisting-nuclear-weapons-racism/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FridaBerrigan3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></span></span></p><p class="image-caption">The seven members of the Kings Bay Plowshares, who entered the Georgia naval base on April 4 2018 to protest&nbsp;nuclear weapons, white supremacy and racism. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Kings Bay Plowshares. All rights reserved.</p> <p>“Our grandma is in jail,” Madeline tells a woman wrestling a shopping cart at Target.</p> <p>“She went over a war fence and tried to make peace,” Seamus adds helpfully. “They arrested her, and she is in jail now.”</p> <p>“Where?” the woman asks, looking from them to me in disbelief and maybe pity.</p> <p>“We don’t remember,” the kids say, suddenly done with their story and ready to make passionate pleas for the colorful items in the dollar section over the woman’s shoulder.</p> <p>“Georgia,” I say, but I don’t have a lot of energy to add detail to my kids’ story. They hit all the high points.</p> <p>“There’s a lot going on these days,” she says. I agree, and we move on into the store and our separate errands.</p> <p>I was happy not to say more at that moment, happy to avoid a sobbing breakdown at Target, happy to wrestle one little bit of normal out of a very abnormal day.</p> <p>My mom, Liz McAlister, who turned 78 in November, had been arrested deep inside the King’s Bay Naval Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Along with six friends, she carried banners, statements, hammers and blood onto the base. They started their action on April 4: the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.</p> <p>Their statement made connections between nuclear weapons, white supremacy and deeply embedded racism. It is a long statement, but given that they were carrying it into a free-fire zone—where military personnel are authorized to use deadly force—there was no particular need for brevity: “We come to Kings Bay to answer the call of the prophet Isaiah (2:4) to ‘beat swords into plowshares’ by disarming the world’s deadliest nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine. We repent of the sin of white supremacy that oppresses and takes the lives of people of color here in the United States and throughout the world. We resist militarism that has employed deadly violence to enforce global domination. We believe reparations are required for stolen land, labor and lives.”</p> <p>They walked onto King’s Bay Naval Station just hours after&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/police-shooting-brooklyn-crown-heights.html">Saheed Vassell</a>&nbsp;was shot and killed in a barrage of bullets by New York City police officers, just hours after&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article207935124.html">hundreds of demonstrators</a>&nbsp;filled the streets of Sacramento for another day, shouting “Stephon Clark, Stephon Clark, Stephon Clark” and demanding accountability after the young father of two was killed by police officers on March 18. These seven white activists know that when you are black in this country, your own corner, your grandmother’s own backyard, is a free-fire zone more dangerous than any military base.There is indeed a lot going on these days.</p> <p>The statement continues: “Dr. King said, ‘The greatest purveyor of violence in the world (today) is my own government.’ This remains true in the midst of our endless war on terror. The United States has embraced a permanent war economy. ‘Peace through strength’ is a dangerous lie in a world that includes weapons of mass destruction on hair-trigger alert. The weapons from one Trident have the capacity to end life as we know it on planet Earth.”</p> <p>Kings Bay is the largest nuclear&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Submarine_Base_Kings_Bay">submarine base</a>&nbsp;in the world at about 16,000 acres. It is the home port of the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet’s Trident nuclear-powered submarines. There are eight in total, two guided missile submarines and six ballistic missile submarines. These submarines were all built in Groton, Connecticut—right across the river from our home in New London. Each submarine, my mom and her friends assert, carries the capacity to cause devastation equivalent to 600 of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima, Japan.</p> <p>“Nuclear weapons kill every day through our mining, production, testing, storage and dumping, primarily on indigenous native land. This weapons system is a cocked gun being held to the head of the planet. As white Catholics, we take responsibility to atone for the horrific crimes stemming from our complicity with ‘the triplets’ [of evil]. Only then can we begin to restore right relationships. We seek to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons, racism and economic exploitation.”</p> <p>That is not the end; you can read the whole statement and their indictment of the United States on their&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/1558500837566350/">Facebook group</a>. These sorts of actions—called Plowshares— have a nearly 40-year history, since my father and uncle and six others broke into the King of Prussia plant in Pennsylvania in 198o to “beat swords into plowshares.” They struck at nosecones with hammers and marked the weapons with blood to reveal the human costs and mess and suffering the weapons are built to wreak in the world.</p> <p>My father participated in five of these Plowshares actions in his lifetime and helped organize countless others. Committed conspirers, steeped in active nonviolence, have carried out more than 100 of these actions since 1980. This is my mom’s second action. She and her current co-defendant Clare Grady, were part of the 1983 Griffiss Plowshares in upstate New York.</p> <p>My parents estimated that they spent 11 years of their 27-year marriage separated by prison, and it was mostly these actions that kept them apart and away from us. Countless life events in our family—birthdays, graduations, celebrations of all kinds—were stuttered by the absence of one of our parents. I say this with pain and loss, but no self-pity. Dad was able to attend my high school graduation, but not my brother’s. We went straight from my college graduation to visit my dad in jail in Maine. </p> <p>I missed all the raging keggers, sweaty dance parties and tearful goodbyes that marked the end of college for my friends to sit knee-to-knee with my father in a cramped and soulless room. On chairs designed for maximum discomfort, I tried to share my momentous day and all my 22-year-old big feelings while ignoring the guards and the room crowded with a dozen others doing the same thing. We wrote thousands of letters. They often crisscrossed each other so that there was a constant weaving of story and sharing across the miles.</p> <p>So, when I explained that grandma was in jail to my kids—11-year-old Rosena, 5-year-old Seamus and 4-year-old Madeline—I felt the weight of a lifetime of missing and provisional family experiences, frequently lived in prison visiting rooms and through urgently scrawled letters.</p> <p>I tried to figure out a way to talk to them that would make sense and, in thinking it through, I realized that none of this should make sense to anyone! Nuclear weapons? Absurd! Police brutality and white supremacy? Senseless! Plowshares actions with their symbolic transformation and ritual mess-making? A foolhardy act of David versus Goliath proportions!</p> <p>So, I didn’t try to make it make sense. I just forged ahead, grateful that they had some context: We had participated in the Good Friday Stations of the Cross organized by Catholic Worker friends at our local submarine base a few days earlier, and—the night before—we had gone to hear a dramatic reading of Dr. King’s “<a href="http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html">Letter from a Birmingham Jail</a>.”</p> <p>“Hey guys, know how we went to the sub base on Friday? Grandma was arrested in a place like that late last night. She is in jail now. She and her friends broke onto the base to say that nuclear weapons are wrong. Remember how Dr. King talked about just and unjust laws?” They nodded and remembered that King said “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” I told them that Grandma thinks that nuclear weapons—things that can destroy so much life on our planet—shouldn’t be built and protected and paid for when so many people are hungry, so many kids don’t have good schools to go to, so many people don’t have good homes. I went on and on.</p> <p>“Wait, these nuclear weapons…They are war things?” Seamus asked.</p> <p>“Yep, they are war things, bud.”</p> <p>“Good for grandma,” he said, and that was the end of our serious conversation.</p> <p>Mom and her friends are charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass and two felonies: possession of tools for the commission of a crime and interference with government property.</p> <p>The kids and I didn’t talk about the kind of jail time that could mean for their grandma. It is all I am thinking about right now, but they moved on, imagining out loud and with a lot of enthusiasm how grandma got by the attack dogs and police officers they had seen at the Groton Submarine Base. They were sure there was a similar set up in Georgia. “Grandma needed a ladder and a cheetah,” said Madeline. “A cheetah is the only animal that can outrun dogs and police officer’s bullets.”</p> <p>I am pretty sure no cheetahs were involved in the Kings Bay Plowshares, but I am happy my daughter sees her grandmother as a fierce and powerful anti-war activist astride a wild cat.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/social-movements-need-imagination-which-is-why-i-m-not-buying-my-kids-">Social movements need imagination, which is why I’m not buying my kids any more toys</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/to-remain-in-prison-for-rest-of-my-life-is-greatest-honor-you-could-g">To remain in prison for the rest of my life is the greatest honor you could give me: the story of Sister Megan Rice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/john-dear/life-and-death-of-daniel-berrigan">The life and death of Daniel Berrigan</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Frida Berrigan Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 19 Apr 2018 18:56:44 +0000 Frida Berrigan 117278 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What Standing Rock gave the world https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jenni-monet/what-standing-rock-gave-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Indigenous struggle that goes hand in hand with protecting the Earth was made visible for everyone.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JenniMonet3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A winter blizzard descends on the camps just outside of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The gathering has been the largest meeting of Native Americans since the Little Bighorn camp in 1876. Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images via YES! Magazine.</p> <p>&nbsp;At the height of the movement at Standing Rock, Indigenous teens half a world away in Norway were tattooing their young bodies with an image of a black snake. Derived from Lakota prophecy, the creature had come to represent the controversial Dakota Access pipeline for the thousands of water protectors determined to try to stop it.</p> <p>It was a show of international solidarity between the Indigenous Sami and the Lakota. “They got tattoos because of the Norwegian money invested in the pipeline,” said Jan Rune Måsø, editor of the Sami news division of Norway’s largest media company, NRK.</p> <p>Rune Måsø said the story about the tattoos was just one of about a hundred that his team of journalists covered over the course of the months-long pipeline battle in North Dakota. One of them, “The War on the Black Snake,” was awarded top honors at a journalism conference held in Trømsø in November. That story revealed large investments Norwegian banks had made to advance the $3.8 billion energy project, spurring a divestment campaign by the Sami Parliament.</p> <p>The backstory can be told simply. As early as April 2016, Indigenous activists protested<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/this-land-is-our-land-all-sides-dig-in-as-pipeline-nears-the-river-20161106" target="_self">&nbsp;the pipeline’s threat to the Standing Rock Sioux’s primary water supply,</a>&nbsp;the Missouri River. While battles were fought in federal courts, representatives of hundreds of Indigenous groups from around the world—the Maori, the Sami, and the Sarayaku, to name a few—arrived. Temporary communities of thousands were created on the reservation borderlands in nonviolent resistance against the crude oil project. </p> <p>Police arrested more than 800 people, and many water protectors faced attack dogs, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and, once, a water cannon on a freezing night in November. Last February, armored vehicles and police in riot gear cleared the last of the encampments. Recently, investigative journalism by The Intercept has documented that the paramilitary security firm TigerSwan was hired by DAPL parent Energy Transfer Partners to guide North Dakota law enforcement in treating the movement as a “national security threat.”</p> <p>Oil now flows through the pipeline under the Missouri. But this Indigenous-led disruption, the awakening resolve that was cultivated at Standing Rock, did not dissolve after February. Rather, it spread in so many different directions that we may never fully realize its reach. The spirit of resistance can easily be found in the half-dozen or so other pipeline battles across the United States. Beyond that, the movement amplified&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/standing-rock-joins-the-worlds-indigenous-fighting-for-land-and-life-20160930" target="_self">the greater struggle worldwide:</a>&nbsp;treaty rights, sacred sites, and the overall stand to protect Indigenous land and life.</p> <p>To be sure, post-colonization has always demanded acknowledgment of Indigenous autonomy. It’s what spurred months of international advocacy when Haudenosaunee Chief Deskaheh attempted to speak before the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1923. He wanted to remind the world that European colonizers had honored Iroquois Confederacy nationhood upon entering treaty agreements under the two row wampum.</p> <p>The stand at Standing Rock, then, was not anything new—just more modern.</p> <p>Google the words “the next Standing Rock” and you get a smattering of circumstances, mostly posed in the form of a question: Bears Ears, Line 3, Yucca Mountain. “The Next Standing Rock?” the headlines ask.</p> <p>The story of White Clay, Nebraska, is indicative. When the last tipis came down at Standing Rock, Clarence Matthew III, a middle-aged Sicangu Lakota man better known by his camp nickname, Curly, spared little time migrating to the South Dakota–Nebraska border. There, another fight for justice was mounting, for families living on the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This one focused on a decades-long dispute over beer sales targeted at Native American customers mostly prone to alcohol addiction.</p> <p>Demands turned to broader issues: investigation of dozens of unsolved crimes in White Clay against Native Americans. “Once we got down there, they started telling us about the problems they’ve had, more than just alcohol, the murders, the rapes, and everything that was on the bad side of that alcohol problem,” Matthew said. “It just broke my heart to hear all that.”</p> <p>Matthew had been caretaker of one of the main communities at Standing Rock, and he settled right in at Camp Justice at the edge of Pine Ridge. He was there with his “water protector family,” others who have adopted camping as an active form of protest.</p> <p>For all the momentum that the resistance at Standing Rock brought, the Indigenous rights movement in the 21st century faces increasing challenges. Tribal nations tread cautiously under the administration of Donald Trump. Internationally, the militarized protection of extractive energy projects and theft of land persist, despite glaring media attention paid to the rising number of Indigenous peoples killed or jailed for their activism in the face of it.</p> <p>In a final push for re-election last fall, Standing Rock’s Dave Archambault II gave what would be his last interview as chairman to tribal radio station KLND. Archambault used the airtime to speak matter-of-factly about how the movement had shifted the tribe’s potent public image away from the reservation. “It used to be cool to be Indian; now it’s cool to be from Standing Rock.</p> <p>“This movement was significant, not just for Standing Rock, but for all of Indian Country and around the world. We made some noise and now we’re starting to see other Indigenous communities rise up and say, Let us all speak now, and it’s pretty powerful and moving,” he said.</p> <p>Less than a week later and on the same day that the state of North Dakota accepted a $15 million gift from Energy Transfer Partners, Archambault was unseated by former council member Mike Faith, who has said publicly that he believes the overall movement hurt Standing Rock’s economy and neglected daily life for tribal members.</p> <p>The difference of opinion between the two leaders is a conflict that often lies at the heart of tribal community: protecting the Earth or protecting the Indigenous peoples.</p> <p>On the eve of Thanksgiving 2017, when the Keystone pipeline ruptured and spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in neighboring South Dakota, the newly elected Faith remained notably silent while water protectors responded with outrage, most loudly, closest to home.</p> <p>&nbsp;“Ironically, this week most Americans will be sitting down and giving thanks when last year at this time my people were being shot, gassed, and beaten for trying to keep this very thing from happening,” Chairman Harold Frazier from the neighboring Cheyenne River Sioux tribe said in a statement. Like Archambault and other tribal leaders, Frazier was arrested for participating in the Standing Rock occupation.</p> <p>Leadership in the Indigenous world is not only a difficult balance, but also dangerous. In Honduras, activist Bertha Zuniga Cáceres is fighting for Indigenous rights in one of the most militarized regions in the world. She is the daughter of Berta Cáceres, the Indigenous Lenca woman who was assassinated after leading a successful campaign to halt construction of the Agua Zarca Dam. Now she is seeking justice for her mother’s death.</p> <p>The 26-year-old Cáceres is also campaigning to suspend all U.S. military aid to Honduras. In July, she survived an attack by a group of assailants wielding machetes. Just weeks earlier she had been named the new leader of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, the nonprofit organization formerly led by her mother.</p> <p>“Many organizations, many NGOs, many Indigenous groups are struggling in how to sustain the work that they are doing in the face of these attacks,” said Katharina Rall, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.</p> <p>Last year, after the military-style assaults on the camps at Standing Rock, Human Rights Watch expanded its agenda to include a program focused on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/this-moment-at-standing-rock-was-decades-in-the-making-20160916" target="_self">the environment as a human right.</a>&nbsp;“The fact that we now have an environment and human rights program at our organization is a reflection of this reality that a lot of people face,” Rall said.</p> <p>Meantime, the organization Global Witness reports that it has never been deadlier to take a stand against companies that steal land and destroy the Earth. In 2016, the watchdog group found that nearly four activists a week are murdered fighting against mining, logging, and other extractive resource development.</p> <p>As disturbing as this reality is, it is unsurprising then to recall the military-style violence at Standing Rock: the rows of riot police pointing their guns at unarmed activists standing in the river; tanks shooting water in freezing temperatures at a crowd of people gathered on a bridge. In this one regard, Standing Rock was not unique in the world. It had become crucially important. Americans saw the global struggle faced by the estimated 370 million Indigenous people—the violence, stolen resources, colluding corporations and governments that go hand in hand with protecting the Earth.</p> <p>Sustaining this awakening is the next great task. Climate change poses one of the most serious reminders of why the sacred fires ignited at Standing Rock must continue to burn: Indigenous peoples and their knowledge and value systems matter.</p> <p>At November’s COP23 climate conference in Bonn, Germany, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim was dressed in traditional Mbororo regalia when she stood in a conference hall demanding that Indigenous knowledge systems be properly acknowledged in Paris Agreement negotiations. The girl who once tended cattle in the region of Chad bordering northeastern Nigeria has now become a bridge for her people and government officials making decisions impacting the fragile ecosystem of Lake Chad, the lifeline for the Mbororo.</p> <p>“Traditional knowledge has kept us from century to century to be in harmony with Mother Earth,” Ibrahim said. “These knowledges will make for all the difference, but we cannot wait years and years, because climate is changing, and it’s impacting the Earth.”</p> <p>Other members of the Indigenous Caucus at Bonn say inserting traditional knowledge into the climate talks doesn’t go far enough. Jannie Staffansson, a representative of the Saami Council, wants what Chief Deskaheh had petitioned to the League of Nations nearly a century earlier: sovereign recognition for Indigenous Peoples on an international scale. It would allow equity at the negotiating table—a level playing field to fairly deal with the consequences of a warming planet in the face of land grabs and natural resource extraction.</p> <p>“Why is it always that Indigenous peoples need to pay for other people’s wealth?” said Staffansson. She paused to check the Snapchat account she had been using to engage with a young Sami audience while at COP, a demographic similar to the teens who got tattoos of the black snake.</p> <p>“I had friends that went to Standing Rock,” said the 27-year-old. “I was envious of their trip to support self-determination. Self-determination and a just transition is what we have to take into account.”</p> <p>“We need climate justice in everything we do.”</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/decolonize/what-standing-rock-gave-the-world-20180316?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180316&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180316+Version+A+CID_de7353e921641a2965b31c38caaca5db&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=her%20article%20for%20The%20De">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/climate-justice-meets-racism-standing-rock-was-decades-in-making">Climate justice meets racism: Standing Rock was decades in the making</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/why-indigenous-civil-resistance-has-unique-power">What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/sheriffs-refuse-to-send-troops-to-standing-rock-as-public-outrage-mounts">Sheriffs refuse to send troops to Standing Rock as public outrage mounts</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jenni Monet Transformative nonviolence Activism Wed, 11 Apr 2018 19:36:08 +0000 Jenni Monet 116766 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Where are all the leaders? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/where-are-all-leaders <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today marks the 50<sup>th</sup> anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination—a good time to reflect on leadership and moral courage.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/leadership.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Martin Luther King at the podium of the Concord Hotel, Kiamesha Lake, New York, March 25 1968. Credit: Rabbinical Assembly Archives, New York. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Ten days <a href="https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/martin-luther-king-jr-is-assassinated">before he was shot to death</a> on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. answered questions from the audience at the old Concord Hotel in New York’s Catskill Mountains. It was his final public appearance before he arrived in Memphis to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDl84vusXos">deliver the words</a> that seemed to presage his own assassination: “I have been to the mountaintop,” he said, “and though I may not get there with you, we as a people will get to the Promised Land. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”</p> <p>The Concord was located just down the road from where I live in the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht_Belt">Borscht Belt</a>” of Sullivan County—the place where Jewish comedians from Danny Kaye to Jerry Seinfeld honed their skills and now the site of a <a href="https://rwcatskills.com/">shiny new casino</a>. King wasn’t upstate for the slot machines or the jokes of course; he was there to speak about leadership at a meeting of the <a href="https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/">Rabbinical Assembly</a>—an annual convention of orthodox Jewish leaders—though he was introduced by the radical Rabbi <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Joshua_Heschel">Dr Abraham Joshua Heschel</a> who was celebrating his sixtieth birthday.</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/assets/public/resources-ideas/cj/classics/1-4-12-civil-rights/conversation-with-martin-luther-king.pdf">his opening remarks Heschel spoke</a> about the need for a particular kind of leader in the struggle for justice, freedom and equality:</p> <blockquote><p>“Where does moral leadership in America come from today? The politicians are astute, the establishment is proud and the market place is busy. Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel?”</p></blockquote> <p>In <a href="https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/assets/public/resources-ideas/cj/classics/1-4-12-civil-rights/conversation-with-martin-luther-king.pdf">the wide ranging question-and-answer session</a> that followed, members of the audience probed King on who he actually ‘represented’ in the black community, how racism and anti-Semitism were connected, whether activists should seek alliances with members of the ‘establishment,’ how issues like war and poverty intersect, and how he navigated the different tactics of nonviolence and Black Power—all issues that resonate just as loudly in politics and social activism today.</p> <p>Heschel answered his own question by calling King “a voice, a vision and a way,” though even in the 1960s this overestimated the influence of a single individual. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people ask ‘what would King do if he was still alive’ or ‘who’s the next Martin Luther King.’ These questions are invidious. There was only one, and he was killed fifty years ago today. New leaders are all around us if we have the foresight to see them, but they may not fit a standard template or occupy positions of formal power.</p> <p>Think of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2018/mar/24/emma-gonzalezs-powerful-march-for-our-lives-speech-in-full-video">Emma Gonzalez</a> from Parkland High School in Florida for example, who electrified the crowds on Pennsylvania Avenue during the March For Our Lives in Washington DC last week, or Rio de Janeiro councilor <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/breno-bringel/marielle-franco-and-brazils-future-hope-or-barbarity">Marielle Franco</a> who was murdered in Brazil on March 14, or the many leaders of <a href="https://blacklivesmatter.com/">Black Lives Matter</a>, or the hundreds of thousands of less famous examples that you could name in your own communities.</p> <p>We can’t clone leaders and we shouldn’t try, but we can encourage and protect them from co-option and attacks. Against that background it’s more useful to ask what <em>kind</em> of leader was Martin Luther King, what kept him from being silenced or captured by vested interests, and what conditions encouraged his remarkable personal example—all things that we can learn from more broadly. What is it that distinguishes visionaries and change agents from the parade of overpaid administrators that pass for leaders in most government positions, political parties, businesses and charities today?</p> <p>I’d start with <em>authenticity and moral courage, </em>which are difficult to describe but you know them when you see them—or rather when you <em>feel</em> them. In the few times I’ve encountered visionary leaders that’s how they’ve come across, as people who combine all forms of intelligence into one and strive to ‘be the change they want to see.’ It’s an emotional connection as well as one of strategy or politics. These are leaders who have something that you and I don’t, and who use it to inspire courageous action among large numbers of other people.</p> <p>Inspiration creates waves of change that go way beyond a particular policy or party platform or incremental reforms. King had that quality. So did nonviolence trainer and theorist <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/timothy-gee/remembering-gene-sharp-philosopher-of-non-violent-action">Gene Sharp who Timothy Gee remembered recently</a> on openDemocracy. Sharp inspired large-scale nonviolent uprisings the world over but he never lost his sense of humility and grounding, his open mind, his willingness to listen, and his commitment to make time for others however famous he became or however ‘unimportant’ they might be.</p> <p>Sharp, King and other civil rights leaders like <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-RoVzAqhYk" target="_blank">Fannie Lou Hamer</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://ellabakercenter.org/about/who-was-ella-baker">Ella Baker</a> represent the mirror image of the fakes and faux radicals who rise to the top in most areas of life today. New York Times columnist <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/opinion/sunday/spicer-anthony-scaramucci-mooch-trump.html">Maureen Dowd gave a perfect description</a> of such people’s <em>in</em>-authenticity when describing ex-Trump spokesman <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Scaramucci">Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci</a>: “a self-promoter extraordinaire and master salesman who doesn’t mind pushing a bad product—and probably sees it as more fun.”</p> <p>By contrast—and here’s the second important marker—visionary leaders are deadly serious about <em>accountability</em>—the willingness to hold yourself responsible for your actions and be held to account by others, even if you outrank them. Any movement that wants to achieve large-scale change has to motivate a great body of people into action, so leaders have to be willing to share power rather than accumulating it to themselves.</p> <p>That’s one of the lessons learned by the current iteration of King’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign">Poor People’s Campaign</a> led by Reverends&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/06/29/woe-unto-those-who-legislate-evil-rev-william-barber-builds-a-moral-movement/?utm_term=.26562dc1d5bd">William J. Barber</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thenation.com/authors/rev-dr-liz-theoharis/">Liz Theoharis</a>, which has adopted a more decentralized and distributed leadership model. It’s the opposite of current realities in which leaders spend more time avoiding accountability than embracing it, especially if it comes from the bottom up or the outside in.</p> <p>Behind every institutional scandal is a failure in accountability, when individuals or groups of leaders look the other way, bow to pressure, accept financial inducements or cover up mistakes. Their moral clarity and courage fails them at crucial moments, and the higher you rise in a hierarchy the stronger the temptations become. That’s because the costs of falling are that much greater.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/joms.12177">2016 article in the Journal of Management Studies</a> called “Why the Assholes are Winning,” Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer describes how proximity to wealth and power can lead to “moral rationalization and decoupling” when the boundaries between honesty and deceit, altruism and self interest are seemingly dissolved. That’s a lesson that business figures like <a href="https://gizmodo.com/mark-zuckerberg-declines-invitation-to-testify-in-uk-b-1824103772">Mark Zuckerberg</a> still have to learn. Visionary leaders accept it and act accordingly.</p> <p>Accountability is also a key to my third marker of leadership which is <em>self-sacrifice</em>. Prototypical leaders are everywhere, but few of them make it to positions of formal power and influence, and many of those who do are muzzled or co-opted along the way through a process of elite capture. The reasons are pretty obvious, especially in times of rising precarity and repression when the risks of speaking out are so much higher.</p> <p>Remember <a href="https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-29/quote-day-larry-summers-elizabeth-warren-insiders-dont-criticize-other-insiders">the advice that establishment economist Larry Summers gave to now-Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2009</a>?</p><blockquote><p>“You have a choice. You can be an insider or an outsider. Outsiders can say what they want but people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don’t criticize other insiders.”</p></blockquote><p>Visionary leaders find ways through these dilemmas by accepting the costs of that outsider status but maintaining various kinds of dialogue and interaction with those on the inside of mainstream institutions—much as King did with President Johnson and his Administration in the 1960s. That’s why such examples are instructive; they show how the trend towards co-option can be countermanded through a mix of continuous self-reflection, external accountability, intellectual clarity, sacrifice and moral courage.</p> <p>Self-sacrifice is important because leadership positions (even informal ones) bring with them potential personal benefits which can act as another platform for co-option—prizes and awards, foundation grants, seats on corporate boards, power over staff and supporters, and access to the revolving doors of the establishment. Setting these things aside in order to stay focused on the mission of a movement and honor the democratic structures of decision-making and accountability requires a willingness to say no to these temptations—just as King did when he <a href="https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/1014.html">turned over his Nobel Peace Prize money to the civil rights movement</a>.</p> <p>An unbroken line stretches from before King to <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/24/us/martin-luther-king-granddaughter-trnd/index.html">his oldest granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, who also spoke at the March For Our Lives</a>, but such leaders remain the exception rather than the rule. Closing that gap is partly a matter of structures and training and incentives—or at least more security and protection since so many of them have been targeted or killed—but mostly an issue of moral courage, which is something that exists inside each one of us but is normally suppressed.</p> <p>Goodness knows we need many more such people to help us find our way out of the mess we’ve created for ourselves. Where are all the leaders? Just as Heschel said 50 years ago, “The politicians are astute, the establishment is proud and the market place is busy.” We can look to others for inspiration and example, but if we really want to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King we should look to ourselves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/timothy-gee/remembering-gene-sharp-philosopher-of-non-violent-action">How to start a revolution - remembering Gene Sharp</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign">The Great Society versus the Poor People’s Campaign</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation leadership transformative leadership Michael Edwards Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 03 Apr 2018 22:17:56 +0000 Michael Edwards 116977 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Great Society versus the Poor People’s Campaign https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What can we learn from contrasting efforts to combat poverty and injustice in 1960s America?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SarahFreemanWoolpert6.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">President&nbsp;Lyndon B. Johnson&nbsp;meets with&nbsp;Martin Luther King, Jr.&nbsp;in the White House Cabinet Room, 18 March 1966. Credit: Yoichi Okamoto (Public Domain), via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMartin_Luther_King%2C_Jr._and_Lyndon_Johnson_2.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p> <p>A dramatic scene is unfolding this month in Washington, D.C. Angry activists march and chant outside the White House demanding an end to the violence that’s killing America’s youth. Politicians squabble and point fingers, assigning blame and deepening divisions. A chasm has opened within the Democratic Party, exposing the disconnect between wealthy, white party elites and the hardships faced by poor people in small-town America.</p> <p>This story is not, however, about high schoolers pressuring for gun reform or Congressional deadlock on passing the national budget. It’s the story of <em><a href="http://www.arenastage.org/shows-tickets/the-season/productions/the-great-society/">The Great Society</a></em>, a theatrical performance which premiered at The Arena Stage in Washington in February 2018. The play tells of President Lyndon Johnson’s vision of <a href="http://www.pbs.org/johngardner/chapters/4c.html">poverty reduction</a> through massive government programs aimed at improving access to basic needs like education and health care, and the interplay between Johnson’s efforts and the struggles of civil rights leaders for racial and economic equality.</p> <p>Written by <a href="http://www.robertschenkkan.com/">Robert Schenkkan</a> and directed by <a href="http://theatre.ucsd.edu/people/faculty/acting/KyleDonnelly/index.htm">Kyle Donnelly</a>, the play explores how, as the Vietnam War escalated, Johnson felt forced to divert funding from anti-poverty programs to the war effort, as protesters demonstrated outside the White House in outrage at the killing of young Americans for a seemingly-endless conflict.</p> <p>While Johnson’s vision of “The Great Society” was initially <a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/At_Canaan_s_Edge.html?id=uAa2Znbml_sC">supported by Martin Luther King Jr</a>. and other civil rights leaders, it was later denounced as top-down and out of touch with the realities that faced the American poor. This eventually led King to declare a different approach to addressing economic inequality by announcing a <a href="http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_poor_peoples_campaign/">“Poor People’s Campaign”</a> led by the poor themselves. He was assassinated shortly thereafter, and the Campaign is often regarded as a major unfinished part of King’s work.</p> <p>The play could not have opened at a more opportune moment. Indeed, much of the drama on the Arena Stage can be seen unfolding in US politics today. The show depicts the growing sense of anger and urgency that was felt among youth activists and organizers as the corruption and in-fighting surrounding the Great Society prevented funds from reaching people in need.</p> <p>This is mirrored today in the explosion of grassroots organizing around injustice and inequality that’s taking place across the country, including the <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/02/22/parkland-survivors-started-movement-when-they-took-gun-violence-heres-how-happened/361297002/">youth-led mobilization</a> around gun violence that captured national attention during February 2018. It also coincides with the <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/poor-peoples-campaign-revives-king-dream-challenging-class-divide/">re-launch of King’s Poor People’s Campaign</a>, led by Reverends <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/06/29/woe-unto-those-who-legislate-evil-rev-william-barber-builds-a-moral-movement/?utm_term=.26562dc1d5bd">William J. Barber</a> and <a href="https://www.thenation.com/authors/rev-dr-liz-theoharis/">Liz Theoharis</a>, which re-traces King’s steps through communities across the country and is gearing up for 40 days of mass civil disobedience in May.</p> <p>Examining the reasons behind the failure of Johnson’s Great Society and how King’s Poor People’s Campaign embodied a different vision provides important historical context that is often omitted from the narrative surrounding the Civil Rights Movement. It also puts the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign into perspective, illuminating the ways in which today’s grassroots organizing both follows in the footsteps of the past and tries to overcome some of the challenges that social movements have faced.</p> <p><strong>Understanding the split between Johnson and King’s approaches to inequality.</strong></p> <p>When President Johnson originally proposed the idea of the Great Society, King welcomed it—he was excited about the idea of uplifting the poor, and saw poverty as a crucial issue underlying racial inequality in the United States. In pursuit of this vision, Johnson sought to wage a “War on Poverty” by passing the <a href="http://acsc.lib.udel.edu/exhibits/show/legislation/esea">Elementary and Secondary Education Act,</a> <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Medicare-United-States-health-insurance">Medicare and Medicaid</a>, and the <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act">Voting Rights Act</a> of 1965.</p> <p>Yet in February of that year Johnson initiated <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/operation-rolling-thunder">airstrikes on Vietnam</a>, enlarging America’s military presence in the country and diverting billions of dollars away from anti-poverty programs. Even before this diversion, King saw that the Great Society espoused an inherent contradiction—reliant as it was on powerful, predominantly white lawmakers devising solutions. Eradicating economic inequality would threaten the power of wealthy elites, but those elites were the same people charged with devising the programs. King became more critical of the broader economic system itself, and how capitalism creates and upholds the structures of inequality.</p> <p>One example of the Great Society’s flawed programs is embodied in its approach to education through the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, whose resources were largely diverted to wealthy, white suburbs and not the inner cities that were in greatest need. Chicago’s <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/richard-daley">Mayor Richard Daley</a>, a prominent figure in the Democratic Party at the time, received substantial funding from the Johnson administration for poverty reduction but focused the money on white government workers in the city who were Daley’s political supporters, with no real benefits reaching the urban poor. Chicago Superintendent Benjamin Willis was <a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Unraveling_of_America.html?id=nOd_ka8KakYC">accused of earmarking</a> some of the $32 million for non-poor white children rather than the children of the poor.</p> <p>Senator <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/robert-f-kennedy">Robert Kennedy</a> was critical of the local implementation of poverty reduction through the Great Society program, and he was not alone. Riots and demonstrations erupted around the country as people demanded economic opportunities for survival. In the summer of 1965, a riot broke out in <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/watts-riot-begins">Watts, California</a>. King spoke at the rally before it turned hostile. A man in the audience <a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/At_Canaan_s_Edge.html?id=uAa2Znbml_sC">shouted at him</a>, “All we want is jobs! We get jobs, we don’t bother nobody. We don’t get no jobs, we’ll tear up Los Angeles, period.”</p> <p>Similar feelings spread across urban America. While Johnson denounced the riots and supported the imposition of ‘law and order’ by police, King was confronted with the reality of economic hardship that was pushing people to the brink. He began to criticize Johnson’s approach to poverty reduction and the war in Vietnam, and started to develop an understanding which united the <a href="http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy">“Triple Evils”</a> of poverty, racism and militarism—a trio he articulated in his speech at the <a href="http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_beyond_vietnam/">Riverside Church</a> in Manhattan on April 4 1967.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube,” King said in his speech, “So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”</p> <p><strong>Inspiring the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign.</strong></p> <p>Much of King’s vision for a movement that was led by the poor, for the poor is embodied in the contemporary revival of the Poor People’s Campaign. The problems that emerged in the split between Johnson and King—including political corruption, the draining of domestic resources for social services by militarism, and divisions within the Democratic Party’s leadership—are just as relevant today.</p> <p>The current Campaign focuses on four central issues: racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation, three of which King focused on during the original movement. But it’s not only ideological similarities that tie the two Campaigns together. Reverend Barber is retracing the same route that King took through impoverished communities, holding <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/us/politics/politics-religion-liberal-william-barber.html">“barnstorming” events</a> along the way to hear people’s personal stories and spread the word about joining the movement.</p> <p>In a single day in March 1968, King barnstormed the state of Mississippi, traveling from small impoverished towns to Hattiesburg. Rev. Barber’s barnstorming drew even larger numbers than King did. King spoke to a crowd of 600 people in Chapel Hill, but only two signed up for the journey to Washington. In October 2017, hundreds of people volunteered to risk arrest after Barber’s barnstorm event in Binghamton, New York.</p> <p>On February 12, 2018, leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign marched with fast food workers in the $15Now movement in Memphis, Tennessee. Marchers walked the same route taken by workers in the <a href="http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_memphis_sanitation_workers_strike_1968/">1968 sanitation worker strike</a>, when 1,300 people walked off their jobs demanding the right to join a union, higher safety standards and a living wage. For the 50th anniversary of the strike, a crowd of low-income, non-unionized workers led clergy, union workers and allies, while sanitation workers who had been part of the 1968 strike spoke to the crowd alongside fast food workers demanding changes in the racism and poverty that plague Memphis to this day.</p> <p>In several ways, the Poor People’s Campaign of today is poised to overcome some of the challenges that stifled the movement fifty years ago. One key difference is the dispersal of power to state and local chapters. When King organized the campaign in 1968, staff at the <a href="http://nationalsclc.org/about-us/history/">Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)</a> were tasked with organizing most of the logistical details, including the planning of caravans to travel simultaneously across the country to Washington. Today’s movement incorporates more decentralized local branches of organizers, and embodies a more horizontal leadership structure behind the scenes.</p> <p>Of course, the contemporary campaign has the advantage of being a product of a longer history, one in which King’s personal transformation in how best to combat poverty eventually led to the grassroots mobilization which is mirrored around the United States today. King’s journey to launch the original Poor People’s Campaign—illustrated through the arc of his relationship with President Johnson and the Great Society—tells an important story about the power of local organizing in comparison to a top-down policy approach to social change. It also shows how grassroots movements respond to shifting circumstances like escalating tensions, public outrage and political deadlock by shifting leaders away from an ineffective establishment.</p> <p>During 2018, the Poor People’s Campaign holds the potential to pick up where King’s left off by addressing many of the same problems he faced in the 1960s—while elevating the voices of the poor across the country through mass mobilization for systemic change. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen">A renewed Poor People’s Campaign revives King’s dream of challenging class divides</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-reconciliation-and-redemption-are-central-to-countering-wh">Why reconciliation and redemption are central to countering white supremacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns">Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Kyle Moore Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Activism Economics Tue, 13 Mar 2018 20:32:28 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert and Kyle Moore 116491 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gun violence has dropped dramatically in three US states with very different gun laws https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mike-males/gun-violence-has-dropped-dramatically-in-three-us-states-with-very-differe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To have an honest, nonpartisan discussion about gun violence, we must look at what happened in New York, California, and Texas.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MikeMales1.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Kristi Gilroy hugs a young woman at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman on February 15, 2018 in Parkland, Florida.&nbsp;Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images via YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>On February 15 2018, 17 teachers, students, and visitors died in a Florida high school, in a country where&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/feb/14/what-we-know-about-mass-shootings/">mass shootings</a> have been devastatingly routine. This was followed by another day of despairing, angry furor over guns, schools, and shootings that replayed the same reactions from dozens of past shootings.</p> <p>Once the warring factions settle into their talking points and scapegoats, the debate rages on for decades with little sign of progress. America’s gun debate is like a Greek tragedy, with predetermined lines plodding to inevitable doom.</p> <p>The Right, represented by the National Rifle Association and Republicans, shows no interest in reducing the gun killing epidemic beyond prayers that the “good guy with a gun” (who never seems to be around) will save the day when a “bad guy” opens fire.</p> <p>Liberals’ dishonesty is more nuanced. Background checks and gun control have proven effective at&nbsp;<a href="https://everytownresearch.org/infographic-background-checks-save-lives/">reducing gun suicides and domestic shootings</a>(both very worthwhile goals), but not the gun homicides or mass shootings such remedies are invoked to redress.</p> <p>On both sides, destructive scapegoating of young people, whether they are suburban school shooters or immigrant gangsters, present blatant falsehoods. FBI tabulations show half of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/activeshooter_incidents_2001-2016.pdf/view">active mass shooters&nbsp;</a>are 35 and older, a large&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/476456/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-race/">majority are white</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newsweek.com/white-men-have-committed-more-mass-shootings-any-other-group-675602">nearly all are men</a>. One middle-aged white shooter&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/19/us/las-vegas-attack-shooting-paddock.html">murdered more people in Las Vegas&nbsp;</a>in 10 minutes than the best available count of documented&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS-13">murders</a>&nbsp;over the last 15 years that have been attributed to the Latino&nbsp;<a href="http://time.com/4783163/ms-13-gang/">MS-13 gang</a>, a favorite target of President Donald Trump.</p> <p>We can keep on quarreling over myths and prejudices, or we can start looking for new approaches, as many communities are doing in the face of national default. The hopeful thing is there is plenty new to say—if anyone is willing to say it.</p> <p>Let’s begin with one of the most hopeful and obvious: the massive decline in gun homicides in the nation’s three biggest states, concentrated among young people and urban residents all sides claim to be concerned about—so long as the discussion doesn’t challenge pet positions.</p> <p>Over the last 25 years—though other time periods show similar results—New York, California, and Texas show&nbsp;<a href="http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2017.303782">massive declines in gun homicides</a>, ones that far exceed those of any other state. These three states also show the country’s largest decreases in gun suicide and gun accident death rates.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MarkMales2.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>These major states containing seven in 10 of the country’s largest cities once had gun homicide rates far above the national average; now, their rates are well below those elsewhere in the country.</p><p>The declines are most pronounced in urban young people. Among ages 15-24, gun homicide rates are down nearly 80 percent in cities of 500,000 or more in the three largest states, led by declines—approaching 90 percent in New York City’s central boroughs, more than 80 percent in Los Angeles, and 74 percent in Dallas.</p><p>Isn’t this what all sides have claimed to want: big reductions in gun killings, especially among young people? Why, then, aren’t researchers flocking to our three biggest states and their major cities to analyze what happened there—or, at least, talking about their stunningly hopeful trends?</p><p>Anyone familiar with the gun debate will see the political problem right away. California and New York have the nation’s strictest and fifth-strictest&nbsp;<a href="http://crimadvisor.com/data/Brady-State-Scorecard-2015.pdf">gun control laws</a>, respectively, in the country, earning “A-“ ratings from the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bradycampaign.org/">Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence</a>, and low rates of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/gun-ownership-by-state-2015-7">gun ownership</a>. So, gun-rights conservatives don’t like to talk about successes in those states—nor about the fact that those declines in violence correspond with an increasingly racially diverse young urban population, driven by Latino, Asian, and African immigration.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MikeMales3.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>On the other side, Texas has among the weakest gun laws in the country (“open carry” is its most recent gun-rights salvo, earning an “F” grade) and some of the highest rates of gun ownership. Gun-control lobbies are loath to acknowledge any success in Texas. So, we have to look beyond current gun politics and commentary to community-based initiatives.</p><p>Most major cities have gun violence prevention programs, but if these deserve some credit, we would need to study why they worked so much better in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Diego, and El Paso than in Chicago, Miami, or Philadelphia. If young Texans can show large declines in killings without tough gun controls, we need to understand what forces are at work in its cities.</p><p>Rather than jockeying for political advantage, we need to acknowledge young people of all races, who as a generation have sharply&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vpc.org/studies/ownership.pdf">lower levels of gun ownership&nbsp;</a>and numbers of gun killings despite continued high rates of poverty. White, Black, Latino, and Asian youth (Native American numbers are too small to determine accurate trends) each show much faster declines in gun homicide rates in the three largest states than do their national counterparts.</p><p>The pattern suggests a generational trend in the three major states’ cities—and to a lesser extent, nationwide—that urgently needs scrutiny. When youth homicide arrests in the city of Los Angeles fall from 680 in 1990-92 to 104 in 2000-02 to 17 in 2014-16, and the number of teenage girls&nbsp;<a href="http://homicide.latimes.com/">murdered</a>&nbsp;falls from dozens in the early 1990s to zero in the last 12 months ending February 15, 2018, it’s time to shake up everyone’s frozen thinking. Gun violence indeed remains an unspeakably tragic, American epidemic, but there is no excuse for recycling old futilities when dramatic and hopeful new information is at hand.</p><p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/gun-violence-has-dropped-dramatically-in-3-states-with-very-different-gun-laws-20180216?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180216&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180216+CID_b05a5cae1e6d28729ed9d8d569101cf7&amp;utm_source=CM">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/sarah-aziza/has-movement-to-prevent-gun-violence-hit-tipping-point">Has the movement to prevent gun violence hit a tipping point?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-clements/gun-violence-trump-america">How to fight gun violence in Trump’s America</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/transformation/preventing-gun-violence-without-just-talking-about-gun">Preventing gun violence without just talking about the gun</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 gun control Mike Males Transformative nonviolence Care Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:29:09 +0000 Mike Males 116233 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Radical happiness: moments of collective joy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/catherine-rottenberg/radical-happiness-moments-of-collective-joy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>True happiness is produced by cultivating our ties to one another: a review of Lynne Segal’s new book.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JaneyStephenson3_2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/sistersuncut/photos/a.1814453402116856.1073741847.1589626181266247/1814453455450184/?type=3&amp;theater">Sisters Uncut/Jade Jackman</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In a recent Guardian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/homelessness-report-working-families-stable-jobs-local-government-ombudsman">expose</a>, Michael King, a London ombudsman, warns of a new phenomenon—the rise of homelessness in the UK among people who have stable jobs and a steady income. In 2017 it is not unusual to see nurses, taxi drivers, hospitality staff and council workers find themselves on the streets after being evicted by private-sector landlords seeking higher rents. The problem of homelessness, King continues, can no longer simply be ascribed to drug addiction or mental health issues; rather, the erosion of the social safety net is what is pushing an ever-increasing number of people into precarity. </p> <p>It is in the midst of these devastating new realities that Lynne Segal’s book <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2576-radical-happiness">Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy</a> has appeared on the literary scene. In her new book, Segal adamantly refuses despair. Instead, she insists that we must never stop imagining and struggling for alternative—and, yes, even utopic—spaces and futures. This urging could not come at a more opportune time. </p> <p>As study after study has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">shown</a>, levels of individual misery, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation are at all-time highs in the Anglo-American world.&nbsp; Meanwhile, the billion-dollar happiness industry—that&nbsp; “culturally orchestrated ideology of individual happiness with its ubiquitous commercial incitement to pleasure” as Segal puts it—continues to thrive, from positive psychology to mindfulness and the wellness movement: think Gwyneth Paltrow’s <a href="https://goop.com/whats-goop/">GOOP</a> and the explosion and popularity of <a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are">TED talks</a> endlessly exhorting us to foster a positive outlook. </p> <p>In her book, Segal posits radical happiness as the antidote, not only to the ersatz happiness that is sold to us via pills, apps, and self-help guides but also to the more general sense of despondency. Happiness, Segal gently reminds us, is not something we find; nor can it be bought on the market. Unlike the dominant ideology of individual felicity—with consumerism and individuated sexual desire mixed up with ideals of romantic love at its core—radical happiness is produced by cultivating and reaffirming our ties to one another and to the world. </p> <p>Thus, while love is central to happiness (both individual and collective), love is also infinite in its variety, making it imperative to expand notions of attachment and care well beyond heteronormative coupledom. As the title of the book suggests, radical happiness is therefore most accurately defined in terms of moments of collective joy, moments that are created when we are moved to go beyond and outside ourselves to act together with a plurality of others. Crucially, for Segal, these moments emerge as we forge communities that struggle together to ensure the creation of social conditions and infrastructure that would enable the greatest number of people possible to thrive. </p> <p>Much of <em>Radical Happiness</em> charts how and why this movement beyond oneself has become more difficult in the contemporary era. Despite the Anglo-American obsession with happiness and the thriving happiness industry, the populace is increasingly miserable. Segal draws on a range of thinkers from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Durkheim">Émile Durkheim</a> to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt">Hannah Arendt</a> to underline the point that that such widespread misery, even though it may be experienced at the individual level, has deep roots in social context and structures.&nbsp; </p> <p>One of these roots—and the preponderant one for Segal—is the rise of neoliberal governance, which has, since the 1980s and the era of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US, seen the steady dismantling of the welfare state and the social safety net. This has, as the book details, translated into increasing economic insecurity for ever more people. Not only has work become increasingly precarious over the past few decades but employees are also putting in more hours for less money, which, in turn, leaves people less time for leisure and, often, the ability to fulfill care commitments. Furthermore, neoliberal governance erodes any sense of social responsibility while fostering intensified individualism, which merely exacerbates feelings of isolation and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/graham-peebles/pain-of-loneliness">loneliness</a>. </p> <p>This deepening cultural crisis is the direct result of on-going policies of austerity and privatization, which siphon wealth upwards at a staggering pace while eviscerating public resources, spaces, and community life. The <a href="http://wir2018.wid.world/">World Inequality Report</a> recently published data showing that the richest 0.1 per cent of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth so much that they currently have as much as the poorest 50 per cent, or 3.8 billion people. With rising rates of poverty and homelessness alongside deteriorating health and educational infrastructure, it really is no wonder that so many people are miserable and feel so alone. &nbsp;</p> <p>Radical Happiness is not, however, a gloomy book.&nbsp; Rather, after diagnosing the ills of the current Anglo-American political and social landscape it offers us hope, reminding us of the wealth of resources on which we can draw in order to continue struggling for alternative futures. Taking us back to the ancient Greeks, Segal underscores Aristotle’s notion of happiness or <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/eudaimonia">eudonomia</a> as a form of human flourishing; it derives from activities we desire to do for their own sake, which are both noble and good. Happiness was thus conceived as <em>activity</em>, not a static emotional state. This is a crucial insight and one that could potentially reorient our understandings of pleasure and joy in the present. &nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, throughout the book, Segal taps into the resistance archive, drawing on a wide range of resources from socialist visionaries like <a href="http://robert-owen-museum.org.uk/">Robert Owen</a> to anarchist and political activist <a href="http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/goldman/">Emma Goldman</a> to utopian feminist fiction like Marge Piercy’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_on_the_Edge_of_Time">Women on the Edge of Time</a>. These dreamers and their political engagements serve as key resources for the on-going struggle to create a more egalitarian world, even as this task appears more daunting today than ever before. </p> <p>Segal also recounts her own participation in the woman’s movement in the 1970s, underscoring how her involvement in such a movement was utterly transformative, personally as well as politically. Collective resistance to oppression in its various forms—with its shared sense of agency—symbolizes for Segal the very essence of radical happiness. These movements or moments of collectivity are often fleeting, but they make us feel alive and hence happier. </p> <p>In other words, whether or not these struggles for a more egalitarian world ultimately succeed—and historically they most often have not—the very struggle to cultivate and (re)build a sense of the commons compels us to move beyond ourselves while reaffirming our connection to each other. It is precisely this kind of “acting in concert” to create a more just and better world that facilitates these life-affirming moments of collective joy. </p> <p>While Segal herself is perhaps best known for her feminist interventions—particularly her <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1770-straight-sex">Straight Sex</a>, and for her more recent critical musing on ageing, <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1634-out-of-time">Out of Time</a>—in the neighborhood of Islington in London (where she lives) she is renowned for her decades of radical activism as well as for her indominable spirit. Radical Happiness is a panoramic yet exquisitely detailed book, erudite but extremely accessible, and cautiously optimistic while scathingly critical. It is a tour de force and a vital light in these dark times. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy">The subversive power of joy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/veena-vasista/wise-fools-for-love-arts-activism-and-social-transformation">Wise fools for love? Arts activism and social transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Catherine Rottenberg Transformative nonviolence Activism Care Culture Sun, 11 Feb 2018 21:48:54 +0000 Catherine Rottenberg 115999 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why 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 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 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 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 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 I’m a Muslim—ask me anything https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/robert-azzi/i-m-muslim-ask-me-anything <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hearing Muslims being ignorantly targeted is like waking up to see a cross burning on the communal front lawn. I want to help put out that fire.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="xgmail-p1"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RobertAzzi.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/prophet-mosque-masjid-islam-muslim-2249733/">Pixabay/Abdullah_Shakoor</a>. CC0 Creative Commons. </p> <p>“May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land,”<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Ffounders.archives.gov%2Fdocuments%2FWashington%2F05-06-02-0135&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=8oXaejPqEk3izGHWm19RClZO8HaiLkwEjF%2Fa2k3ZLQo%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">&nbsp;wrote&nbsp;</a>President George Washington to Rhode Island’s Touro Synagogue in 1790, “continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”</p> <p>Today, as a child of the “Stock of Abraham,” as a Muslim whose faith tradition traces to Prophet Abraham and as a first-generation American, I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric I see in the United States. I’ve become increasingly distressed by witnessing individual and institutional&nbsp;actions that attempt to marginalize, delegitimize, and disenfranchise America’s diverse community of Muslims.&nbsp;</p> <p>To counter such un-American sentiments, and following the model of itinerant Methodist ministers—circuit-riders who journeyed from town-to-town preaching the Gospel in the 18th and 19th centuries—I’ve&nbsp;been traveling across New Hampshire and Massachusetts as an itinerant Muslim, from one public library, church and retirement community to the next, engaging with my neighbors in a program I call “<a href="https://theotherazzi.wordpress.com/ask-a-muslim-anything/">Ask a Muslim Anything</a>.”</p> <p>I’ve been traveling at the invitation of local communities to speak about my life, what it’s like to be Muslim in America today, and how&nbsp;I came to convert to Islam. I talk about Islam and its history—especially&nbsp;in America—and&nbsp;about the Middle East, terrorism and associated political and social issues.</p> <p>Nothing is off the table: I speak, to the best of my experience and knowledge, of faith, tradition, understanding, conflict and identity. All questions are welcome.</p> <p>I’m doing this not to proselytize but to reconcile—to&nbsp; reaffirm and strengthen bonds of comity and faith—and&nbsp; I am overwhelmed by the beauty and generosity of the responses I receive, all seemingly in reflection of the belief that, as the Qur’an&nbsp;<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fmuhammad-asad.com%2FMessage-of-Quran.pdf&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=8aN2rDiOa%2BQVnqScl8SWJbSItRpRevJcwzaux4KGT8Q%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">tells us</a>, “We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another” (49:13).</p> <p>We come together to know one another.</p> <p>I’ve found that, when engaged&nbsp;in small-scale or one-one-one conversations, my neighbors—even&nbsp;those who are critical of Islam and fearful of Muslims—are&nbsp;willing to&nbsp;listen and engage if engagement occurs in what are perceived to be safe or neutral places: houses of worship, libraries, schools and civic organizations.</p> <p>So those are the places I go to for conversation, and not a day passes when I’m not humbled by people’s courtesy and curiosity, even when they are speaking out of fear or out of not knowing what they don’t know.</p> <p>They ask about ISIS and Al Qaeda, about women and prayer. They ask about Shari’ah, Sufis, Sunni and Shi’a, about apostasy, honor killings, and terrorism—about&nbsp;issues that Muslims as well as non-Muslims struggle with.</p> <p>And I explain that the 9/11 attacks on the US—and&nbsp;subsequent acts of terrorism and violence committed in the name of Islam which have irrevocably scared the national psyche—are&nbsp;no more representative of Islam than the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan">KKK</a> or the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branch_Davidians">Branch Davidians</a> or the <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/11/drinking-the-kool-aid-a-survivor-remembers-jim-jones/248723/">Peoples Temple at&nbsp;Jonestown</a>&nbsp;are representative of Christianity.</p> <p>Almost invariably, someone will ask me whether Muslims are required to practice&nbsp;<em><a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.britannica.com%2Ftopic%2Ftaqiyyah&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=1kOYiB5CCPtOLaq%2BYU4%2FJHJ%2BYJzGfn%2FiNgEJf%2BXlT4U%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">taqiyya</a></em>&nbsp;or dissimulation—deliberate lying to non-believers to advance the cause of Islam—and whether&nbsp;<em>I’m</em>&nbsp;practicing&nbsp;<em>taqiyya</em>&nbsp;in order to proselytize.</p> <p>I tell them no. I explain to them that I didn’t even know the&nbsp;word&nbsp;<em>taqiyya&nbsp;</em>until critics of Islam introduced me to it, but maybe they think I’m practicing&nbsp;<em>taqiyya&nbsp;</em>about&nbsp;<em>taqiyya!</em></p> <p>Indeed, I explain to my neighbors that Islam has been part of America’s religious and political fabric for generations, and that there was little anti-Muslim rhetoric in the early days of the Republic. Tolerance was clearly articulated in the 1797<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Favalon.law.yale.edu%2F18th_century%2Fbar1796t.asp&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=jVqSW3fHumMJtALTpaxRY2QAxMmuPjXUrV4dYhicsHg%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">&nbsp;Treaty of Tripoli,</a>&nbsp;for example, which stated:</p> <p>&nbsp;“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion—as&nbsp;it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen—and&nbsp; as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation ...”</p> <p>I tell them that&nbsp;<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FJohn_Quincy_Adams&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=6bihYhAHGa8HayQ%2F9RzzOy8bNdlXRhIV%2FzM2lLaCCEc%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">John Quincy Adams</a>&nbsp;had a copy of the first Qur’an printed in America with him (by Isaiah Thomas in 1806) when he defended the <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.poligonnational.org%2Fhistorical-action%2Fsengbe-pieh-cinque-and-the-amistad-revolt&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=o7JZ%2Fxe6%2BGzs4NNe3hjQe4hQfGZKQZ05Q%2FLm7vWJOjs%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">Amistad Rebellion</a>&nbsp;mutineers, many of whom were Muslim, and that Benjamin Franklin&nbsp;<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gutenberg.org%2Ffiles%2F20203%2F20203-h%2F20203-h.htm&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=qO9dXTQBPEU6BbhKXoGUaRoO5%2FyvwfLcIKPsZJ%2BBG3o%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">wrote</a>&nbsp;in his autobiography that he wanted a meeting hall built in Philadelphia so inclusive “... so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”</p> <p>I cannot imagine any public figure voicing such sentiments today—and neither can most of the people I talk with in my conversations—even&nbsp; as we recognize that Muslim Marines, auto mechanics, artists, educators, photographers, doctors, scientists, writers and students live amongst us, pay their taxes, and fight, defend and die during America’s wars.</p> <p>My neighbors, most of whom have never knowingly met a Muslim before they meet me, come to understand that before 9/11, Muslims were so well assimilated that they only appeared every ten years—as part of the national census.</p> <p>Together, we recognize that the anti-Muslim demons that today roil America’s domestic tranquility were first released when Barack Obama decided to run for president, demons quite distinct from those that followed 9/11.</p> <p>Today’s demons emerged when <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_citizenship_conspiracy_theories">truthers, birthers, and assorted conspiracy theorists</a>, united by fear and ignorance, determined not only to disenfranchise Barack Obama but along with him anyone remotely related to “The Other”—primarily&nbsp; Muslims.&nbsp;</p> <p>Obama was identified as foreign, Kenyan—and&nbsp;Muslim—because&nbsp;his opponents couldn’t use the N-word any longer. As a result, the use of “Muslim” as a derogatory term that is meant to denigrate&nbsp;and diminish someone’s humanity has metastasized today into “Muslim” as a code word, not just for believers in Islam but for all those who are non-privileged,&nbsp;non-white, and non-Christian.</p> <p>As a result, for many Muslims today, hearing fellow Americans ignorantly attempt to disenfranchise, marginalize and target a faith community that’s been present in these lands for nearly 400 years for craven political purposes is not unlike waking up to see a cross burning on America’s communal front lawn.</p> <p>I want to help put out that fire.</p> <p>I want my neighbors to understand that, while it’s true that the Qur’an is the literal word of God, that doesn’t mean that all its contents are meant to be read literally; that Islam in not monolithic and Other; that Muslims are as fully within the Abrahamic tradition as are Jews and Christians; and like those other traditions we, too, are challenged by those who attempt to interpret scripture for privilege, profit, and power.&nbsp;</p> <p>I answer people’s questions because I want to be able to breathe freely again.</p> <p>Prophet Muhammad once spoke of a man who asked God why he was being punished. God answered, “You passed by an oppressed person but did not help him.” I travel from community to community because I want to find out how we can struggle to express solidarity with the oppressed and the occupied, and agitate for social justice regardless of ethnicity, color, gender or faith—so as to pass by no one.</p> <p>And I nurture conversation so that with my brothers and sisters we can struggle to find a path through which we can serve God and humanity with dignity and respect, and where together, we can all sit in safety under a communal vine and fig-tree.</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/william-eichler/is-it-ok-to-criticise-islam">Is it ok to criticise Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/atiya-hasan/six-books-muslim-and-non-muslim-women-should-add-to-their-reading-list">Six books Muslim (and non-Muslim) women should add to their reading list</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/william-eichler/islam-and-future-of-tolerance">Islam and the future of tolerance</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 islam Robert Azzi Transformative nonviolence Culture Love and Spirituality Sun, 29 Oct 2017 22:55:03 +0000 Robert Azzi 114339 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 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 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 Sacred activism: the story of Tamera https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘We all were indigenous once. We have been waiting for you. Welcome back.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Leila Dregger.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Participants in the <em>Defend the Sacred</em> gathering on Odeceixe beach in Portugal, August 12 2017. Credit: Copyright Tamera Institute. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">There are people who think that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praia_de_Odeceixe_Mar">Odeceixe</a> is the most beautiful beach in the world. Nature has created a pearl in southern Portugal, a sandbank between the green meanders of the Seixe River and the blue of the Atlantic Ocean. Each day in summer, the sandbank is flooded with tourists, and on this particular day—August 12 2017—they expect nothing more spectactular than sunscreen, surfboards and sandcastles. They don´t yet know it, but today they will be part of a prayer. A widely visible prayer, formed with their bodies to protect the coastline from oil drilling by national and international corporations</p> <p class="WW-Standard">From early morning, a part of the beach is being separated, and people are working hard in the sun, forming a giant image in the sand. In the afternoon buses arrive, full with hundreds of indigenous elders from different cultures, activists, trade unionists, shamans from Latin America, Palestinians and Israelis arm in arm, musicians, and lots of young people.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“We know the world stood with us, so we come to stand with you,” a powerful mature woman says into a microphone. It is <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaDonna_Brave_Bull_Allard">LaDonna Brave Bull Allard</a>, one of the initiators of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_Rock_Indian_Reservation">Standing Rock</a> struggles. A young man adds, “Water is life. Water is sacred. Life is sacred. We must protect the very things that our lives depend on. For our NO to succeed, we have to know what we say YES to.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">This gathering—called <em>Defend the Sacred</em><em>—</em>is being hosted at <a href="https://www.tamera.org/index.html">Tamera</a>, a community dedicated to the task of finding alternatives that are both visionary and concrete, strongly rooted in its own place but working with activists from the wider region and across the global South. Tamera had invited activists to reflect on their experience from Standing Rock, <a href="https://sumudcamp.org/">Sumud Freedom Camp</a> in Palestine, the <a href="http://www.cdpsanjose.org/">peace village San José de Apartadó</a> in Colombia, and many others from around the world who actively protect what is sacred to them, whether water, nature, human rights or freedom. The idea of the gathering was to envision a global community of sacred activism and discuss how this movement could continue and succeed.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Situated a little more than an hour from Odeceixe, <a href="http://www.tamera.org/">Tamera</a> is an international peace research community of nearly 200 people from many different countries and age groups. The community was founded in 1978 in Germany and moved to Portugal in 1995. Its founders—the sociologist and psychoanalyst <a href="http://www.dieter-duhm.com/">Dieter Duhm</a> and the theologist and peace ambassador <a href="http://www.sabine-lichtenfels.com/">Sabine Lichtenfels</a>—intended to create a holistic model for a peaceful society.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“The issues of our time are so interwoven and so closely linked to each other,” <a href="https://www.tamera.org/basic-thoughts/community-research">wrote Duhm</a>, “that they cannot be solved individually. It will only be possible to carry out the tasks for the future on the basis of a well functioning community.” In his view, humanity has separated itself from the universal powers of life. In order to survive we need to reconnect, a process Duhm calls “human revolution.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“Trust is the most original and most efficient of all healing forces,” he continues, “The very first task of a community is therefore to create trust among the participants.” That’s why Tamera invests such large amounts of time, skills and care in building trust and truth among their members.</p> <p>On a daily basis they meet to reveal what they think and feel, to envision their common aims, to provide mutual support and to create transparency. This daily “Forum” is a crucial part of the community, without which it would not have survived for so many years. In all its activities, Tamera follows a plan of what it calls “<a href="https://www.tamera.org/basic-thoughts/the-healing-biotopes-plan/">global healing biotopes</a>”—model communities with autonomy over water, food and energy but strong regional and global linkages, and connected to the divine forces of life in everything.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Arriving in Tamera in summer after driving through a landscape threatened by desertification and woodfires is like arriving at an oasis. Bodies of water fill the valleys, surrounded by terraces with gardens and fruit orchards. Water has been a core topic in Tamera from the beginning. Under the guidance of mountain farmer and ecological visionary <a href="http://www.seppholzer.at/">Sepp Holzer</a>, Tamera created a natural ‘Water Retention Landscape’—a series of interwoven ponds, lakes and orchards designed to slow down rainwater runoff and give it time to filter deep down so the soil is fertile throughout the year. Other work focuses on decentralized energy solutions, holistic healing, alternative education, permaculture, biologic building and communication and cooperation with animals and plants.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">However the most crucial element of Tamera´s work is love, the core work of peace. “There will be no peace in the world as long as there is war between the genders” <a href="http://sabine-lichtenfels.com/en/projects/global-love-school/">says co-founder</a> Lichtenfels, “Our intention is to create a field for love free from fear. This also includes sexual love.” Every choice that somebody makes in Tamera—be it a monogamous, polyamorous or celibate lifestyle—is supported by the rest of the community so long as it is based on mutual respect and inner truth.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Sexuality and love are regarded as sacred forces which we cannot own. “Also, we cannot possess our partner", <a href="https://youtu.be/v7stErL3CtE">says Vera Kleinhammes</a>, a mother of two children. “Isn´t it strange how many couples find it normal to lie to each other on what they really feel or to whom they are attracted? But without truth, love cannot grow.” In Tamera, partnership and free love don´t exclude each other, they need each other. “However, I would not dare to try this outside of community.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">This approach found resonance among the participants at the gathering. Time and again, activists have faced internal conflicts and collapse in their communities and protest actions around the topics of jealousy, the suppression of women, and other gender topics. Social transparency on love and women’s empowerment are part of the remedy for these conflicts.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">As <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toda_people">Vassamalli Kurtaz</a> shared—a representative from the indigenous <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toda_people">Todas</a> tribe in India —“Before our communities were colonized, married women could choose one or two other sexual lovers if they wished. It was accepted by tradition also by their husbands. Now with having so many men without the chance to have sex we have tensions arising in the community. Colonization and Christianity harmed our lifestyle and the nature that we live from. We need to return to our traditions.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard"><a href="http://womanstandsshining.strikingly.com/">Pat McCabe</a> from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajo">Diné (Navajo) Nation</a> added this: “According to our traditions, we look for balance and healing between fire and water, light and dark, the feminine and the masculine. I am impressed that this community works so deeply on this balance too. It is a profound experience to find a place in Europe which gives such a strong resonance to positions that have been crucial in indigenous cultures. I leave this place with the feeling that the wounds of colonizations can heal.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">At the gathering, the activists developed a sense of global community, envisioning how the movement for defending the sacred that began at Standing Rock could continue, supported by the emergence of decentralized alternatives to capitalism. As <a href="https://firstvoicesindigenousradio.org/node/7">Tiokasin Ghosthorse</a>&nbsp;said, a representative of the <a href="https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_River_Reservation">Cheyenne River Nation</a>, “We all were indigenous once. We have been waiting for you. Welcome back.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Meanwhile at the beach, the renowned activist and artist <a href="http://www.creativeresistance.org/artists/john-quigley/">John Quigley</a> had prepared an image that we will form with our bodies in the sand, filmed from the air by drones so that we can send it out to the world as a strong declaration of our will. The image consists of a huge dolphin and the words: <a href="https://youtu.be/0damGwctIi4">“Nao ao furo (‘no to the oil drill’)—Defend &nbsp;the Sacred</a>.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">We line up to enter the image, passing by a place of sacred water kept by Lichtenfels and a place of sacred fire kept by LaDonna Brave Bull. Everyone is led to a place in one of the letters of the declaration or—in my case—as part of the dolphin´s snout.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Soon it becomes clear: the image is too big to fill with the 400 or so people that have come from Tamera and the rest of the region, even with all the other activists. We need at least double. What to do? Do we have to give up like so many times before?</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“Be attractive” shouts Quigley, “attract people to join us.” And we do. We shout and sing and call the tourists on the beach to help us fill the image. They watch, but hesitate. After all it is their holiday. But then they come. Parents being pulled in by their kids. Couples and groups of friends, surfers and sunbathers leaving behind their daily business and joining in, happy and proud to be part of something bigger, each one being cheered on by the activists.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">And then we make it! In the end we are nearly 1,000 people. The last to join is <a href="http://sleepinglions.com/ordinary-heroes/13-year-old-takota-iron-eyes-is-standing-up-to-the-dakota-access-">Takota Iron Eyes</a>, aged 13, a Sioux youth leader from Standing Rock who forms the eye of the dolphin together with other teenagers.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">When she starts singing, the crowd becomes silent. Something resonates very deeply in me. It feels like a transformation point in my internal belief system. We really made it. And if we can be successful here then surely we can do anything—stop the oil drilling, change the track of history, and create peace on the earth.</p> <p class="image-caption">For more about Tamera click <a href="http://www.tamera.org/">here</a> and <a href="http://defendthesacred.tamera.org/">here</a>. </p> <p class="WW-Standard">&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/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 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/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</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 Leila Dregger Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Environment Love and Spirituality Mon, 04 Sep 2017 23:20:01 +0000 Leila Dregger 113063 at https://www.opendemocracy.net