Michael Edwards https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/1498/all cached version 08/02/2019 19:10:04 en Could NGOs flourish in a future without foreign aid? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/could-ngos-flourish-in-future-without-foreign-aid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Only when myths are revealed as myths can there be a clear-eyed conversation about the best ways forward.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/themythologyofforeignaid.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">“Self-reliance.” Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/taiwanicdf/6479907743">Flickr/Taiwan ICDF.</a> <a href="blank">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.</a></p> <p>The last few months have been a season of myth-busting around NGOs like Oxfam and Save the Children—myths like ‘bad things don’t happen in organizations with good intentions,’ and ‘charities have better management than other types of organization because their staff are so committed.’ </p> <p>Myth-busting is inherently painful, particularly if you believe that your own myths are true. The chair of Save the Children International has resigned and the agency is currently the subject of a formal inquiry by the Charity Commission. At Oxfam GB over <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/oxfam-charity-lay-off-100-people-haiti-sex-scandal-funding-cut-a8357476.html">100 jobs have been lost, donations are down</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/15/oxfam-warns-staff-urgent-savings-16m-haiti-scandal">program cuts are inevitable</a> according to a leaked internal document, while the Haitian government has <a href="https://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2018/06/oxfam-reaction-to-haitian-government-decision-to-withdraw-oxfam-gb-permission-to-work-in-haiti">withdrawn Oxfam-GB’s “right to operate”</a> “<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-oxfam-haiti/haiti-withdraws-oxfam-great-britains-right-to-operate-after-misconduct-scandal-idUSKBN1J92R4">for serious violation of the principle of the dignity of human beings</a>”—the very principle on which Oxfam was founded 75 years ago.</p> <p>It’s difficult to imagine a deeper wound than this, but myth-busting can also be liberating if it creates more opportunities for reflection and transformation: only when myths are revealed as myths can there be a clear-eyed conversation about the best ways forward.</p> <p>That’s what I hope will happen with international charities. In fact it’s already happening as these agencies rush to improve their protection systems and educate their staff about bullying, sexual harassment and the need to nurture a culture of honesty and respect both inside the organization and outside. The question is, could it also happen with other, larger myths that I think are holding the sector back?</p> <p>I see these other myths as a set of inter-locking ‘Russian dolls’ each emerging from the next. The first contains a set of once-popular assumptions about the supposed strength of NGO management systems, governance, accountability and communications, all of which have been tested and (to some extent) found wanting in the current crisis over the handling of alleged sexual harassment and abuse. </p> <p>Oxfam GB’s communications about events in Haiti initially struggled to keep up with a fast-paced story, culminating in a sleep-deprived <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/16/oxfam-boss-mark-goldring-anything-we-say-is-being-manipulated-weve-been-savaged">interview with the Guardian</a> in which chief executive Mark Goldring appeared to minimize the seriousness of what had happened—“what did we do?” he said, “We murdered babies in their cots?” <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1457796/flop-month-oxfam-guide-crisis-mismanagement">PR Week</a>, the flagship publication of the public relations industry, called this response “a paragon of PR cack-handedness” and featured the charity as it’s “flop of the month—the Oxfam guide to crisis <em>mismanagement</em>.” To be fair, however, Oxfam has since responded pretty well, and Goldring (who was not in charge when events in Haiti unfolded) <span><a href="https://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2018/05/oxfam-chief-executive-to-step-down">has announced his intention to step down</a></span> from his position at the end of 2018.</p> <p>In Save the Children’s case, information about the handling of sexual harassment allegations has emerged in dribs and drabs rather than being released in total and up front. It was only after the BBC revealed the details of a leaked internal report on the handling of these allegations that SCF-UK shared it with the public, “ to ensure there is a full picture of the situation at the time and the actions taken since” as <a href="https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/save-the-children-statement-">a press statement issued by the charity on March 7 2018</a> put it. </p> <p>After Save the Children International’s chairman, Sir Alan Parker, <a href="https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/80453782-7232-427d-be6e-64633734bf7e">gave oral evidence to the Parliamentary Committee on International Development’s Inquiry</a> on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in the Aid Sector on May 22, he still wrote <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/international-development/Letter-from-Sir-Alan-Parker.pdf">a supplementary letter</a> to MPs to provide more details on exactly what had happened in answer to their questions. That’s the problem with this kind of drip-feed information strategy: even when you’re innocent it can make you look guilty.</p> <p>Lurking in the background is another, deeper myth that could be seen to act as a rationale for missteps like these: that the ‘ends justify the means.’ </p> <p>In the case of both Oxfam GB and SCF-UK, some information in the agencies’ own internal reports was not made public at the time of the investigations in order to protect the reputation of the organizations, their funding, and their ability to carry out their work—a justifiable decision but one that was to backfire badly. Oxfam only released its 2011 report on Haiti on <a href="https://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2018/02/oxfam-releases-report-into-allegations-of-sexual-misconduct-in-haiti">February 19 2018</a>, eight years after the events in question and ten days after the Times published an expose of these events. </p> <p>As an <a href="https://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2018/02/oxfam-releases-report-into-allegations-of-sexual-misconduct-in-haiti">Oxfam press release put it</a> at the time, “We are making this exceptional publication because we want to be as transparent as possible about the decisions we made during this particular investigation and in recognition of the breach of trust that has been caused,” a sentiment echoed by Goldring in his <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/16/oxfam-boss-mark-goldring-anything-we-say-is-being-manipulated-weve-been-savaged">interview with the Guardian</a>: “I believe it was done in good faith to try to balance being transparent and protecting Oxfam’s work,” he said. But the fact that Oxfam had not told the full truth about what had happened stoked up the negative press coverage and produced a furor that created exactly the damage that Oxfam wanted to avoid. </p> <p>At Save the Children-UK, a confidential, internal report from 2015 into the handling of allegations of sexual harassment against two senior staff members concluded that “There existed a management culture that did not sufficiently adhere to established and published policies and procedures” as <a href="https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/save-the-children-statement-">an SCF-UK press statement from March 2018 put it</a>. Exactly why the agency fell short in this respect is a matter of conjecture, but a number of insiders including Jonathan Glennie (who was SCF-UK’s Policy Director at the time the allegations were made) have speculated that the agency had developed a culture of “macho behavior,” <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">as Glennie describes it</a>, that successfully drove the agency’s growth and influence but may unwittingly have eroded its commitment to care for some of its staff. For its part SCF-UK insists that it “has always sought to protect all employees from inappropriate comments and behavior,” as <a href="https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/new-save-the-children-statement">a press release put it</a> on February 20.</p> <p>One of the men involved in these allegations—Brendan Cox—“was suspended and a disciplinary process commenced. The panel included independent trustees and a QC, and the process was administered by a London law firm. Mr Cox resigned before it could be completed” <a href="https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/save-the-children-statement">as another SCF-UK press release put it on February 18</a>. Cox signed off with an email to colleagues that was later shared with the humanitarian website <a href="https://www.irinnews.org/feature/2018/02/22/former-save-children-staffers-speak-out-abusive-culture-under-justin-forsyth">IRIN News</a>: “apologies to all of you for any times I’ve been unreasonable, overbearing or relentless,” it read, “it was always with the best of intentions.” </p> <p>‘We may have messed things up or got things wrong,’ seems to be the message, ‘but if we did it was only to protect the organization and advance its work.’ Again, Cox seemed to be deploying an ‘end justifies the means’ argument. Yet Save the Children’s founder Eglantyne Jebb reached the opposite conclusion as far back as the 1920s: “so long as we are piling up injustices with our left hand,” she wrote, “we cannot establish justice with our right.” </p> <p>In cases like these the means-end myth may be rooted in noble intentions, but it is risky, and can eventually lead to a full-blown scandal. As <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-second-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">Glennie put it</a> in one of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">two articles for <em>Transformation</em></a>, “the <em>how</em> matters just as much as the <em>what</em>”<em> </em>in determining any charity’s actions and activities. And the only way to avoid the kind of damage suffered by both SCF-UK and Oxfam GB is to do the right things in the right ways in the first place—to be ethical in both ends <em>and </em>means with no exceptions. </p> <p>What is it that gets in the way of implementing this level of ethical integration? I’d suggest the third of my ‘Russian dolls’—the myth of indispensability that can turn international NGOs into hamsters on a wheel of endless growth and competition, constantly tempting them to prioritize their own organizational self-interests. </p> <p>Without us, says this myth, millions of people will die, or never go to school or be able to grow their own food, so please give us your money since that’s what will make the difference. It’s not surprising that this myth lies at the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/phil-vernon/what-s-it-all-about-oxfam">heart of charity fundraising</a>, but it’s also the ultimate insulation against pressures to reform, since none of us wants to be responsible for the unnecessary death or suffering of another human being. The problem is, in most cases it isn’t true. </p> <p>In contrast to the images of passivity and dependence that are retailed by much charity advertising, most people don’t need an industry of outside intermediaries to ‘help’ them realize their dreams—they just need to be to be trusted, listened to and supported to take charge of their own destinies in ways that place <em>their </em>agency at the center of the action, surrounded by the contacts and resources they need to make things happen both individually and collectively. </p> <p>Of course, everyone needs some help to do this properly. In emergencies they might need more than usual and in war zones even more—when people are starving they need food and water, not political correctness—and there are circumstances in which <em>non</em>-local groups can be especially effective because they can offer more connections and protection. </p> <p>But as a general principle it’s hard to argue that bureaucracies funded and governed from thousands of miles away are better-placed to provide support than local institutions embedded in their own communities and subject to indigenous pressures to improve over time. And if Oxfam and Save the Children haven’t been supporting those institutions to grow and develop over the last 75 years then what have they been doing? This is different from launching local franchises of global brands which is already common practice.</p> <p>As I’ve said <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">many times before</a>, there are lots of valuable roles to play for international NGOs in this scenario which are actually healthier and more effective in promoting their long term goals. The problem is that they won’t bring in the money required to maintain these agencies in their current size and shape. That’s the nettle that eventually has to be grasped, but once it is there will be less pressure to surrender to the means/ends myth, the ethical confusion it can create, and the management failings that may result. </p> <p>In other areas of life like our families, communities and social movements this wouldn’t be a problem, since the imperative to step aside is obvious: at some point, those who are older, or who have more power and opportunity, must move into the background so that others can develop independently and flourish, with all the risks and excitements this entails. “The golden rule is to help those we love to escape from us” as the Austrian theologian <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_von_H%C3%BCgel">Friedrich von Hügel</a> <a href="https://archive.org/stream/MN5160ucmf_0/MN5160ucmf_0_djvu.txt">once wrote to his niece</a>.</p> <p>But at the moment, asking organisations like Oxfam and Save the Children to envisage a world outside the foreign aid industry is like asking a fish to imagine a world without the water in which it swims: to 95 per cent of charity CEOs and board members it’s simply inconceivable. Nevertheless, planning for such a future is the first step towards the transformations required for NGOs to flourish in world without the asymmetries and contradictions that bedevil the current system—and which lie buried deep in the heart of that nest of Russian dolls. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/it-s-time-to-take-our-charities-to-cleaners">It’s time to take our charities to the cleaners</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">At what cost? A reflection on the crisis at Save the Children UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation International Aid Save the Children Fund Oxfam NGOs Michael Edwards The role of money Activism Economics Sun, 24 Jun 2018 17:19:23 +0000 Michael Edwards 118565 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The beauty of a both/and mind https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/beauty-of-bothand-mind <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can we find our way out of the impasse that stymies action on the really big issues of the day?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/bothandmind.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: By Mushki Brichta - Own work via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65958190">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>When Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Kennedy III delivered the <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.huffingtonpost.com%2Ft%2Ft-l-urtdnd-ujhdjdai-u%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7C364c3efeec124b474a2908d568a69e21%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636529987180296022&amp;sdata=tyiH8E4FH0O3xDoV6pTcFkCkffjF%2FKrVvggy9vucXIg%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">Democratic response</a> to President Trump’s State of the Union address in January 2018 he chose an intriguing frame for his remarks. Not satisfied with rebutting Trump’s admittedly-minimal record on policy and legislation, JFK’s grand-nephew denounced the President for “turning&nbsp;American life into a zero-sum game” in which the well-being of some Americans must come at the expense of others—“as if the mechanic in Pittsburgh and the teacher in Tulsa and the day-care worker in Birmingham are somehow bitter rivals rather than mutual casualties of a system forcefully rigged for those at the top.”</p> <p>The alternative to ‘zero sum’ is ‘positive sum’ thinking—a way of reasoning that rejects the dichotomies of ‘either/or’ judgments in favor of a ‘both/and mind.’ Kennedy argued that there’s no contradiction between raising living standards for one group or another, but the same technique could be applied to any set of issues or constituencies where more than one thing can be true. Does the image above show a 6, a 9, or both, depending on your point of view? That realization provides the key to a different way of interacting with one another in activism and politics. </p> <p>Positive sum thinking is much more than lowest-common-denominator compromise and negotiation. It demands new methods of navigating our way through complex problems and solutions—a different mental architecture that encourages everyone to leave their comfort zones and enter into a genuine conversation that isn’t so pre-structured. But if we can make it work the benefits could be huge: both/and thinking might provide a route out of the impasse that stymies action on the really big issues of the day. How so?</p> <p>Most contemporary democracies produce alternating periods of intellectual and political superiority for one side or another. That’s because political and cultural differences go much deeper, and are much more enduring, than we might admit—they don’t disappear through education or campaigning, or through changing demographics or rising incomes. The victory of one set of ideas or values also produces a counter-reaction which usually strengthens the opposition. Over time therefore, policy changes tend to cancel each other out, making it extremely difficult to make lasting progress on issues that require permanent, cross-party constituencies like human security, the abolition of nuclear weapons, and action on global warming.</p> <p>This problem is getting worse as a result of rising political polarization, religious zealotry, fake news, and filter bubbles or echo chambers on the internet, all of which reinforce the infrastructure of zero-sum, either/or thinking. It’s now almost impossible to change your mind without being treated with suspicion, or to value someone else’s point of view without being labeled as a weakling, or simply to avoid a rush to judgment when presented with ideas with which you disagree. Even within the same political tradition like the progressive left in the UK and the US, factions are hardening, positions are defended to the death, and disagreement leads to censure. </p> <p>The current debate around ‘identity politics’ is a classic case in point. Promoters of an ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality">intersectional’ point of view</a> emphasize the connections that exist between class, race, gender, sexuality, geography and disability. But <a href="http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/a-marxist-critiques-identity-politics/">they’ve been criticized</a> for abandoning the traditional concerns of the left and escaping into victimhood, classified into ever-more elaborate sub-communities of oppression. Not so say the intersectionalists, since there are no forms of politics that function independently of our identities, which continue to be different. Therefore, a single-minded focus on economic questions will inevitably lead to the resurgence of social and sexual discrimination. </p> <p>Recent exchanges between these two positions <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">have generated much heat but very little light</a>. They typify the limitations of zero-sum thinking, which stokes up the emotions of different combatants and exaggerates the gulf that lies between them. The result is an impasse, and a weakening of the left as a whole. But what if both positions were true, or at least were seen to contain enough elements of value to produce a new level of intellectual and political integration? That’s what Kennedy was getting at, albeit in a very different context—that positive sum, both/and thinking can find commonality at a deeper level that connects different experiences of oppression and inequality to the same underlying causes. </p> <p>After all, why do we have to choose between non-exclusive options? The approach we adopt to something like ‘identity politics’ will be heavily influenced by our own position in society, our experience of discrimination, and our personal reading of strategy and history. These different trajectories may lead us to emphasize some forms of oppression and inequality over others at different points in time, or at different stages of the argument; in fact it would be remarkable—even unreal—if they didn’t. </p> <p>But there’s much less disagreement on the origins of oppression and the long-term goals of liberation. “I want everyone on the left to understand that we’re all fighting the same struggle—that it’s people’s material wellbeing that matters in the end. On the other hand, everyone within the Left isn’t the same,” as Sofa Gradin put it in a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">recent article for Transformation</a>.</p> <p>The same analysis could be applied to any other deep-rooted disagreement where arguments are polarized so much that zero-sum thinking seems permanently entrenched—like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ed-straw-ray-ison/duality-dualism-duelling-and-brexit?utm_content=bufferdad1d&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer">Brexit</a>, for example, or ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/harry-blain/why-left-needs-to-re-embrace-first-amendment">freedom of speech,</a>’ abortion, the sex industry, or how to engage with those <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">who voted for Donald Trump</a>. The benefits of a both/and mind seem obvious in situations like these, but how do we train our brains and manage our emotions to act in this way when the counter-pressures are so strong? </p> <p>For starters, how about: ‘don’t rush to judgment, keep an open mind, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and remember you could be wrong.’ This may sound easy, but in fact it’s immensely challenging, since none of these things arise automatically; they require some form of deliberate and conscious preparation, whether through techniques like mindfulness or meditation or some form of centering that stops you from leaping to conclusions about others and their views. Working through something like the identity politics debate requires mental agility&nbsp;<em>without</em> losing sight of fundamental principles. It’s like walking through a maze whose walls re-arrange themselves with every step you take. </p> <p>Zero sum thinking implies closure, fixed boundaries and mutually-exclusive positioning; both/and thinking implies expansiveness, creativity, and the belief that multiple versions of the same account can be valuable or true. The only way we can really understand something is by looking at it from every angle, especially when even the most independent-minded among us are socialized into particular communities over time, each with their own assumptions, no-go areas and pressures to conform. </p> <p>By contrast, the ability to hold contradictory realities in your mind for long enough to consider what they have to offer is characteristic of spiritual experience, expressed in ideas like detachment and non-judgment—what the writer and activist Gregory Leffel calls “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gregory-leffel/will-cuba-become-test-case-for-post-postmodern-future">metamodern mindfulness</a>,” the willingness to place yourself between fixed ideological positions in order to appreciate ideas that don’t belong to any one of them exclusively. Think of this process as akin to rolling a sweet around and around in your mouth as it slowly dissolves, layer by layer by layer, instead of swallowing it whole or spitting it out because you don’t like the taste.</p> <p>This is why <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Civil-Society-Michael-Edwards/dp/0745679366/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8">philosophers from Hannah Arendt to Michael Walzer</a> have seen ‘moral maturity’ as a willingness to welcome diversity <em>and</em> seek the common good together among people whose interests, at least sometimes, stretch further than themselves and their familiars. Clearly, there are some situations where this kind of mental and emotional openness and flexibility aren’t appropriate—in encounters with violent authoritarians, for example, or extreme sexism, racism and other forms of injustice—but in most situations it’s perfectly possible to keep a ‘straight back and soft front’ as some US activists describe it, simultaneously holding fast to your fundamental principles while being open to negotiating how they manifest in practice. We need “realists of a larger reality” as the late and great author <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/araz-hachadourian/ursula-k-leguin-calls-on-fantasy-and-sci-fi-writers-to-envision-alt">Ursula le Guin once said</a>, people with both grounding and creativity who can see transformative solutions beyond the status quo. </p> <p>There are also some institutional innovations that seem to help people exercise both/and thinking, like alternative electoral systems that re-orient incentives away from winner-take-all solutions and exaggerated conflicts, and civil society groups that mix people of different views and backgrounds together in voluntary associations. “Standing shoulder to shoulder with people across our differences and creating new understandings and visions together is where the real transformative potential lies,” say activists&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Peroline Ainsworth and Kiran Nihalani</a>&nbsp;on the basis of their experience of women’s co-operatives in south London. </p> <p>Any civil society or democracy worthy of the name needs both/and thinkers to animate its institutions. Otherwise separation will be permanent. That doesn’t mean that everyone agrees on every issue, but it does require some agreement on how disagreement should be handled—as an invitation to deeper dialogue instead of a prelude to further fractures. This is exceptionally challenging because it runs counter to the realities of modern politics, media and knowledge production, but the other options are much, much worse: a slide into authoritarianism, enforced artificial unity, or permanent division.</p> <p>Faced by these ‘beasts,’ there's beauty in a both/and mind.</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/gregory-leffel/will-cuba-become-test-case-for-post-postmodern-future">Will Cuba become a test case for a post-postmodern future? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">Is there really a crisis around identity politics on the left?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/when-will-there-be-harmony">When will there be harmony?</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 Political polarization Michael Edwards Care Culture Sun, 29 Apr 2018 19:28:36 +0000 Michael Edwards 117548 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 It’s time to take our charities to the cleaners https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/it-s-time-to-take-our-charities-to-cleaners <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Everyone needs a deep clean from time to time. Best to do it before your teeth get infected.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/toothpaste.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/5146809288">Flickr/William Warby</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a>.</p> <p>There was always going to be reckoning. Over the last 30 years charities have become <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43145826">bigger and bolder, richer and more competitive,</a> outside of any honest and open conversation about their role in society, the values they represent, and the standards to which they should be held accountable. The current reckoning just happened to arrive in a certain place and time, focused on Oxfam and Save the Children around issues of sexual harassment and abuse—bad news for them of course but a welcome opportunity to re-examine what the whole sector is about. </p> <p>A consistent theme in the crisis that’s unfolding is that there’s something not quite right about charities today, though exactly what’s wrong is expressed in many different ways. For some the crisis questions <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/18/cousin-founded-oxfam-would-horrified-charity-has-become/">the whole culture of modern charity</a> and the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/call-to-end-taxpayer-aid-for-oxfam-over-cover-up-0zchqhgkq">legitimacy of foreign aid</a>: the sector has become bloated, they say, too big for its boots, and incapable of regulating itself. What happened at Oxfam and SCF was just the tip of the iceberg, so we should stop giving to these charities until they can earn our trust.</p> <p>Others believe that the crisis has been <a href="https://newint.org/blog/2018/02/15/trashing-of-oxfam">dramatically exaggerated for political effect</a> as part of a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/clare-short-attacks-hysterical-media-coverage-of-oxfam-scandal-and-claims-entire-aid-sector-smeared-bbc-week-in-westminster_uk_5a904334e4b0ee6416a2e10e">right-wing plot</a> to undermine certain groups and causes that conservatives oppose. The revelations of sexual harassment and abuse are confined to a small number of cases, they say, though they still need to be urgently addressed. However, these cases raise no broader matters of concern about the charities involved or the sector as a whole. To protect their work and give them the resources they need to strengthen their management and accountability going forward&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/21/keep-giving-oxfam-so-should-you-charity-mark-haddon">we should actually <em>increase </em>our giving</a>.</p> <p>To me the most interesting reactions lie somewhere between these two positions, avoiding both under- and over-reaction and drawing out the wider implications of what we’re learning. It’s those lessons that are crucial if we want to use this crisis as an opportunity to strengthen the sector in the future. Take <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/02/23/what-the-oxfam-sex-scandal-reveals-about-aid-and-power-in-haiti/?utm_term=.ac7e3cfc60b3">this piece</a> in the Washington Post by Jovenel Moïse, for example, the President of Haiti. Moïse says this:</p> <blockquote><p>“Let’s take this ‘Oxfam moment,’ this ugly moment of reckoning, to reflect on the bigger picture. The general paradigm of aid and power…is not a balanced one…Something clearly needs to change...as our country becomes meaningfully developed and our economy becomes strengthened, more of our communities will be lifted&nbsp;from poverty—which means fewer individuals at risk,&nbsp;such as the women who were preyed upon by the Oxfam staff. While we pursue accountability for what occurred in 2011 we must simultaneously pursue long-term, clear-eyed solutions to the root causes. It’s not enough to punish one or two individuals, or to shame an organization. We have an entire cycle to break in order for the vulnerable to become the empowered.”</p></blockquote> <p>Alongside <a href="https://www.redpepper.org.uk/the-aid-industry-is-long-overdue-its-metoo-moment/">other writers</a> in this middle ground, Moïse is saying that harassment, abuse and exploitation don’t happen in a vacuum; they arise in situations of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">power inequality and weak accountability</a>—conditions which characterize relationships between rich and poor countries in the foreign aid system, or those between powerful agencies like Oxfam and the communities they serve (wherever they’re located), or between senior male and junior female staff in the case of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/18/world/europe/uk-brendan-cox-sexual-abuse.html">Save the Children</a>. A failure to confront these inequalities will leave the door open to abuse and exploitation somewhere else or in some other form.</p> <p>So tighter monitoring of charity personnel won’t be enough; a cultural and structural transformation is essential. Since the scandals broke, it’s this recognition that has flowed through calls to combat the “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/20/oxfam-abuse-scandal-haiti-colonialism">white savior complex</a>,” recover charity’s “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/14/oxfam-scandal-charities-international-development">moral core</a>,” make <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/cbcnews-oxfam-allegations-campaign-scrapped-1.4546352">the actions of charities consistent with their words</a>, and uphold the highest ethical standards as the signature of the sector. </p> <p>But even in this middle ground there’s no agreement on what it would really mean to do these things. Should charities <a href="https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/02/oxfams-troubles-began-when-it-became-politically-correct/">abandon politics and advocacy in order to concentrate on providing services</a> to those in need, or should they become <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/phil-vernon/what-s-it-all-about-oxfam">more explicitly political actors</a> because poverty and injustice are always political issues? Should they be larger or smaller, follow business practices or avoid them, pay higher salaries to ‘attract the best’ or lower ones to attract the most committed? There’s no agreement among the public on the answers to these questions. There never has been, because they reflect much deeper differences in politics and culture around the meaning and proper role of charity. </p> <p>That means it’s impossible to develop a code of conduct or a system of accountability around the goals and core activities of charities—they’re just too diverse, but that actually returns the question of ethics to center stage. If we can’t legislate that all charities should do this and not that in terms of their programmatic focus and styles of working, can’t we all agree that whatever they do should be carried out according to a universal set of ethics? </p> <p>I’m not thinking rocket science here: honesty, transparency, accountability, humility, service, equality, independence, respect for people and their dignity, consistency between words and actions, and the empowerment of others so that they are always ‘in the driving seat’ as the Haitian President demands (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/25/aid-agencies-sex-abuse-save-the-children-justin-forsyth">instead of&nbsp; prioritizing your own organizational self-interest</a>). These are things that cross the political and cultural spectrum. They’re also the things that are supposed to mark out charities from other institutions, but they seem to have been compromised in the rush for growth and influence. </p> <p>Though not easy, it’s possible to monitor adherence to these standards across the board, regardless of where a charity operates or the issues on which it works. Filling out the definitions of these things with measurable criteria and case studies would be a useful task for the Charity Commission in the UK and similar bodies elsewhere—things like a maximum ratio between the highest and lowest paid staff members, or a ban on <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2018/jan/12/charities-stop-poverty-porn-fundraising-ed-sheeran-comic-relief">‘charity porn’</a> advertising, or fines for non-disclosure of information in the kinds of sexual abuse and harassment cases that are front and center now. No doubt the wisdom and practicality of these ideas will be disputed, but they could provide a concrete framework for <a href="https://civilsocietyfutures.org/">a public conversation about charities that’s much-needed</a>, and which would help to restore public trust. </p> <p>In other sectors like business, government and entertainment you could say that ethics are always going to be negotiated in pursuit of money, sex and power, but there’s no reason why that <em>modus operandi</em> should be replicated in a charity. In fact if charities are <em>not</em> leaders in ethical behavior then what are they for? If I want to bully people and twist the truth I can go into politics; if I want to chase the money and act like a multinational corporation I can go into business. But there’s no point importing these cultures into charities so that they become another vehicle for disguised self-interest or cover-ups and power plays or male violence. </p> <p>It seems to me that as a condition of their existence, and as something for which they should be held legally accountable, charities must live their ethics in everything they do—from the way they treat employees to the images they use in fundraising to the programmatic choices they make. However big they are, that’s the only way that charities will become a force for change at any scale, a force for moral revolution that percolates throughout society from left to right and back.</p> <p>Reading the outpouring of letters and statements that have been published from charity workers since the scandals broke gives me cause for optimism in this sense, even if Oxfam and Save the Children have been hesitant and unconvincing in their responses: in the most elemental of ways, many people in the charity sector are doing precisely what charities <em>should</em> do, despite the attendant risks of intimidation and retaliation: speak up, protect the equal dignity of every person, hold yourself and your organization fully accountable, stand up to bullies, and tell the truth. </p> <p>After all, where does the charitable impulse come from, or civic energy or community-mindedness if you don’t like the other ‘C’ word? Not from wholesale agreement or the hegemony of one set of voices or ideas or approaches. It comes from a much deeper commitment to do the right things in the right ways and see where that leads us. </p> <p>I live in horror of the dentist, but I volunteer to go twice a year for a deep cleaning of my teeth. Of course it hurts for a while, but afterwards I feel refreshed, and free of the accretions of all the things I shouldn’t have been eating, born out of my own lack of discipline in attending to my health and welfare. &nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps the same could be said of charities: they would also benefit from a thorough moral and ethical cleansing to get them back on track. Everyone needs a deep clean from time to time. Best to do it before your teeth get infected.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/phil-vernon/what-s-it-all-about-oxfam">What’s it all about, Oxfam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-francis/courage-of-difficult-women">The courage of difficult women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/rafael-vilasanju-n/sex-and-charity">Sex and Charity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">What’s to be done with Oxfam?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Oxfam Save the Children Fund aid Charities Michael Edwards The role of money Activism Economics Mon, 26 Feb 2018 21:06:07 +0000 Michael Edwards 116317 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is it gratuitous to link the scandal engulfing Oxfam with the need to transform NGOs and foreign aid?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Oxfam3_5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Recycle_for_Oxfam_or_you%27ll_be_sorted_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1501324.jpg">Wikimedia/Chris Reynolds</a>.&nbsp;<a title="Creative Commons" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons">Creative Commons</a>&nbsp;Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.</p><blockquote><p>“Tensions between reform and transformation are hardwired into the NGO community and look set to continue, unless or until some large scale shock arrives to force through more fundamental changes—like the end of foreign aid, or the removal of public credibility in the wake of some massive scandal, or a blanket ejection of foreign organizations by Southern governments. <strong>But those prospects seem remote</strong>.” <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">What’s to be done with Oxfam?</a> August 1 2016.</p></blockquote> <p>Well, ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Eighteen months after I wrote these words that “scandal” has come to pass, though exactly how “massive” it is a matter for debate. As <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfam#Allegations_of_sexual_misconduct_by_staff_in_Haiti_and_Chad">allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by a small number of Oxfam staff</a> in Haiti, South Sudan and Chad, and in some of its shops in <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-the-papers-43039432">the UK</a> have exploded around the charity’s head, there have been many forceful and legitimate demands to tighten up procedures, make reparations and strengthen accountability so that such instances are prevented wherever possible and dealt with decisively when they do happen. ‘Case closed,’ you might say.</p> <p>Except that critics have used this opportunity to castigate Oxfam, NGOs and foreign aid in much more general terms. What has occurred proves that <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5563124/corrupt-oxfam-chief-resign-sun-says/">charities are corrupt and incompetent</a>, they say, that they have <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5379143/Oxfam-admits-moral-failure-prostitutes-scandal.html">no ethics or moral value</a>, and that <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/call-to-end-taxpayer-aid-for-oxfam-over-cover-up-0zchqhgkq">aid should therefore be abolished</a>. Even friendlier critics like <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/14/oxfam-scandal-charities-international-development">Larry Elliot</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/12/the-oxfam-scandal-shows-colonialism-is-alive-and-well">Suzanne Moore</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/feb/13/oxfam-scandal-must-force-aid-sector-to-finally-address-its-own-power">Deborah Doane</a> (all writing in the Guardian) have accused Oxfam of abandoning its moral core, practicing colonialism and becoming little more than an international business. </p> <p>Meanwhile Oxfam itself is in turmoil, offering a delayed, incomplete and surprisingly cack-handed response which goes against its own communications advice and ignores decades of experience in how to handle revelations of this nature: tell the whole truth as soon as you find any evidence of wrong-doing; do everything you can to prevent it happening again; and don’t allow abusers to slink away silently into the rest of the system—regardless of any potential embarrassment, loss of funds or legal complications. Don’t hedge or fudge or offer unconvincing justifications of what you <em>can’t </em>do, and don’t wring your hands in public. </p> <p>Only <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/13/585304983/oxfam-official-resigns-amid-allegations-that-prostitutes-hired-in-disaster-zones">one head has rolled thus far</a> in this fiasco, but would you or I have done any better under such enormous pressures? Speaking as an ex-Oxfam manager, I’m not sure I would. And in any case, isn’t it a bit gratuitous to use the pain and trauma of all those involved as a hook on which to hang a lecture about the politics of the international system, or to mount generalized attacks that are largely spurious? </p> <p>I’ve been a critic of NGOs like Oxfam myself for many years, but I value the international solidarity they can help to build when they are at their best. I’m trying to see all sides of the story and avoid throwing any babies out with the bathwater, so for me the question boils down to this: is there a link between what happened in Haiti and what needs to happen in the aid sector more broadly going forward? If not, we should limit ourselves to addressing the case in hand and its consequences. If yes, there’s a legitimate claim that Oxfam and the others should use this opportunity to make those broader changes, and be held accountable for doing so.</p> <p>At the simplest and most basic level, abuse and exploitation happen when someone near the top of a hierarchy uses someone lower down who has less power, outside of a system of clear rules and accountability. The fact that this case concerns the hierarchy of an NGO or the aid industry more broadly is irrelevant—unless one believes that Oxfam is staffed by saints or that institutions behave more ethically just because they say so. We know that neither of these things are true, and I’m certain that we’ll hear more evidence to substantiate that fact in the coming months as other instances of abuse come to light in other settings.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20180213-oxfam-faces-new-sex-abuse-allegations-south-sudan-haiti">a recent interview with AFP</a> about the Oxfam furor,&nbsp;Mike Jennings, head of the Department of Development Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said this: </p> <blockquote><p>“Emergency situations are almost a perfect environment for these kind of activities to emerge. You have extremely vulnerable people...and a few people who are effectively controlling access to resources, or have huge amounts of power. Whenever you have those inequalities and variances in power, you have scope for abuse.”</p></blockquote> <p>That’s true, but ‘access to resources’ and ‘inequalities in power’ are not a given. They are formed in particular contexts by human hands, and they can be re-formed in similar fashion. Inequalities in power and resources are what Oxfam and the others were set up to confront and ultimately transform, not just in relations between men and women or employers and employees but throughout society and its institutions—and especially between rich and poor. You can’t secure those sorts of transformations unless you attack their constituent parts at the level of daily practice, and it’s here that the link between the specific and the general becomes a little clearer.</p> <p>For at least the last 25 years there has been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">a lively debate about power, aid and NGOs</a>, focusing on the inability or unwillingness of agencies to hand over control and share their resources—as opposed to building their own brands and competing for market share from their fundraising base in the global North, and notwithstanding the recent trend to decentralize some parts of their operations. There are echoes of this debate among the friendlier critics of Oxfam since the Haiti scandal broke. The central issue is that, while NGOs are happy to criticize inequality when it is caused by others—billionaires for example, or the World Bank or multinational corporations—they have not been prepared to face up to the inequalities for which they themselves are at least partly responsible</p> <p>Those inequalities stem from a failure to build or support indigenous institutions in order to remove the need for any foreign presence, and the taking away of political and intellectual space from organizations in the global South, and grassroots groups everywhere, in the worlds of advocacy, research and campaigning. </p> <p>If inequality is tolerated anywhere it can be reproduced everywhere; by contrast, if it is honestly acknowledged and dealt with in one part of the system it can act as a spur to confront other inequalities elsewhere. That, it seems to me, is the potential wider significance of what has happened in Haiti. But it’s important to note that reducing inequality doesn’t automatically curb sexual abuse and exploitation. There are no saints in the global South either.</p> <p>Hence, it is not gratuitous to link yesterday’s <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/us/parkland-school-shooting.html?mtrref=www.google.com&amp;gwh=D4F42DF244B0ACACCAEF3B24EE7C5B83&amp;gwt=pay">horrific school shooting in Florida</a> to the need for gun control across the USA. Specific cases call for a generalized response, not just improved security in one school. In the same way, putting measures in place to curb sexual abuse in one agency or country requires us to look more deeply into the inequalities that lie at the root of the problem, and to address them in a general framework. Although that may sound unlikely in the heat of the current moment, its results could be revolutionary. We may finally get a healthy, ethical and equal-minded movement for international cooperation to confront global problems. </p> <p>Can its own #metoo moment help the aid industry to question and transform its role in this way? When you face an outside threat to your integrity, and even to your existence, it’s difficult to focus on anything except circling the wagons in order to survive. But the emotional experience of vulnerability—the enforced stripping away of arrogance and defensiveness and inertia—can also create a space for acceptance, an acceptance that things do now need to change. </p> <p>At the human level we should all feel for Oxfam’s staff in these times, just as we must feel for those who have endured abuse and exploitation at the hands of a very small minority of their number. As the global leader of the NGO community Oxfam has a special responsibility to make sure this opportunity isn’t wasted. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">What’s to be done with Oxfam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/guilaine/since-i-gave-you-phone-it-s-not-rape">Since I gave you a phone it’s not rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alessandra-pigni/no-you-can%E2%80%99t-%E2%80%98be-change%E2%80%99-alone">No, you can’t ‘be the change’ alone</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation foreign aid NGOs Oxfam Michael Edwards The role of money Care Thu, 15 Feb 2018 16:11:33 +0000 Michael Edwards 116157 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The virtues of a many-sided life https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/virtues-of-many-sided-life <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A rounded human being has got to be better than a square one for the tasks that lie ahead.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/head, heart and hands.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USMC-101008-M-1558F-390.jpg">Wikimedia/USMC</a>. Public Domain.</p> <p>A couple of weeks ago, covered in lake slime and pieces of <a href="http://www.nyis.info/index.php?action=invasive_detail&amp;id=39">European water chestnut weed</a>, I climbed into the bathtub and turned on my favorite podcast from the BBC called <a href="http://www.radioline.co/podcast-bbc-radio-4-coast-and-country">Coast and Country</a>. The subject of the podcast was <a href="https://www.dartington.org/about/">Dartington Hall</a> in Devon, a seedbed for radical ideas and creativity since it was founded in 1925. </p> <p>The core of Dartington’s philosophy is a “many-sided life:” the idea that we should draw on all of our faculties in our efforts to transform the world, and by doing so, become transformed ourselves—“head, hands and heart.” A life with many sides instead of one is bound to be more productive and fulfilling, both for individuals and for the societies they create.</p> <p>Without knowing exactly what I was doing or why it might be important, I’ve been following the same philosophy since leaving my last full-time desk job in 2008. Helping to clear the rampantly-invasive chestnut weed from our local lake is the latest installment of my efforts to build in more manual labor to my life. </p> <p>I call it ‘manual labor,’ though of course it’s more a hobby than a livelihood—there’s little dignity in a sweatshop, and I don’t pretend to be ‘a worker’ as in ‘working class.’ I’m comfortably off, with enough security to choose how to spend my time. So increasingly, I’m choosing to use my hands and not just my head by getting stuck into the hard, physical, collective work of the community.</p> <p>As often happens, the more I thought about Dartington and its ideas, the more I started to come across examples of the same philosophy in action. An <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/13/jimmy-carter-collapses-dehydration-habitat-for-humanity">article in the Guardian</a> reported that ex-President Jimmy Carter was treated for dehydration after he collapsed while building a house with Habitat for Humanity in Canada. A <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/books/james-c-scott-farmer-and-scholar-of-anarchism.html">piece in the New York Times</a> explored the life of political scientist James C Scott, who divides his time between studying peasant resistance and working on a farm in Connecticut.</p> <p>Then there was a visit to <a href="http://www.brantwood.org.uk/ruskin/">John Ruskin’s home at Brantwood</a> in the English Lake District, where reputedly he was just as happy when building guesthouses, garden walls and harbors with his friends and neighbors as he was when spinning out radical new ideas on politics and economics. Those ideas included a minimum wage, social security, free universal education and public ownership of land, and they set the stage for future developments like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_state">welfare state</a> and the <a href="https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/">National Trust</a>. </p> <p>I also commissioned a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/intentional-communities">series of articles for Transformation on ‘intentional communities’</a>—places like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/thomas-miller/findhorn-inner-listening-outer-action">Findhorn</a> in Scotland, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Tamera</a> in Portugal and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college">Schumacher College</a> in Devon (another outgrowth of Dartington Hall), which aim to ‘be the change they want to see’ in the world. Incorporating manual labor into learning is a central tenet of the experience they offer, whether that’s through shared domestic tasks like cooking and washing-up, or digging in the garden, or learning how to paint or make pots and other crafts. </p> <p>At Dartington’s School for “multi-dimensional” education, “Students were as likely to learn how to fix a car engine as to read Chekhov” as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college">Andrea Kuhn</a> puts it. That probably came in useful for graduates like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Young,_Baron_Young_of_Dartington">Michael Young</a>, who spent the rest of his life inventing new institutions like the Open University. The virtues of a many-sided life are a common theme in radical experiments like these, and I’m definitely happier and more fulfilled as a result of diversifying myself, but why? I can think of at least three reasons.</p> <p>First of all, while it does little to dissolve material class boundaries, shared physical labor begins to erode some of the artificial barriers that have been erected over time between ‘more’ and ‘less valuable’ forms of work. Manual labor becomes something that belongs to everyone, rather than being relegated to a secondary status for a separate group of people who are permanently under-rewarded.</p> <p>There’s more than a touch of voyeurism in what I’m doing since it is always voluntary rather than enforced. But getting stuck into collective work is surely a better way of dealing with this problem than simply observing or studying the lives of others. As the late <a href="https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-prize/orwell/resources/ben-pimlott-introduction-to-orwells-england/">Ben Pimlott</a> once wrote about <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell">George Orwell</a>, “the author uses his account of proletarian life as a peg on which to hang what really interested him: not just the lives of working-class people as such, but his own inner dialogue about how middle-class people like himself did and should relate to them.” Shared work takes this dialogue one step further.</p> <p>Second, and without wanting to sound like your Grandad, manual labor is good for you—and it’s also good for your role in the struggle for social change. In an age when so much social interaction, communication and activism are virtual, getting stuck into physical work, especially in a group, provides a much more direct experience of engagement with other people and a different set of challenges to navigate. </p> <p>The pace of work is usually much slower than what’s possible on social media and the internet, and the level of commitment required is correspondingly higher (we reckon it will take at least ten years of continuous activity to get rid of the chestnut weed in the lake). In contrast to the current fashion for ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/who-wants-to-live-in-frictionless-world">frictionless’ solutions,</a> face-to-face negotiations, trade-offs and conflicts are inevitable because of the sheer scale of the problem or its lack of malleability, or the vagaries of the weather and the environment, or delays caused by ill-health or a thousand other things. Translated into social action, these experiences can build stability and sticking power into movements.</p> <p>Third and most important, a fully-integrated life is the best grounding for democratic politics, new forms of economics, and social problem-solving. We need activists who are also scholars, nurses and teachers who are also politicians, carpenters who sit on town councils, entrepreneurs who are also artists, and politicians who are anything except professional politicians. Mixing things up in this way is far more likely to generate collective energy, creativity, ideas and perhaps even consensus than keeping people trapped in boxes that are permanently marked as one thing or the other.</p> <p>It also helps in cross-fertilization, as when thoughts and ideas are born during physical work, or when physical work provides a testing ground to put them into practice. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that someone like Scott <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/books/james-c-scott-farmer-and-scholar-of-anarchism.html">frames his academic work in terms of real world problems instead of theoretical abstractions</a>, a philosophy that has seen him produce a string of hugely-influential books like <em><a href="https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300036411/weapons-weak">Weapons of the Weak</a></em> and <em><a href="https://yalebooks.yale.edu/search/node/seeing%20like%20a%20state">Seeing like a State</a></em>. “I’m as proud of knowing how to shear a sheep as I am of anything, and I’ve been a better scholar partly because I’ve had this other activity,” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/books/james-c-scott-farmer-and-scholar-of-anarchism.html">he told the New York Times</a>.</p> <p>Of course, here’s no necessary link between manual labor and the adoption of progressive politics; both <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1981/11/26/us/on-holiday-back-at-the-reagans-ranch.html?pagewanted=all">Ronald Reagan</a> and <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/30/AR2005123001326.html">George W. Bush</a> delighted in hosting brush-clearing parties down on the ranch during their respective US presidencies. But at least in an integrated life, each set of faculties—head, hands and heart—can help to counterbalance the others, guarding against <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-vision_reflections/love_3149.jsp">too much reason, emotion or brute force</a> in judgment and decision making. </p> <p>As <a href="https://harpers.org/archive/2005/03/the-enlightenment-is-dead-long-live-the-enlightenment/">Terry Eagleton once pointed out</a>, atrocities like The Holocaust are rooted in the pursuit of reason unmediated by ethics or emotion, but one can also argue that a surfeit of ‘heart over head’ or ‘hands over both’ can be just as damaging. Not only is a many-sided life more personally fulfilling, it also has social and political effects when scaled-up. </p> <p>But is such a life a luxury reserved for those who can afford it? That’s certainly the case today, when so many people have been boxed into narrow categories and assigned a role and value according to the dictates of contemporary capitalism—so that speculators and managers are hugely over-rewarded, while nurses, care workers, labourers and others are penalized through salary structures, taxation and the unequal allocation of financial risks. The erosion of institutions that used to challenge some of these categories and reward systems (like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers%27_Educational_Association">workers’ education</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/when-is-civil-society-force-for-social-transformation">cross-class civil society groups</a>) has been immensely damaging.</p> <p>Therefore, re-valuing manual labor and/or instituting some form of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income">basic income</a> is vital if everyone is to have the opportunity to do different things with their time—“there is no wealth but life” <a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Ruskin">as Ruskin famously put it</a>. After all, a rounded human being has got to be better than a square one that’s designed to fit neatly into all those boxes of bureaucracy, hierarchy and convention that force people to live a life that is both limited and divided.</p> <p>Satish Kumar, one of the founders of Schumacher College, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college">calls this a “path to wisdom</a>” instead of just cleverness or shallow success, a preparation for the essential work of transformation that lies ahead for all of us. So get out your gloves and your boots and your tools and your brushes and get stuck in. You won’t regret it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/who-wants-to-live-in-frictionless-world">Who wants to live in a frictionless world?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-another-year-of-transformation">Welcome to another year of transformation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Michael Edwards Activism Care Culture Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:25:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 114908 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When will there be harmony? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/when-will-there-be-harmony <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘White trash,’ ‘dumbass libtard,’ ‘right-wing fuckhead:’ have we all gone mad? &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/harmony.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/sculpture-men-harmony-friends-356116/">Waldiwkl/Pixabay</a>.&nbsp; CC0 Public Domain. </p> <blockquote><p>Q: “Why are you such a dumbass?</p><p>A: Why are morons like you allowed to breathe and steal air from human beings?”</p></blockquote> <p>If someone approached you in this way, would you work with them on common problems? Unlikely isn’t it, yet this kind of exchange is increasingly routine—I took this one from the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/SullivanCountyPost/">Facebook page of my own community</a> in the Catskills.</p> <blockquote><p>“Welcome to America dumbasses. You can start your ‘No Hate Army’ but understand we still hate you.”</p></blockquote> <p>Thanks for that,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/jump396">Country Boy @jump396</a>. Maybe you’re the “beer drinking, meat eating, gun owning, terrorist hating, liberal destroying, flag flying, America loving, commie killing, motherfucker Obama warned you about” that I see on <a href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/557531628851203217/">bumper stickers</a> at my local shopping mall. &nbsp;</p> <p>“You should be sent to ISIS to be killed with real knives” for putting on a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/jun/18/donald-trump-julius-caesar-shakespeare-theater-abuse">Trump-themed version of Julius Caesar</a> in New York’s Central Park. Oh really—have you ever seen ISIS in action? Yes that’s right I’m a “<a href="http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Libtard">libtard</a>”—the increasingly-popular shorthand for ‘retarded liberal’ among those who see liberalism as a ‘mental illness’ and progressives as ‘diseased.’</p> <p>Those of us on the left <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/11/redneck-revolt-guns-anti-racism-fascism-far-left">don’t like to think of ourselves as part of this noxious trend</a>—it’s always ‘them’ not ‘us’ that creates the problem—but here’s a selection from my own recent twitter feed in reference to people (a.k.a human beings) who voted for Donald Trump: ‘right wing fuck-heads,’ ‘white trash,’ ‘redneck morons,’ ‘Nazi scum,’ ‘dumb white bitches,’ ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘fascists’ and ‘brain-washed religious fanatics.’</p> <p>To me, these responses seem like a form of madness in which differences of view are magnified into the mental and emotional equivalent of the Berlin Wall; symbols of tribal identity to be displayed with pride in the ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">scorn wars</a>’ that are rapidly unfolding in America and beyond. This isn’t just disagreement, but disagreement that’s whipped up and manipulated with potentially grievous consequences for democracy in a body politic whose arteries are hardening.</p> <p>The result is a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/22/american-politics-civil-war-alt-right-left-wing">low grade civil war</a> with steel tipped edges, ready to explode into violence at any moment—at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/12/charlottesville-protest-trump-condemns-violence-many-sides">a rally in Charlottesville</a>, a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/us/politics/republican-congress-baseball-shooting.html">baseball field in Alexandria</a>, or a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/shane-burley/can-grassroots-action-neutralize-growth-of-white-supremacist-movement">commuter train in Portland</a>. Right kills left kills right keeps right on killing. I don’t care who wields the knife or the gun.</p> <p>This development is incredibly important. Don’t tell me that language is irrelevant, that politics is a ‘contact sport,’ that I should just toughen up and stop being such a ‘<a href="http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Snowflake">snowflake</a>.’ Violent language <em>is</em> a form of violence, both directly harmful to its targets and an antecedent of actual, physical aggression. But the poison goes much deeper than this, seeping into our relationships, our attempts to solve our problems and our efforts to build community.</p> <p>When there is no genuine communication, the possibilities of negotiated consensus decline, opening the way for conflicts between different versions of the truth, each sustained by their own exclusive structures of knowledge, discussion and social media. Both left and right may think that only their ultimate victory will guarantee success, so each is determined to unravel the achievements of the other once in power.</p> <p>But throughout recent history, periods of growth with equality have been based on a broader consensus across society that protects a core set of goals: social and economic security, health and education for all, a clean environment and a strong democracy—the things required for everyone to flourish even if many other differences remain. A consensus like this existed in the US and much of Europe after World War II for around 30 years, though racism and sexism abounded.</p> <p>By definition, these ‘common interests’ can only be found through democratic struggle and debate—we can’t find them unless we look for them together. But that presupposes a capacity and a willingness to engage across the lines of difference. What happens when both of these things are eroded?</p> <p>It’s not difficult to see how we got ourselves into this mess: a climate of fear and insecurity makes people more susceptible to demagogues and others who benefit from division—special interest groups like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Rifle_Association">the National Rifle Association</a>, for example, ‘shock-jocks’ on radio stations, politicians in search of a constituency, and websites that show you that there really is a conspiracy against you, an enemy who must be destroyed. &nbsp;</p> <p>Places where people of different political views can meet and engage with one-another are much more difficult to find now that the old cross-cutting member-driven federations like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parent-Teacher_Association#United_States">Parent-Teacher Associations</a> have been <a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/thedaskocpol/publications/diminished-democracy-membership-management-american-civic-life">replaced by single-issue and other exclusive groups</a>, and virtual spaces on the Internet <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/david-beer/backfire-effect-bad-objects-and-changing-our-minds-online">have not replaced them</a>.</p> <p>Trading insults is also cathartic, perhaps more so than many of us might admit. It’s a way of channeling all your inchoate frustrations into a single, visible target—Trump or Clinton, the left or the right, pro-choice or anti-abortion; a chance, at last, to ‘let it all out’ against those who you think have ignored or belittled you. This isn’t a conversation but a wrestling match, ‘<em>mano a mano</em>,’ no prisoners taken and no surrender.</p> <p>What’s difficult is figuring out what to do about these problems, and who blinks first. At the personal level we’re presented with the most elemental of questions: when you meet that other human being, who do you see? White trash, or the firemen who volunteer to come to your rescue, the farmers who grow your food, and the guys who plough your roads throughout the winter?</p> <p>Likewise, if you voted for Donald Trump, do you see liberals as ‘retarded,’ or people just as wondrous as those you love who happen to have a different view about abortion, gun control and government regulation; people who have the same rights as you do to love and marry who they want, to make their own decisions over their bodies and to be protected from police brutality?</p> <p>Wherever you stand on the political spectrum your responsibility is the same: break the cycle, even if ‘the other side’ initially rejects you. That’s what emotional maturity looks like in practice. We’re supposed to be building the “<a href="http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy#sub4">beloved community</a>” as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr.">Martin Luther King</a> once put it, not the beloved political party or social movement (important as they are). And in a community there should be a place for everyone, barring the violent extremists who have to be monitored and dealt with through the law.</p> <p>At the political level we need new institutions that bring people together in common projects, re-orienting incentives away from division and exaggerated conflicts towards joint accountability and decision-making, in which everyone has a role, and which promote the widest possible level of economic, social and political security. People are much more likely to reach out and make connections with others when they don’t have to fight for survival, respect or recognition. Like rocks in a stream, the sharp edges of our differences can be softened over time as we knock against each other in collective action. &nbsp;</p> <p>Obvious priorities include removing winner-take-all election systems and other practices like gerrymandering which accentuate the polarity of politics and make consensus building much more difficult. For example, under the “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/07/opinion/how-to-make-congress-bipartisan.html?_r=0">Fair Representation Act” recently introduced by Representative Don Beyer</a>, congressional districts would have multiple representatives, each elected through “ranked choice voting.” The result would be more rural Democrats, more urban Republicans, more third-party politicians, and more pressure to collaborate on legislation that affects the shared needs of all constituents.</p> <p>The same goes for civil society, which is supposed to be the place where “strangers can meet and not draw the knife” as <a href="http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-074562071X.html">the writer John Keane once put it</a>. That means mixing people of different views and backgrounds together in voluntary associations—a reversal of most current trends. “Standing shoulder to shoulder with people across our differences and creating new understandings and visions together is where the real transformative potential lies,” say activists <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Peroline Ainsworth and Kiran Nihalani</a> on the basis of their experience of women’s co-operatives in south London.</p> <p>Even social media can be used in this way, though it’s never a substitute for doing stuff together, face to face and hand in hand. Check out the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/alice-thwaite/escaping-from-echo-chambers-of-politics">Echo Chamber Club</a> for example, or <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/jeff-rasley/could-facebook-provide-antidote-to-political-polarization">Jeff Rasley’s experiment</a> on Facebook that invented some basic ground-rules for debate between his pro- and anti-Trump friends—most importantly, you can attack an idea or a politician but you can’t attack each-other. It’s not just that we need to ‘hear each-other’s stories;’ we also have to share each-other’s struggles and experiences—difficult as that may be.</p> <p>As our political differences spiral downwards into tribal warfare, will these counter-cultural experiments be enough to restore some harmony in our relationships with others? Harmony is a very powerful idea, and a common aspiration once we remove ourselves from the shock-jocks and filter bubbles that push us in the opposite direction. <a href="https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/harmony">My dictionary defines it</a> as “concord, agreement, the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.”</p> <p>I love that vision, but does harmony really require agreement? I don’t think so. Political and cultural disagreements <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/who%E2%80%99s-afraid-of-partisan-politics">are much more enduring</a> than I had ever imagined, seemingly hard-wired into human beings and the societies they create. Difference is the ‘new normal’ you might say, so it’s vital to look for patterns and relationships that preserve a diversity of beliefs while negotiating more common ground—an orchestra that doesn’t require a ban on trumpets or music from only one composer.</p> <p>That’s a task that challenges many of our assumptions about politics, activism and the structure of communications. It urges us to abandon a fixation on aggregating enough power to finally destroy our enemies, in favor of transforming power relations so that new alliances can be built. My guess is that most people would prefer it that way. After all, we <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/what-democracy-looks-like-when-you-have-to-disagree-with-your-neighbours">have to live with people we don’t agree with in our communities</a>; we can’t just find different ways to hate them.</p> <p>When will there be harmony? Not when all our disagreements disappear. That sounds like a fantasy. But there’s no reason we can’t unite with some of our differences intact. In fact that’s the only way we’ll survive.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">Scorn wars: rural white people and us</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/what-democracy-looks-like-when-you-have-to-disagree-with-your-neighbours">What democracy looks like when you have to disagree with your neighbours</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/is-there-any-hope-for-new-age-politics">How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us and not what’s worst?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jeff-rasley/could-facebook-provide-antidote-to-political-polarization">Could Facebook provide an antidote to political polarization?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Political polarization Michael Edwards Trans-partisan politics Activism Tue, 25 Jul 2017 23:20:28 +0000 Michael Edwards 112456 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The mysticism of wide open eyes https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How does spirituality connect to social change?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/spiritualityandsocialchange.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: © Nevit Dilmen. CC BY-SA 3.0 via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spiritual_Tree_dsc06786_duo_nevit.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p> <p>Three months before his death from pancreatic cancer in 1994, the British playwright <a href="https://intranet.yorksj.ac.uk/potter/">Dennis Potter</a> was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/sep/12/greatinterviews">interviewed for the BBC by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg</a>. In obvious pain and taking regular swigs from a bottle of liquid morphine, Potter explored a wide range of questions about his work, politics, family and feelings—given that he was already in the terminal stage of his illness.</p> <p>I was spellbound by the raw honesty and energy of his answers, but there was one section that catapulted me into a different state entirely. It came when Potter described the plum tree blossom outside his study window: </p> <blockquote><p>“Looking at it, instead of saying ‘Oh that's nice blossom’...I see it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be, and I can see it. Things are both more trivial than they ever were, and more important than they ever were, and the difference between the trivial and the important doesn't seem to matter. But the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous, and if people could see that, you know, there's no way of telling you; you have to experience it, but the glory of it, if you like, the comfort of it, the reassurance…the fact is, if you see the present tense, boy do you see it! And boy can you celebrate it.”</p></blockquote> <p>I knew immediately what he meant. Potter had <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=bUeGDAAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA75&amp;lpg=PA75&amp;dq=dennis+potter%27s+views+on+religion+and+spirituality&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=qD8ZZ69asl&amp;sig=WvuGcTPmOCsPvZU5aCXGoBOj9ek&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj518Ot4PnTAhVHMyYKHX8FD1gQ6AEIMDAB#v=onepage&amp;q=dennis%20p">a complicated relationship to religion</a>, and he didn’t use overtly spiritual language to describe his experience that day, but that’s how I felt it. He went on to say that this new state of consciousness had given him more clarity and serenity, along with the ability to stay fully focused in every moment. “Almost in a perverse sort of way”, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/sep/12/greatinterviews">he told Bragg,</a> “I can celebrate life” so close to death. </p> <p>These feelings of joy, compassion, clarity and connection are <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirituality">characteristic of mystical experience</a>, but Potter’s story raises an intriguing question: why wait so long to enjoy the fruits of a fully awakened life? Shouldn’t we be living this way for as long as is possible, despite the constraints imposed by mortgages and college fees and all the drudgery of convention that surrounds us? </p> <p>I’ve always thought so, and not just for personal reasons, though it’s certainly more fulfilling—and more fun—to live a life that is deep instead of shallow. I think it also matters <em>politically, </em>because spirituality, a whole life lived in the way Potter was describing, is of enormous importance in the struggle for social change. This may sound odd given the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/erika-summerseffler-hyunjin-deborah-kwak/where-are-missing-mystics-of-revolution">common image of mystics</a> as people who are removed from the world, but I’m convinced that spiritual experience is one of the keys to the radical transformation of society. How so? </p> <p>First of all, unlike the received dogmas and hierarchies of religious and secular ideologies, spirituality can give us an actual experience of the unity of all things. This experience, when nurtured as a constant practice, roots equality-consciousness, non-discrimination, non-violence and reverence for all people and the earth deep into our core. Here is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">the American writer and mystic Thomas Merton describing</a> how this happened to him:</p> <blockquote><p>“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the centre of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness.”</p></blockquote> <p>Before this experience, Merton led a fairly conventional spiritual life in a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">Trappist monastery in Kentucky</a>; afterwards he poured his energies into writing and speaking about poverty, racism, violence and war—and anything else that fractured that experience of unity, equality and reverence. But he continued his spiritual journey as a semi-hermit, moving to a separate cabin on the monastery grounds. This simultaneous turning in and turning out is characteristic of socially-engaged spirituality, repeated in figures like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">Dorothy Day</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/james-k-rowe/zen-and-art-of-social-movement-maintenance">Angela Davis</a>. The German feminist theologian <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/god-is-justice-social-spirituality-of-dorothee-soelle">Dorothee Soelle</a> called it “the mysticism of wide open eyes.” </p> <p>Secondly, all spiritual paths involve the destruction or sublimation of the ego, and a surrendering to something greater than oneself—whether that’s defined in terms of the ‘divine,’ or unconditional love, or artistic ecstasy, where even the plum tree outside your study window shimmers with meaning, grace and beauty. When our decision making is dominated by fear, jealousy, greed and other limitations of the ego, the economic and political systems we create will feed from and reproduce those qualities. By contrast, the ultimate security and generosity that flow from spiritual experience can anchor systems based on sharing and equality like nothing else.</p> <p>Of course, kindness, joy, love and liberation don’t unlock the doors of structural oppression by themselves. They have to be connected to political analysis and concrete plans for action, but those plans can easily be pulled back into destructive, ego-led behavior that disguises self-interest as radical or altruistic. Spirituality won’t make you a Democrat or a Republican or reveal a detailed plan for health care reform, but it can place you in a qualitatively different state from which you can act in more expansive and clear-minded ways. I think that’s what Potter meant when he celebrated ‘life in the present tense:’ concentrate on ‘<a href="http://buddhismguide.org/buddhas-right-action/">right action</a>’ as Buddhists call it in the here and now and always. Don’t get locked into the patterns of the past or lose yourself in your ambitions for the future.&nbsp; </p> <p>Thirdly, although spiritual experiences are often spontaneous, sustaining their benefits requires practice, rigor and discipline, and those things are crucial in the struggle for social change. Classical practices include prayer, yoga and meditation, but music, art and dance can be powerful doorways too, along with loving interactions with other people—solidarity can be a spiritual experience in itself. Over the last ten years <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/darrin-drda/selective-awareness-of-wisdom-20">it’s become fashionable</a> to use these practices as tools to promote personal health and wellbeing, financial success, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-schulson/sex-scandal-following-whole-foods-guru">sexual conquest</a> and even <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins/neoliberal-psychology">the corporate bottom line</a>: “mindfulness opens the doorway to loving kindness,” says <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/google-meditation-mindfulness-technology">Google’s ‘head of mindfulness training</a>,’ “which is at the heart of business success.”</p> <p>Spirituality is no stranger to this kind of appropriation, which is why the rigor and self-sacrifice involved in authentic spiritual growth is so important—it helps to weed out distractions and keep you on the straight and narrow. Spirituality is not a self-help strategy designed to make you feel happy in the world as it is. There’s no such thing as ‘comfortable compassion,’ because a truly compassionate life—lived through the daily operations of economics, politics, activism, social relations and the family—is exceptionally demanding. It often involves <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/marisa-handler/when-meditation-isn-t-enough">internal breakdown and reconstruction</a>, along with the constant practice of ‘do no harm.’ </p> <p>This is painful, long-term work, but it’s essential to keep on going, however ‘liberated’ you may feel. After all, slippage is characteristic of well-intentioned action: the rising stars of progressive politics who become co-opted along the way; the NGOs and foundations whose radical edges are eroded over time; the social movements that slowly take on the behavior of their oppressors; and the paragons of Corporate Social Responsibility that constantly fall from grace </p> <p>Does this kind of rigor and discipline have to be mystical or spiritual? If you recoil at such language and the baggage it sometimes carries then never fear, you’re in good company. Here’s the radical writer, activist and lifelong atheist <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Living-Wild-God-Nonbelievers-Everything/dp/1455501743/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_img_0?_encoding=UTF8&amp;psc=1&amp;refRID=Q2RHY2F772HNSBR3A9CZ">Barbara Ehrenreich</a> trying to explain experiences that were “so anomalous, so disconnected from the normal life you share with other people that you can’t even figure out how to talk about it…without sounding crazy.” Just like Potter, Ehrenreich saw a new world in a tree:</p> <blockquote><p>“I was looking at a tree, and then it happened. Something peeled off the visible world, taking with it all meaning, inference, association, labels and words….Was it a place that was suddenly revealed to me? Or was it a substance—the indivisible, elemental material out of which the entire known and agreed upon world arises as a fantastic elaboration?”</p></blockquote> <p>Ehrenreich was 17 at the time, and she didn’t return to her quest for meaning as she calls it until she reached middle age. But then she was able to apply her experiences to her activism and writing. And that’s the point: it doesn’t matter what you call them; what matters is that you’re open to experiences like these so that you can utilize their gifts—preferably before your middle age and certainly before your death. </p> <p>One could argue that—however it’s described—no such experience is required to be effective as a vehicle for social transformation, but that seems unpersuasive to me: my ego is far too clever to dissolve itself or illuminate the way ahead free of the shadow of self-interest. By contrast, I’ve found that connecting spirituality to social action reveals a greatly expanded set of possibilities for personal-political change, so why wait to take advantage of them? </p> <p>‘We believe in life <em>before</em> death’ as an old <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Aid">Christian Aid</a> slogan put it when I was growing up. It seems a shame to waste an opportunity as wonderfully fruitful as that.</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/marisa-handler/when-meditation-isn-t-enough">When meditation isn’t enough</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/will-left-ever-get-religion">Will the left ever get religion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton: two journeys to wholeness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/darrin-drda/selective-awareness-of-wisdom-20">The selective awareness of Wisdom 2.0</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/erika-summerseffler-hyunjin-deborah-kwak/where-are-missing-mystics-of-revolution">Where are the missing mystics of the revolution?</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 spirituality religion and social transformation meditation Michael Edwards Transformative nonviolence Activism Love and Spirituality Mon, 22 May 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 111054 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Should funding agencies also share in the sacrifice of social change? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/should-funding-agencies-also-share-in-sacrifice-of-social-change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why aren’t donors held to the same standards as recipients in philanthropy and foreign aid?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Ginowan.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Protestors at Ginowan, Japan. Credit: By Nathan Keirn from Kadena-Cho, Japan. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.</p> <p>Every day of every year, in places like Standing Rock and Ferguson and Aleppo and Hong Kong, tens of thousands of people put their lives and livelihoods on the line in the struggle for human rights. If they are paid at all the amounts are very low and the risks are often high, so shared sacrifice is demanded from everyone involved. Opportunities for personal gain are subordinated to solidarity with colleagues and the cause in order to knit together a strong social fabric. Consistency between words and actions is essential in building mutual loyalty and trust. </p> <p>Faced by these imperatives, is it reasonable to expect the same standards of behavior from the funders, advisers and other intermediaries who support these struggles from a distance, and who gain publicity and legitimacy for their own work in the process? </p> <p>It’s an old question that bubbles underneath the surface of conversations between activists and donors, though it’s rarely voiced directly because of the discomfort and blowback it can cause. But occasionally it breaks out in public view, providing an opportunity to re-visit the ethics of funding for social change. We’re currently witnessing one of those ‘teachable moments’ that’s centered on Darren Walker, the Ford Foundation’s avuncular and well-respected president. </p> <p>On October 28 2016 <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/business/an-activist-for-the-poor-joins-pepsis-board-is-that-ethical.html?_r=0">the New York Times revealed</a> that Walker will be paid between $275,000 and $418,000 a year to join the board of multinational “junk food” company <a href="http://www.pepsico.com/">PepsiCo</a> (as New York University nutrition professor <a href="https://www.philanthropy.com/article/Opinion-Foundation-CEOs/238284?cid=cpfd_home">Marion Nestle calls it</a>), plus allocations and annual bonuses in the form of Pepsi shares, in addition to his regular salary of $789,000 in 2015.</p> <p>Such arrangements are not illegal, nor are they particularly new. What makes this case more interesting is that Walker has <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/toward-a-new-gospel-of-wealth/">publicly declared his commitment</a> to re-focus all of the Ford Foundation’s work on inequality. He has also stated a desire to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">pursue transformational solutions</a> instead of tinkering around the edges of social and economic problems, and to <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/ignorance-is-the-enemy-within-on-the-power-of-our-privilege-and-the-privilege-of-our-power/">confront the thorny issue of privilege</a> at both the institutional level and the level of personal practice. </p> <p>These ideas have been developed in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">a series of carefully-crafted articles and speeches</a> which have been music to the ears of activists and nonprofits—holding out the promise of healthier and more equitable relationships with their funders. But Walker’s decision seems at odds with the commitments he has made, threatening to undermine the message that philanthropy is in need of major surgery. How so?&nbsp; </p> <p>First of all, inequality doesn’t happen by accident or by magic: it’s created when people take advantage of opportunities to accrue wealth which are unequally distributed among the population—including well-paid seats on the boards of corporations. Other Ford Foundation staff are prohibited from taking on paid board positions or even consultancies, and no nonprofit could do so because of the conflicts of interest involved, so Walker seems to be modeling behavior that directly contradicts the ‘level playing field’ that features so strongly in his writings. &nbsp;</p> <p>Secondly and despite the rhetoric of transformation, Walker’s move has a decidedly retro feel. Foundation presidents have been serving on corporate boards for decades with no significant results as part of the trend towards Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR, which has levered small changes in supply chains and other areas but has barely touched the core business practices of major companies. The largest ever evaluation funded by the European Union <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-sogge/corporate-wax-nose">found “no credible evidence</a> that CSR had made a positive difference to economies or societies in the region.” Neither have new board members halted the fall from grace of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/hsbc-files">HSBC</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/us-money-blog/2016/sep/22/wells-fargo-scandal-john-stumpf-elizabeth-warren-senate">Wells Fargo</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/nov/06/volkswagen-inquiry-widens-to-include-former-finance-chief">Volkswagen</a>, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/mitsubishi-motors-plans-one-time-loss-for-fuel-economy-scandal-1466147113">Mitsubishi</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ben-phillips/unilever-s-racist-marketing-shows-why-companies-can-t-be-relied-on-to-re">Unilever</a> and many <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/oxfam-multinational-companies-failing-csr">other icons</a> of CSR.</p> <p>PepsiCo isn’t the worst of these offenders, running up <a href="https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/pepsico">the usual list of accusations</a> concerning union-busting, forced labor and land rights violations, but ‘we’re listening and we’ll do better’ is always the mantra, buttressed by the gloss that’s added by respected outsiders like Walker. Unfortunately, however well they do they’ll still be a conventional stockholder corporation that’s duty bound to maximize its profits by selling stuff of little value to people who don’t actually need to buy it. There’s no transformative potential in that equation. The real excitement lies in the new economy of co-operatives and other experiments which aren’t subject to the same constraints. At a time when activists are energetically exploring <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-beer/four-futures-life-after-capitalism">life after capitalism</a> it’s disappointing to see the Ford Foundation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">defending the current system</a> with a few tweaks around the edges. </p> <p>That leads me to problem number three: Walker’s decision represents a lost opportunity to make a strong and influential statement about the future of philanthropy, just when the pressure for change is building through the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ShiftThePower?src=hash">#ShiftThePower</a> campaign and other efforts. Everyone who works for a foundation, an NGO or an aid agency has been complicit in a decades-long process of under-investment in frontline activists and communities, and a corresponding over-rewarding of those who fund or support them in other ways. </p> <p>I was a beneficiary of this system myself for many years, fighting for justice from the comfort of Business Class while those who do the real work and suffer the consequences are crammed together at the rear of Economy. It’s a peculiar arrangement—divisive, outdated, ineffective and ripe for upheaval if only funders were prepared to take up the challenge, and that’s where Walker’s decision is instructive. </p> <p>Throughout history the outright rejection of privilege and unequal power structures has been a key tool of social transformation: think civil rights or women’s liberation or pretty much any successful social movement. The insider route can lever some changes when it’s connected to outside pressure, but no one has ever transformed the establishment by joining it. The pressure nearly always works in the opposite direction, though subtly and over time, narrowing the horizons of possibility so that they conform to what’s expected. After all, the more invested you are in any system the less likely you’ll be to confront it.</p> <p>That’s why the impact of a very public rejection of Pepsi’s invitation could have been so powerful: a signal that finally, a major foundation is willing to loosen its ties to the corporate world and focus its full attention on those tens of thousands of people who are working at the sharp end of social change. </p> <p>No one expects foundation presidents to work for free, but it’s not unreasonable to expect consistency between their actions and their words. As in this case, consistency does involve some sacrifices, but they pale in comparison to the extra strength and solidarity that’s generated in the process. Those things are much more important to the long-term struggle for social transformation.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/los-organismos-de-financiamiento-tambi-n-deber-compartir-el-sacrifi" target="_blank">Español</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/les-organismes-d-aide-devraient-ils-eux-aussi-faire-preuve-de-l-abn" target="_blank"></a><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/les-organismes-d-aide-devraient-ils-eux-aussi-faire-preuve-de-l-abn" target="_blank">Français</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/michael-edwards/devem-as-ag-ncias-de-financiamento-partilhar-o-sacrif-cio-que-impl" target="_blank"></a><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/michael-edwards/devem-as-ag-ncias-de-financiamento-partilhar-o-sacrif-cio-que-impl" target="_blank">Português</a>.&nbsp;</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">The privilege of being privileged</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/david-sogge/corporate-wax-nose">The corporate wax nose</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/mauricio-lazala-joe-bardwell/%E2%80%9Cwhat-human-rights%E2%80%9D-why-some-companies-speak-out-while">“What human rights?” Why some companies speak out while others don’t</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/marc-limon/mapping-global-business-opinions-on-human-rights">Mapping global business opinions on human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation philanthropy philanthrocapitalism Michael Edwards The role of money Activism Economics Sun, 09 Apr 2017 10:58:16 +0000 Michael Edwards 107362 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who wants to live in a frictionless world? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/who-wants-to-live-in-frictionless-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Unless life is uncomfortable, there’s no room for transformation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/friction.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Hoverboard Wars in Second Life 06. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/torley/14798533998">Flickr/Torley</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>Does it matter that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_shooting_of_Dallas_police_officers">Micah Johnson</a> was killed by a robot, albeit one controlled by human hands? Johnson <a href="http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/dallas-suspect-micah-johnson-killed-police-offer-possible-motive-w212439">shot five police officers</a> during a demonstration in Dallas, Texas, on July 7 2016. Twenty-four hours later he was blown apart by explosives maneuvered into position by a robot-controlled device that was normally used for bomb-disposal, after a gun battle and the break-down of negotiations with police. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/dallas-police-used-a-robot-to-kill-what-does-that-mean-for-the-future-of-police-robots/2016/07/20/32ee114e-4a84-11e6-bdb9-701687974517_story.html?utm_term=.8afb55afc55b">According to the Washington Post</a>, the action was “widely praised as an innovative way to eliminate a threat without risking more officers’ lives.” &nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Violence by proxy is already commonplace in warfare.</p><p>This form of “<a href="http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/predator-empire">violence by proxy</a>” is already commonplace in warfare, where the use of unmanned drones is justified on similar grounds of efficiency. Studies have put the civilian casualty rate from U.S. drone strikes at <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_from_US_drone_strikes">anywhere between four and 35 percent</a> of the total deaths they have caused. What’s not in doubt is that fewer U.S. military lives are put at risk when direct combat engagement is replaced by so-called ‘frictionless’ methods of attack. This trend will be even more pronounced when <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/americas-future-war-drone-to-death-ray">much more powerful weapons </a>come on stream like ‘death rays’—giant lasers fired at ‘soft targets’ from the air.</p> <p>These examples may seem extreme, but they are part of a much broader search for ‘frictionless’ solutions in business, technology, design, philanthropy, foreign aid, education and even politics. Backed by the ideology, influence and resources of Silicon Valley, the race is on to solve social and economic problems in ways that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transaction_cost">lower transaction costs</a> and increase speed and efficiency, on the assumption that everyone will benefit. </p> <p>“<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openindia/ayona-datta/smartness-inc">Smart cities</a>” can be planned using big data and technology; money and investment can flow more freely in a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/jul/21/global-elite-tax-offshore-economy">frictionless global economy</a>; human judgment can be replaced by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/29/facebook-trending-news-editors-fake-news-stories">algorithms which can search vast oceans of information</a> in seconds; decisions over health care and education can be made using the cost-effectiveness calculations of “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lisa-herzog/can-effective-altruism-really-change-world">effective altruists</a>;” and “<a href="https://ustwo.com/blog/the-friction-fiction?utm_content=bufferff1d1&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer">frictionless design</a>” can minimize the journeys of users around the real or virtual office. </p> <p>The titans of technology even have their own friction-free version of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_Man">Burning Man</a> festival, designed to avoid cooking and cleaning for themselves: “we have great reverence for Burning Man” <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/02/further-future-festival-burning-man-tech-elite-eric-schmidt">said organizer Russell Ward to the Guardian’s Nellie Bowles</a>, “but there’s always an element of arduousness. Here we have spa treatments and green juice. There’s already enough in life that’s tough.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Who really benefits from this brave new world?</p> <p>It sounds great if you can afford it, but who really benefits from this brave new world? </p> <p>The first point to note is that less friction for some means more for others—usually those with less wealth and power who must take on and suffer the consequences of those ‘arduous tasks’, which can be deadly. Drone strikes may be highly efficient for the US Marine Corps but not for the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_from_US_drone_strikes">wedding guests (the bride included) who were killed or injured in a drone attack in Yemen in December 2013</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Likewise, robot-controlled assassination may reduce the level of friction on hard-pressed law-enforcement officials, but it didn’t do much for Micah Johnson’s chances of a trial from which something useful might have been learned—or for the wider issue of accountability. As <a href="https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/02/03/earthlings_there_is_no_place_to_hide_drone_strikes_blur_the_laws_of_war.html">journalist Olivia Ward puts it</a>, drones and robots “are your judge, jury and executioner—but they give you no case to answer.” The ease of use of such technologies could lead us to pay less attention to the broader social consequences of our actions. </p> <p>It’s a similar though less lethal story in Silicon Valley, where the friction of finding a place to live is being aggressively outsourced from the rich to the poor. Technology companies like Facebook and Google worry that even staff who are well paid are struggling to find accommodation in the housing bubble of San Francisco, so they are <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/21/silicon-valley-eviction-facebook-trion-properties">buying up and redeveloping property for their workers</a> and evicting low-income tenants. </p> <p>To increase the desirability of neighborhoods nearby, technology gurus are also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/12/san-francisco-homeless-proposition-q-tech-investors">bankrolling efforts to clear homeless people off ‘their’ streets</a>, echoing attempts to remove those who stood in the way of ‘progress’ in other projects of gentrification. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/28/silicon-valley-homeless-east-palo-alto-california-schools">More than a third of children</a> in Silicon Valley are already without a home. Faced by the friction of opposition, the rich can pay, lobby and litigate until it goes away.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Friction is essential for social change.</p> <p>The second problem is that the benefits of frictionless solutions only outweigh the costs in a restricted number of circumstances—and using a limited definition of efficiency. If I want to get from home to hospital in a medical emergency I want to do so quickly and easily—with the minimum of friction. You could make a similar argument for contactless payments or donations made on your cell-phone, or organizing a supply chain so that it provides what customers need just at the right time to avoid unnecessary costs, or reporting human rights abuses using a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/wendy-suzanne-betts-nyangala-zolho/rights-based-approach-to-technology-gathering-admissible-evidence">new online app</a>. In these situations reducing friction is an excellent idea</p> <p>But for anything that has broader social or political significance the calculus is different, which is why friction is essential for social change. We all have different interests, and different views about the ‘good society,’ the provision of public goods, and the ethical issues involved in decisions about technology. These views and interests have to be aired, debated and negotiated through democratic politics, which—at least in theory—both produces friction and reconciles the results so that no-one’s voice is excluded and meaningful consensus can be built. The hard work of transforming society is not something to be avoided, but something to be embraced. Only through face-to-face engagement and political struggle can power relations be contested and remade.</p> <p>Human judgment provides its own source of friction in processes like these, often frustrating and unpredictable and bloody-minded because it’s based in deeply-rooted values and inspirations. Even algorithms and calculations of cost effectiveness <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/16/google-autocomplete-rightwing-bias-algorithm-political-propaganda">contain value judgments made by human beings</a> on the basis of their own biases and priorities. It’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/david-beer/algorithms-villains-and-heroes-of-post-truth-era">the power relations that underpin the design and use of technology</a> that are important socially and politically, not the machines themselves. &nbsp;That’s why Facebook’s attempts to automate its news filters <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/29/facebook-trending-news-editors-fake-news-stories">are proving so problematic</a>.</p> <p>Take the example of public school reform in the USA, a favorite cause of Silicon Valley philanthropists <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/megan-tompkins-stange/why-should-bill-gates-decide-how-our-children-will-be-educated">like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates</a>. Their <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/molly-rowan-leach/unspoken-atrocity-of-standardized-education">model of choice</a> is designed to reduce friction in the education system by pushing down costs using online or distance learning; narrowing the curriculum by privileging math and science over art and creativity; and measuring results using standardized tests and rankings of pupils and their teachers. The goal seems to be a more efficient production line of employment-ready graduates, not necessarily rounded human beings who are capable of dissent and imagination—and who can apply their own friction to the system in the future. But like all visions of education and learning, this model is saturated by a particular set of interests and values.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">There can’t be any friction if there’s no-one left to produce it.</p> <p>It’s no coincidence that part of this package consists of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ernest-anemone/badass-teachers-and-future-of-american-democracy">curbing the power of the teachers’ unions</a>, which are friction-promoting institutions <em>par excellence</em> (or what we used to think of as counterweights and valuable sources of expertise). In fact any group that can get in the way of the techno-business elite is likely to be marked for disinvestment or undermining by other means, whether it’s a government, a labor union, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/darrin-drda/selective-awareness-of-wisdom-20">a grassroots organization or a protest</a>. There can’t be any friction if there’s no-one left to produce it. </p> <p>In this world of friction-free learning, who checks the facts, or scrutinizes what’s being taught, or balances different views and perspectives? More speed plus a greater volume of information inevitably leads to superficial processing. “Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words; now I zip along the surface of knowledge like a guy on a jet ski” <a href="https://genius.com/Nicholas-carr-is-google-making-us-stupid-annotated">as the writer Nicholas Carr once put it</a>. The art of thinking is supposed to be difficult and painful because our assumptions have to be exposed and tested. That’s why friction is so important. Friction slows things down and gives more people a role in producing and critiquing knowledge and ideas. This is the very stuff of democracy.</p> <p>A world without friction is a world without politics, diversity or sufficient opportunities for human control and intervention. It’s a world in which elites can tighten their grip on decision making under the false promise of market efficiency, scientific neutrality, and technological progress. It heralds the dream—or perhaps the nightmare—of a population who have a basic education and a job or some other form of income security, but who lack the social and political structures and opportunities to be truly active citizens.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">A world without friction is a world without politics.</p> <p>Who wants to live in a frictionless world? If new technology can get me to the emergency room on time then I’m all for it, but in the social, political and artistic worlds there’s little that is healthily friction-free. Struggle is the bedrock of advancement. Our job is to insert ourselves as much and as often as possible into the wheels of technocracy, bureaucracy and business. We should resist anything that evades or removes the human dimension of problems and solutions in politics and economics. And we should celebrate the life-affirming benefits of friction when applied to privilege and power.</p> <p>After all, unless life is uncomfortable, there’s no room for transformation.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/when-is-civil-society-force-for-social-transformation">When is civil society a force for social transformation?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/amy-schiller/case-for-hard-why-social-transformation-demands-lots-of-social-friction">The case for hard: why social transformation demands lots of social friction</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/nicole-aschoff/exposing-false-prophets-of-social-transformation">Exposing the false prophets of social transformation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Michael Edwards Activism Economics Mon, 30 Jan 2017 01:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 108365 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Welcome to another year of transformation https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-another-year-of-transformation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need your help to expand our coverage of deep-rooted personal and political change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MLK250x300_0_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Martin Luther King. Credit: mugshots.com. All rights reserved.</p><p>On a winter’s night in 1955, a young preacher named&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.">Martin Luther King</a>&nbsp;climbed into the pulpit of the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holt_Street_Baptist_Church">Holt Street Baptist Church</a>&nbsp;in Montgomery, Alabama. Once there, he delivered a speech that would eventually lead to his own assassination, while breathing new life into the struggle to transform the world in the image of love and social justice.</p> <p>If his words are remembered at all these days it’s because of what they helped to launch—the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_Bus_Boycott">Montgomery Bus Boycott</a>, which heralded a decisive turn in the movement for civil rights. What King said has largely been forgotten, yet the content of his speech was revolutionary in ways that stretch far beyond the context in which it was delivered.</p> <p>As I listen to it now on a scratchy&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGtp7kCi_LA">YouTube clip</a>, the hairs on my neck stand up straight, the crowd of voices rising to a crescendo as King talks about the keys to the struggle for equal rights.</p> <blockquote><p>“But it is not enough for us to talk about love,” he said, “There is another side called justice. And justice is love in calculation. Justice is love working against anything that stands against love. Standing beside love is always justice.”</p></blockquote> <p>Love is the anchor or inward expression of social justice, I think King was saying, and justice is the outward expression of “love in calculation”—a conscious design for remaking the world in a different image of ourselves. Radical transformations are possible if love and justice reinforce each-other to create a permanent shift in direction among human beings and the institutions they create.</p> <p>“Only new selves could give birth to a new world, but only a new world could sustain the new human beings who constituted it, and who would sustain it in turn,”&nbsp; as&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah_Royce">Josiah Royce</a>&nbsp;put it in the aftermath of the American Civil War almost one hundred years before.</p> <p>Then as now, there will be no end to patriarchy without deep-rooted changes in men’s behavior; no solution to climate change unless all of us reduce our consumption and carbon footprint; no decline in inequality unless we learn to share resources with each-other; no meaningful democracy until we work through our differences in a spirit of common purpose; no lasting peace if we continue to project our fears and insecurities onto other people.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But turning these examples around, there must also be real, living forms of politics, activism and economics that grow from and reinforce the qualities we want to encourage. “We must be the change we want to see”&nbsp;is a favorite quotation&nbsp;<a href="http://www.compassionatespirit.com/wpblog/2012/08/14/be-the-change-where-did-this-saying-come-from/">falsely attributed to Gandhi</a>, but it’s equally true that ‘we must see the change we want to be.’<em>&nbsp;</em>And that means showing how real economies can deliver justice and wellbeing, and real politics can bring people together to break the logjam of vested interests.</p> <p>Unfortunately, such boundary-breaking experiments are in short supply, constantly constrained by the mantra that change is impossible because of (insert your favorite bogeyman): globalization, footloose corporations, human nature, the weakening of governments, corruption in politics, the decline of the public or too much time spent on social media. If we believe that only small changes are possible in our political and economic systems, then small change is all we’re going to see—another turn of the wheel with little or no forward movement.</p> <p>The challenges of uniting personal and social change were central to the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, expressed through civil rights, gay liberation, the rise of the women’s movement and the first stirrings of environmentalism. In the decades that followed, this spirit was less in evidence in politics and activism, though it remained alive among feminists and other radicals like&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audre_Lorde">Audre Lorde</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.junejordan.com/">June Jordan</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_hooks">bell hooks</a>. Elsewhere, the social and spiritual sides of activism began to move apart, perhaps exhausted by earlier efforts or beaten down by the arrival of the neo-liberal revolution and the celebration of self-interest and materialism that followed in its wake.</p> <p>But today, there’s a resurgence of interest in the possibilities of transformation and an upsurge in attempts to put them into practice, spurred on by two key developments: first, the failure of conventional approaches to make much headway against inequality and violence; and second, the urgency of problems like climate change which demand boundary-breaking solutions. That’s why we launched&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation"><em>Transformation</em><em>&nbsp;</em>as a new section of openDemocracy</a>&nbsp;in 2013. </p> <p>The goal of <em>Transformation</em> is to “publish great writing at the intersection of the personal and the political,” and there’s certainly an audience for the material that we’ve published: in the last three-and-a-half years our stories have been read by over two million people (40 per cent of whom live in the USA), and around 600,000 of them have returned to the site more than twice. Our contributors are diverse, with 65 percent of those returning our questionnaires self-identifying as women or trans-gender, 55 per cent as aged under 40, and 41 per cent as LGBTQ. Most are activists (many of whom have never written for a major audience before), with good representation from academia and a few professional writers.</p> <p>With funding from a successful campaign in 2016 to raise more support from readers and the renewal of two grants from the NoVo and Hidden Leaf Foundations in the USA, we have enough money in the bank to see us through to the end of 2018, so we’ve decided to take the opportunity that’s provided by some medium-term financial security to make some changes going forward. These changes are designed to expand our reach and strengthen the role of the site in community-building and debate—to engage with our audience in new and better ways and to identify areas that we haven’t covered in our publishing to date, or which need to be deepened. What’s the rationale for these changes?</p> <p>First of all, the data we collect from Google Analytics show that most of the pieces we publish are only read by between 1,000 and 3,000 people. These are respectable numbers given the type of material we cover, but it seems clear that simply publishing more of the same content is unlikely to grow our audience in the future. The articles with the largest audience comprise less than twenty per cent of the total, but they account for the great majority of reads. </p> <p>Therefore—and without closing down space for articles that we want to publish regardless of how many reads they might get—we want to find ways of commissioning more articles that reach a significant audience on key elements of the transformation debate. We think this means publishing less material overall in order to free up time to investigate the landscape of issues and authors, analyze where the gaps are, and engage in discussions about content with other organizations and websites so that we can strengthen collaboration and cross-posting.</p> <p>That’s the second key issue: publishing partnerships and other community building activities take a lot of time and energy to nurture, but the impact of a thriving and well-connected field is going to be much larger than the impact of any one of its components in isolation. So we want to put more time and effort into helping to build a stronger and more influential ecology of communities, groups and organizations that work on the deep transformation of self and society. And that means seeing and using <em>Transformation</em> as more of a shared resource—for example by co-editing special themed content weeks with other groups or handing the section over to others to convene and publish their own material. </p> <p>Putting these ideas into practice requires stronger links with readers, writers and publishers, so we want to encourage you to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/info/contact-transformation#1">contact us with your reactions, ideas and proposals</a>. Unashamedly,&nbsp;<em>Transformation</em>&nbsp;was set up to challenge the reluctance of many progressive activists to take the personal dimensions of social change as seriously as the political, by showing that self-development isn’t (or doesn’t have to be) New Age narcissism. Rather, it means engaging in the daily struggle for dignity and justice in a different spirit that opens up more effective routes to action. </p> <p>At the same time, we’re also pushing back against the reluctance of many spiritual and self-help advocates to take the political dimensions of personal change as seriously as the inner life they espouse, by showing that love and compassion flourish more easily when new institutions are built on sharing and solidarity instead of the mindless pursuit of competition, growth and power. Rather than agreement or consensus, there’s a sense that readers, writers and editors are all navigating through territory that doesn’t have a map. <em>Transformation</em>&nbsp;is not another good-news magazine, but a place to engage with each-other about the realities and struggles of the radical imagination. </p> <p>All great stories are love stories in one form or another, but the story of love and justice has not yet been told. With your help we aim to put that right. Welcome to another year of transformation.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/will-left-ever-get-religion">Will the left ever get religion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ronan-harrington/why-spirituality-is-key-to-more-visionary-politics">Why spirituality is the key to a more visionary politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-lerner/why-right-keeps-winning-and-left-keeps-losing">Why the right keeps winning and the left keeps losing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Michael Edwards Empathy The politics of mental health The role of money Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Economics Intersectionality Love and Spirituality Tue, 03 Jan 2017 08:30:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 98859 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Should funding agencies also share in the sacrifice of social change? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/should-funding-agencies-also-share-in-sacrifice-of-social-change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Edwards.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></p><p>What standards of behavior should we expect from the leaders of foundations, NGOs and aid agencies?&nbsp;<em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/los-organismos-de-financiamiento-tambi-n-deber-compartir-el-sacrifi" target="_blank">Español</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/les-organismes-d-aide-devraient-ils-eux-aussi-faire-preuve-de-l-abn" target="_blank">Français</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/michael-edwards/devem-as-ag-ncias-de-financiamento-partilhar-o-sacrif-cio-que-impl" target="_blank">Português</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">Every day of every year, in places like Standing Rock and Ferguson and Aleppo and Hong Kong, tens of thousands of people put their lives and livelihoods on the line in the struggle for human rights. If they are paid at all the amounts are very low and the risks are often high, so shared sacrifice is demanded from everyone involved. Opportunities for personal gain are subordinated to solidarity with colleagues and the cause in order to knit together a strong social fabric. Consistency between words and actions is essential in building mutual loyalty and trust. </p><p dir="ltr">Faced by these imperatives, is it reasonable to expect the same standards of behavior from the funders, advisers and other intermediaries who support these struggles from a distance, and who gain publicity and legitimacy for their own work in the process? </p><p dir="ltr">It’s an old question that bubbles underneath the surface of conversations between activists and donors, though it’s rarely voiced directly because of the discomfort and blowback it can cause. But occasionally it breaks out in public view, providing an opportunity to re-visit the ethics of funding for social change. We’re currently witnessing one of those ‘teachable moments’ that’s centered on Darren Walker, the Ford Foundation’s avuncular and well-respected president. </p><p dir="ltr">On October 28 2016 <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/business/an-activist-for-the-poor-joins-pepsis-board-is-that-ethical.html?_r=0">the New York Times revealed</a> that Walker will be paid between $275,000 and $418,000 a year to join the board of multinational “junk food” company <a href="http://www.pepsico.com/">PepsiCo</a> (as New York University nutrition professor <a href="https://www.philanthropy.com/article/Opinion-Foundation-CEOs/238284?cid=cpfd_home">Marion Nestle calls it</a>), plus allocations and annual bonuses in the form of Pepsi shares, in addition to his regular salary of $789,000 in 2015.</p><p dir="ltr">Such arrangements are not illegal, nor are they particularly new. What makes this case more interesting is that Walker has <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/toward-a-new-gospel-of-wealth/">publicly declared his commitment</a> to re-focus all of the Ford Foundation’s work on inequality. He has also stated a desire to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">pursue transformational solutions</a> instead of tinkering around the edges of social and economic problems, and to <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/ignorance-is-the-enemy-within-on-the-power-of-our-privilege-and-the-privilege-of-our-power/">confront the thorny issue of privilege</a> at both the institutional level and the level of personal practice. </p><p dir="ltr">These ideas have been developed in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">a series of carefully-crafted articles and speeches</a> which have been music to the ears of activists and nonprofits—holding out the promise of healthier and more equitable relationships with their funders. But Walker’s decision seems at odds with the commitments he has made, threatening to undermine the message that philanthropy is in need of major surgery. How so?</p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Edwards.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Wikimedia Commons/Nathan Keirn (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> Do sustained relationships with corporations compromise foundations' support of frontline activism?</p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p dir="ltr">First of all, inequality doesn’t happen by accident or by magic: it’s created when people take advantage of opportunities to accrue wealth which are unequally distributed among the population—including well-paid seats on the boards of corporations. Other Ford Foundation staff are prohibited from taking on paid board positions or even consultancies, and no nonprofit could do so because of the conflicts of interest that are involved, so Walker seems to be modeling behavior that directly contradicts the ‘level playing field’ that features so strongly in his writings. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Secondly and despite the rhetoric of transformation, Walker’s move has a decidedly retro feel. Foundation presidents have been serving on corporate boards for decades with no significant results as part of the trend towards Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR, which has levered small changes in supply chains and other areas but has barely touched the core business practices of major companies. The largest ever evaluation funded by the European Union <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-sogge/corporate-wax-nose">found “no credible evidence</a> that CSR had made a positive difference to economies or societies in the region.” Neither have new board members halted the fall from grace of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/hsbc-files">HSBC</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/us-money-blog/2016/sep/22/wells-fargo-scandal-john-stumpf-elizabeth-warren-senate">Wells Fargo</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/nov/06/volkswagen-inquiry-widens-to-include-former-finance-chief">Volkswagen</a>, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/mitsubishi-motors-plans-one-time-loss-for-fuel-economy-scandal-1466147113">Mitsubishi</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ben-phillips/unilever-s-racist-marketing-shows-why-companies-can-t-be-relied-on-to-re">Unilever</a> and many <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/oxfam-multinational-companies-failing-csr">other icons</a> of CSR.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">At a time when activists are energetically exploring&nbsp;life after capitalism&nbsp;it’s disappointing to see the Ford Foundation&nbsp;defending the current system&nbsp;with a few tweaks around the edges. </span>PepsiCo isn’t the worst of these offenders, running up <a href="https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/pepsico">the usual list of accusations</a> concerning union-busting, forced labor and land rights violations, but ‘we’re listening and we’ll do better’ is always the mantra, buttressed by the gloss that’s added by respected outsiders like Walker. Unfortunately, however well they do they’ll still be a conventional stockholder corporation that’s duty bound to maximize its profits by selling stuff of little value to people who don’t actually need it. There’s no transformative potential in that equation. The real excitement lies in the new economy of co-operatives and other experiments which aren’t subject to the same constraints. At a time when activists are energetically exploring <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-beer/four-futures-life-after-capitalism">life after capitalism</a> it’s disappointing to see the Ford Foundation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">defending the current system</a> with a few tweaks around the edges. </p><p dir="ltr">That leads me to problem number three: Walker’s decision represents a lost opportunity to make a strong and influential statement about the future of philanthropy, just when the pressure for change is building through the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ShiftThePower?src=hash">#ShiftThePower</a> campaign and other efforts. Everyone who works for a foundation, an NGO or an aid agency has been complicit in a decades-long process of under-investment in frontline activists and communities, and a corresponding over-rewarding of those who fund or support them in other ways. </p><p dir="ltr">I was a beneficiary of this system myself for many years, fighting for justice from the comfort of Business Class while those who do the real work and suffer the consequences are crammed together at the rear of Economy. It’s a peculiar arrangement—divisive, outdated, ineffective and ripe for upheaval if only funders were prepared to take up the challenge, and that’s where Walker’s decision is instructive. </p><p dir="ltr">Throughout history the outright rejection of privilege and unequal power structures has been a key tool of social transformation: think civil rights or women’s liberation or pretty much any successful social movement. The insider route can lever some changes when it’s connected to outside pressure, but no one has ever transformed the establishment by joining it. The pressure nearly always works in the opposite direction, though subtly and over time, narrowing the horizons of possibility so that they conform to what’s expected. After all, the more invested you are in any system the less likely you’ll be to confront it.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s why the impact of a very public rejection of Pepsi’s invitation could have been so powerful: a signal that finally, a major foundation is willing to loosen its ties to the corporate world and focus its full attention on those tens of thousands of people who are working at the sharp end of social change. </p><p>No one expects foundation presidents to work for free, but it’s not unreasonable to expect consistency between their actions and their words. As in this case, consistency does involve some sacrifices when self interest must be modulated, but they pale in comparison to the extra strength and solidarity that’s generated in the process. That’s much more important to the long-term struggle for social transformation.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="imgupl_floating_none"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" alt="" title="imgupl_floating_none" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/OpenGlobalRights-highlight4English.png" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="//www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights-openpage"><img src="/files/openPagesidebox.png " alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/mauricio-lazala-joe-bardwell/%E2%80%9Cwhat-human-rights%E2%80%9D-why-some-companies-speak-out-while">“What human rights?” Why some companies speak out while others don’t</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/marc-limon/mapping-global-business-opinions-on-human-rights">Mapping global business opinions on human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">The privilege of being privileged</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/david-sogge/corporate-wax-nose">The corporate wax nose</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> openGlobalRights openGlobalRights openGlobalRights-openpage Michael Edwards Global Mon, 05 Dec 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 107372 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Les organismes d’aide devraient-ils eux-aussi faire preuve de l’abnégation nécessaire au changement social ? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/les-organismes-d-aide-devraient-ils-eux-aussi-faire-preuve-de-l-abn <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Edwards.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></p><p>Quelles normes de conduite devrions-nous attendre des dirigeants de Fondations, d’ONG et d'organismes d’aide ?<strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong><em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/should-funding-agencies-also-share-in-sacrifice-of-social-change" target="_blank">English</a>,&nbsp;</strong></em><em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/los-organismos-de-financiamiento-tambi-n-deber-compartir-el-sacrifi" target="_blank">Español</a></strong></em><em><strong>,&nbsp;</strong></em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/michael-edwards/devem-as-ag-ncias-de-financiamento-partilhar-o-sacrif-cio-que-impl" target="_blank">Português</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">Chaque jour, année après année, dans des endroits comme Standing Rock, Ferguson, Alep et Hong Kong, des dizaines de milliers de personnes luttent pour les droits humains au péril de leurs conditions de vie, et voire même de leur vie. Ils sont mal payés, ou bien pas du tout, et les risques sont souvent élevés. Par conséquent toutes les personnes impliquées se voient demander de faire collectivement preuve d’abnégation. La solidarité entre collègues, ainsi qu’avec la cause défendue, permet de tisser un lien social fort ensemble. La cohérence entre les paroles et les actes est essentielle pour développer une relation de confiance et de loyauté mutuelle. </p><p dir="ltr">Face à ces impératifs est-il raisonnable de s’attendre aux mêmes normes de conduite de la part des bailleurs de fonds, des conseillers et autres intermédiaires qui soutiennent à distance ces luttes qui leur confèrent visibilité et légitimité&nbsp;? </p><p dir="ltr">Cette question ancienne est présente en arrière-plan dans les conversations entre militants et donateurs, bien que rarement formulée directement car elle peut être gênante et entrainer un retour de flamme. Mais elle éclate occasionnellement au grand jour, donnant l’opportunité de reconsidérer l’éthique du financement en faveur du changement social. Nous assistons actuellement à un de ces «&nbsp; moments riches d’enseignements&nbsp;» avec Darren Walker, le bienveillant et respecté président de la Fondation Ford. </p><p dir="ltr">Le 28 octobre 2016, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/business/an-activist-for-the-poor-joins-pepsis-board-is-that-ethical.html?_r=0">le New York Times a révélé</a> que Walker touchera une rémunération comprise entre 275 000 &nbsp;et 418 000 $ annuels, plus primes et attributions sous forme d’actions, pour rejoindre le conseil d’administration de <a href="http://www.pepsico.fr">PepsiCo</a>, la multinationale de la «&nbsp;mal bouffe&nbsp;» (en référence au terme employé par <a href="https://www.philanthropy.com/article/Opinion-Foundation-CEOs/238284?cid=cpfd_home">Marion Nestle</a>, professeur de nutrition à l’université de New York). Cette rémunération s’ajoute à son salaire actuel (qui était de 789 000 $ en 2015).</p><p dir="ltr">Ces types d’accords ne sont ni illégaux ni vraiment nouveaux. Ce qui est particulièrement intéressant dans cette affaire, c’est que Walker a <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/toward-a-new-gospel-of-wealth/">publiquement déclaré sa détermination</a> à recentrer tout le travail de la Fondation Ford sur les inégalités. Il a également affirmé sa volonté de <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">rechercher des solutions transformationnelles</a> au lieu de s’attaquer à la marge des problèmes sociaux et économiques, et de <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/ignorance-is-the-enemy-within-on-the-power-of-our-privilege-and-the-privilege-of-our-power/">s’attaquer au problème épineux des privilèges</a> tant au niveau institutionnel qu’au niveau des pratiques personnelles. </p><p dir="ltr">Ces idées ont été développées dans <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">une série d'articles et de discours soigneusement calibrés</a> qui ont ravi les militants et les organisations à but non lucratif en laissant augurer des relations plus saines et plus équitables avec leurs bailleurs de fonds. Mais la décision de Walker semble être en contradiction avec ses engagements, menaçant de brouiller le message comme quoi la philanthropie a besoin d’être fortement reconfigurée. En quoi est-ce le cas ? </p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Edwards.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Wikimedia Commons/Nathan Keirn (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> Do sustained relationships with corporations compromise foundations' support of frontline activism?</p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p dir="ltr">Tout d’abord, les inégalités ne sont pas le fruit du hasard mais dues au fait que les gens profitent des opportunités de capter des richesses qui sont réparties de manière non équitable, comme dans le cas des sièges fortement rémunérateurs des conseils d’administration des entreprises. Les autres membres du personnel de la Fondation Ford ne sont pas autorisés à occuper des postes rémunérés au sein des conseils d’administration ou même à prendre des missions de conseil, et aucune organisation à but non lucratif ne pourrait agir de la sorte en raison des conflits d’intérêts induits, donc Walker semble adopter une conduite en contradiction directe avec &nbsp;«&nbsp;l’égalité des chances&nbsp;» qui est si fortement présente dans ses écrits. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Deuxièmement, et en dépit du discours sur la transformation, les agissements de Walker renvoient incontestablement au passé. Dans le cadre de la responsabilité sociale des entreprises ou RSE, les présidents de Fondations ont siégé aux conseils d’administration depuis des décennies et ce sans donner aucun résultat significatif. Ce phénomène a débouché sur des changements de faible ampleur dans la logistique et les approvisionnements, ainsi que dans d’autres domaines, mais il a tout juste effleuré le cœur des pratiques opérationnelles des grandes entreprises. La plus grande évaluation jamais menée, financée par l’Union Européenne, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-sogge/corporate-wax-nose">n'a trouvé «&nbsp;aucune preuve crédible</a> de l’impact positif de la RSE sur les économies ou les sociétés de la région&nbsp;». De plus, les nouveaux membres des conseils d’administration n’ont également pas empêché <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/hsbc-files">HSBC</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/us-money-blog/2016/sep/22/wells-fargo-scandal-john-stumpf-elizabeth-warren-senate">Wells Fargo</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/nov/06/volkswagen-inquiry-widens-to-include-former-finance-chief">Volkswagen</a>, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/mitsubishi-motors-plans-one-time-loss-for-fuel-economy-scandal-1466147113">Mitsubishi</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ben-phillips/unilever-s-racist-marketing-shows-why-companies-can-t-be-relied-on-to-re">Unilever</a> et de nombreux <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/oxfam-multinational-companies-failing-csr">autres icônes</a> de la RSE de tomber en disgrâce.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">À l’heure où les militants explorent activement la&nbsp;vie après le capitalisme, il est décevant de voir la Fondation Ford&nbsp;défendre le système en place&nbsp;en procédant à quelques ajustements à la marge. </span>PepsiCo n’est pas le plus mal placé dans <a href="https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/pepsico">la liste habituelle des accusations</a> sur le démantèlement des syndicats, le travail forcé et les violations des droits fonciers, mais chante la même rengaine du «&nbsp;nous sommes à l’écoute et nous allons faire mieux&nbsp;» qui est enjolivée par la présence d’outsiders respectés comme Walker. Malheureusement, malgré tout ce qui peut être fait de positif, ce sera toujours une entreprise classique composée d’actionnaires et se devant de maximiser ses profits en vendant des biens de faible valeur à des personnes qui n’en ont en fait pas besoin. Le pouvoir transformateur de ce type de situation est tout simplement non existant. C’est la nouvelle économie coopérative, ainsi que d’autres expériences qui ne sont pas soumises aux mêmes contraintes, qui sont enthousiasmantes. À l’heure où les militants explorent activement la <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-beer/four-futures-life-after-capitalism">vie après le capitalisme</a>, il est décevant de voir la Fondation Ford <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">défendre le système en place</a> en procédant à quelques ajustements à la marge. </p><p dir="ltr">Ce qui m’amène au problème numéro trois : la décision de Walker est une occasion manquée de prendre position de manière forte et influente sur le futur de la philanthropie, juste quand la pression en faveur du changement monte avec la campagne <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ShiftThePower?src=hash">#ShiftThePower</a> et d’autres initiatives. Toute personne ayant travaillé pour une fondation, une ONG ou un organisme d’aide a été complice du sous-investissement, depuis des décennies, au détriment des activistes qui sont en première ligne et des communautés alors que ceux qui les financent, ou qui les soutiennent d’une autre manière, ont été récompensés de manière exagérée.</p><p dir="ltr">J’ai moi-même bénéficié de ce système pendant de nombreuses années, luttant pour la justice en profitant du confort de la classe affaire pendant que ceux qui font le véritable travail et qui souffrent des conséquences sont entassés à l’arrière, en classe économie. C’est un arrangement curieux, désolidarisant, obsolète et inefficace. Il pourrait être revu de fond en comble si les bailleurs de fonds étaient prêts à relever le défi, et c’est là que la décision de Walker est riche en enseignements. </p><p dir="ltr">À travers l’histoire, le rejet catégorique des privilèges et des structures de pouvoir inégales a joué un rôle essentiel dans la transformation sociale : prenez les droits civils ou l’émancipation de la femme ou pratiquement tous les mouvements sociaux qui ont abouti. Un certain nombre de changements peuvent être insufflés de l’intérieur en présence de pressions externes, mais personne n’a jamais transformé l’établissement en le rejoignant. Les pressions sont toujours en contradiction avec le système et bien qu’elles s’exercent de manière subtile et sur le long terme, elles réduisent le champ des possibles pour produire les effets escomptés. Après tout, plus vous êtes investis dans un système quel qu’il soit, moins il est probable que vous ne le confrontiez.</p><p dir="ltr">C’est pourquoi l’impact d’un rejet public de l’invitation de Pepsi aurait pu être si puissant : un signal comme quoi, enfin, une grande fondation a la volonté de prendre ses distances avec le monde des affaires et de porter toute son attention sur ces dizaines de milliers de personnes qui travaillent au cœur du changement social. </p><p dir="ltr">Personne ne s’attend à ce que les présidents de Fondations travaillent bénévolement, mais exiger une certaine cohérence entre leurs paroles et leurs actes n’est pas déraisonnable. Comme c’est le cas ici, la cohérence implique abnégation et sacrifices, mais ces derniers sont peu de choses par rapport au regain de force et de solidarité qui en découlent. C’est d’une importance vitale dans la lutte sur le long terme en faveur de la transformation sociale.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="imgupl_floating_none"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" alt="" title="imgupl_floating_none" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="//www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights-translations/openglobalrights-fran%C3%A7ais"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/OpenGlobalRights-highlight4-french.png" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="//www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights-openpage"><img src="/files/openPagesidebox.png " alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/mauricio-lazala-joe-bardwell/%C2%AB-quels-droits-de-l%E2%80%99homme-%C2%BB-pourquoi-certaines-entrepr">« Quels droits de l’homme ? » Pourquoi certaines entreprises s’expriment alors que d’autres non</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/tim-ludford-clare-doube/concilier-%C3%A9valuation-du-travail-en-mati%C3%A8re-de-droits-de-l%E2%80%99h">Concilier évaluation du travail en matière de droits de l’homme et environnements complexes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/edwin-rekosh/pour-pr-server-les-droits-humains-les-mod-les-organisationnels-doivent">Pour préserver les droits humains, les modèles organisationnels doivent évoluer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/patrick-alley/qui-va-s-opposer-la-corruption">Qui va s’opposer à la corruption ?</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> openGlobalRights Michael Edwards Global openGlobalRights Français Mon, 05 Dec 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 107371 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ¿Los organismos de financiamiento también deberían compartir el sacrificio del cambio social? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/los-organismos-de-financiamiento-tambi-n-deber-compartir-el-sacrifi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><IMG alt="" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Edwards.jpg" width="140" /></p> <P>¿Qué normas de comportamiento debemos esperar de los dirigentes de las fundaciones, las ONG y los organismos de asistencia? <STRONG><EM><A href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/should-funding-agencies-also-share-in-sacrifice-of-social-change" target="_blank">English</a>,&nbsp;</em></strong><EM><STRONG><A href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/les-organismes-d-aide-devraient-ils-eux-aussi-faire-preuve-de-l-abn" target="_blank">Français</a>,&nbsp;<A href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/michael-edwards/devem-as-ag-ncias-de-financiamento-partilhar-o-sacrif-cio-que-impl">Português</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">Todos los días de todos los años, en lugares como Standing Rock y Ferguson y Alepo y Hong Kong, decenas de miles de personas ponen en juego sus vidas y sus medios de subsistencia en la lucha por los derechos humanos. Si reciben algún pago, las cantidades son muy bajas y los riesgos suelen ser altos, así que se exige un sacrificio compartido por todos los actores involucrados. Las oportunidades de obtener beneficios personales se subordinan a la solidaridad con los colegas y con la causa para crear un tejido social fuerte. La congruencia entre las palabras y las acciones es esencial para el desarrollo de la lealtad y la confianza mutuas. </p><p dir="ltr">Ante estos imperativos, ¿es razonable esperar que sigan las mismas normas de comportamiento los proveedores de fondos, asesores y otros intermediarios que apoyan estas luchas desde lejos y que al hacerlo obtienen publicidad y legitimidad para su propio trabajo? </p><p dir="ltr">Esta es una vieja pregunta que bulle bajo la superficie de las conversaciones entre los activistas y los donantes, aunque rara vez se expresa directamente debido a la incomodidad y las reacciones que puede generar. Pero de vez en cuando emerge a la vista del público, lo que ofrece una oportunidad para volver a analizar los aspectos éticos del financiamiento para el cambio social. Actualmente, presenciamos uno de esos “momentos de aprendizaje” en torno a Darren Walker, el presidente paternal y muy respetado de la Fundación Ford. </p><p dir="ltr">El 28 de octubre de 2016, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/business/an-activist-for-the-poor-joins-pepsis-board-is-that-ethical.html?_r=0">The New York Times reveló</a> que Walker recibirá entre $275,000 y $418,000 dólares al año por formar parte de la mesa directiva de la empresa multinacional de “comida chatarra” <a href="http://www.pepsico.com/">PepsiCo</a> (como la <a href="https://www.philanthropy.com/article/Opinion-Foundation-CEOs/238284?cid=cpfd_home">llama Marion Nestle</a>, profesora de nutrición de la New York University), junto con asignaciones y bonos anuales de acciones de Pepsi, además de su salario normal que ascendió a $789,000 dólares en 2015.</p><p dir="ltr">Estos arreglos no son ilegales, tampoco son particularmente nuevos. Lo que hace más interesante este caso es que Walker <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/toward-a-new-gospel-of-wealth/">se comprometió públicamente a</a> volver a centrar todo el trabajo de la Fundación Ford en la desigualdad. También ha expresado el deseo de <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">buscar soluciones transformadoras</a> en lugar de simples ajustes superficiales en torno a los problemas sociales y económicos, así como de <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/ignorance-is-the-enemy-within-on-the-power-of-our-privilege-and-the-privilege-of-our-power/">hacer frente al espinoso tema del privilegio</a> tanto en el nivel institucional como en el de las acciones individuales. </p><p dir="ltr">Estas ideas se han desarrollado en <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">una serie de discursos y artículos cuidadosamente elaborados</a> , que han sido música para los oídos de los activistas y las organizaciones sin fines de lucro, ya que encierran la promesa de relaciones más saludables y equitativas con los proveedores de fondos. Pero la decisión de Walker parece contradecir los compromisos que ha hecho y amenaza con debilitar el mensaje de que la filantropía necesita una intervención importante. ¿Cómo?</p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Edwards.jpg" width="444" /> <br />Wikimedia Commons/Nathan Keirn (Some rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> Do sustained relationships with corporations compromise foundations' support of frontline activism?</p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p dir="ltr">En primer lugar, la desigualdad no sucede por accidente o por arte de magia: se crea cuando las personas aprovechan oportunidades para acumular riqueza que no están distribuidas equitativamente entre la población; esto incluye los cargos bien remunerados en las mesas directivas de las corporaciones. Los demás miembros del personal de la Fundación Ford tienen prohibido aceptar cargos remunerados en mesas directivas, incluso como consultores, y ninguna organización sin fines de lucro podría hacerlo debido a los conflictos de interés que se generarían, así que Walker parece estar dando el ejemplo de un comportamiento que contradice directamente la “igualdad de condiciones” que ocupa un lugar tan prominente en sus escritos. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">En segundo lugar, y a pesar de la retórica de la transformación, la decisión de Walker tiene un aire decididamente retro. Los presidentes de la Fundación llevan décadas participando en las mesas directivas corporativas sin producir resultados significativos como parte de la tendencia hacia la responsabilidad social empresarial o RSE, la cual ha generado pequeños cambios en las cadenas de suministro y otras áreas, pero apenas ha tocado las prácticas de negocio principales de las grandes empresas. La evaluación más amplia que ha financiado la Unión Europea <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-sogge/corporate-wax-nose">no encontró “ninguna evidencia creíble</a> de que la RSE haya marcado una diferencia positiva para las economías o las sociedades en la región”. La incorporación de nuevos miembros en las mesas directivas tampoco ha evitado la caída en desgracia de &nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/hsbc-files">HSBC</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/us-money-blog/2016/sep/22/wells-fargo-scandal-john-stumpf-elizabeth-warren-senate">Wells Fargo</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/nov/06/volkswagen-inquiry-widens-to-include-former-finance-chief">Volkswagen</a>, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/mitsubishi-motors-plans-one-time-loss-for-fuel-economy-scandal-1466147113">Mitsubishi</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ben-phillips/unilever-s-racist-marketing-shows-why-companies-can-t-be-relied-on-to-re">Unilever</a> y muchas <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/oxfam-multinational-companies-failing-csr">otras empresas emblemáticas</a> de la RSE.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">En una época en la que los activistas exploran con ahínco la&nbsp;vida después del capitalismo, resulta decepcionante ver a la Fundación Ford&nbsp;defendiendo el sistema actual&nbsp;con unos cuantos retoques en los márgenes. </span>PepsiCo no es la peor infractora en la lista <a href="https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/pepsico">de acusaciones</a> relacionadas con acciones antisindicales, trabajo forzado y violaciones del derecho a la tierra, pero siempre responde con el mantra “estamos escuchando y vamos a mejorar”, apuntalado por el lustre que le agregan actores externos respetados como Walker. Por desgracia, por mucho que mejore, seguirá siendo una corporación accionista convencional que tiene el deber de maximizar sus ganancias vendiendo artículos de poco valor a personas que realmente no necesitan comprarlos. Esa situación no contiene ningún potencial transformador. Lo que es de verdad emocionante es la nueva economía de cooperativas y otros experimentos que no están sujetos a las mismas limitaciones. En una época en la que los activistas exploran con ahínco la <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-beer/four-futures-life-after-capitalism">vida después del capitalismo</a> , resulta decepcionante ver a la Fundación Ford <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">defendiendo el sistema actual</a> con unos cuantos retoques en los márgenes. </p><p dir="ltr">Esto me lleva al problema número tres: la decisión de Walker representa una oportunidad desaprovechada de hacer una declaración fuerte e influyente sobre el futuro de la filantropía, justo cuando está aumentando la presión a favor del cambio mediante la campaña <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ShiftThePower?src=hash">#ShiftThePower</a> y otras iniciativas. Todas las personas que trabajan para una fundación, una ONG o un organismo de asistencia han sido cómplices de un proceso, que ha durado décadas, en el que no se invierte lo suficiente en las comunidades y los activistas de primera línea mientras se recompensa en exceso a quienes los financian o apoyan de otras maneras. </p><p dir="ltr">Yo mismo me beneficié de este sistema durante muchas años, luchando por la justicia desde la comodidad de la Clase Ejecutiva mientras quienes realizan el verdadero trabajo y sufren las consecuencias van amontonados en los asientos traseros de Clase Turista. Es una disposición peculiar: divisiva, obsoleta, ineficaz y lista para una transformación, si tan solo los donantes estuvieran dispuestos a aceptar el reto; en este sentido, la decisión de Walker es aleccionadora. </p><p dir="ltr">A lo largo de la historia, el rechazo frontal de los privilegios y las estructuras desiguales de poder ha sido una herramienta clave de transformación social: como en el caso de los derechos civiles o la liberación de la mujer, o prácticamente cualquier movimiento social exitoso. Los esfuerzos desde el interior pueden generar algunos cambios cuando van acompañados de presión externa, pero nadie ha transformado el sistema establecido uniéndose a este. La presión casi siempre funciona en la dirección opuesta, aunque de manera sutil y con el tiempo, al reducir los horizontes de posibilidades para que se ajusten a lo esperado. Después de todo, entre más involucrada está una persona en cualquier sistema, es menos probable que le haga frente.</p><p dir="ltr">Es por eso que el impacto de un rechazo muy público de la invitación de Pepsi podría haber sido tan grande: una señal de que, finalmente, una fundación importante está dispuesta a atenuar sus vínculos con el mundo empresarial y centrar toda su atención en esas decenas de miles de personas que están trabajando en el filo del cambio social. </p><p dir="ltr">Nadie espera que los presidentes de las fundaciones trabajen gratis, pero no es descabellado esperar que haya congruencia entre sus acciones y sus palabras. Como en este caso, la congruencia ciertamente implica ciertos sacrificios, pero estos palidecen en comparación con la fortaleza y la solidaridad adicionales que se generan en el proceso. Esto es mucho más importante para la lucha a largo plazo por la transformación social.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="imgupl_floating_none"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" alt="" title="imgupl_floating_none" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights-translations/openglobalrights-espa%C3%B1ol"><IMG alt="" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/OpenGlobalRights-highlight4-espagnol.png" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights-openpage"><IMG alt="" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/openPagesidebox.png" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/mauricio-lazala-joe-bardwell/%E2%80%9C%C2%BFqu%C3%A9-derechos-humanos%E2%80%9D-por-qu%C3%A9-algunas-empresas-alzan">“¿Qué derechos humanos?” Por qué algunas empresas alzan la voz y otras no</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/nelson-camilo-s-nchez/latinoam-rica-pasa-al-tablero-las-corporaciones">Latinoamérica pasa al tablero a las corporaciones</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/tim-ludford-clare-doube/en-b%C3%BAsqueda-del-equilibrio-la-evaluaci%C3%B3n-del-trabajo-de-der">En búsqueda del equilibrio: la evaluación del trabajo de derechos humanos en entornos complejos</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/edwin-rekosh/para-preservar-los-derechos-humanos-los-modelos-organizativos-tienen-q">Para preservar los derechos humanos, los modelos organizativos tienen que cambiar</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> openGlobalRights DemocraciaAbierta Michael Edwards Global openGlobalRights Español Mon, 05 Dec 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 107370 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Devem as agências de financiamento partilhar o sacrifício da transformação social? https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/michael-edwards/devem-as-ag-ncias-de-financiamento-partilhar-o-sacrif-cio-que-impl <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Quais os padrões de comportamento que devemos esperar dos líderes das fundações, organizações não-governamentais e agências de ajuda?<strong><em><em><strong>&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/los-organismos-de-financiamiento-tambi-n-deber-compartir-el-sacrifi">Español</a>&nbsp;</strong></em></em></strong><em><strong><a style="text-decoration: underline;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/michael-edwards/les-organismes-d-aide-devraient-ils-eux-aussi-faire-preuve-de-l-abn">French</a><span style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/should-funding-agencies-also-share-in-sacrifice-of-social-change">English</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Ginowan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Ginowan.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Manifestantes em Ginowan, Japão. Fotografia: Nathan Keirn de Kadena-Cho, Japão. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons</span></span></span></p><p>Todos os dias, em lugares como Standing Rock, Ferguson, Alepo e Hong Kong, dezenas de milhares de pessoas colocam as suas vidas e o seu bem-estar em risco ao lutar pelos direitos humanos. Se são pagos, os montantes que auferem são muito baixos e os riscos são muitas vezes elevados, pelo que sacrifícios são exigidos a todos os envolvidos. Os interesses pessoais são subordinados à solidariedade e à causa, construindo desta forma um tecido social forte. A consistência entre as palavras e os atos é essencial para estabelecer relações de mutua lealdade e confiança. </p> <p>Tendo em conta estes imperativos, não é lógico esperar que os financiadores, conselheiros e outros intermediários – que apoiam estas lutas à distancia e que ganham publicidade e legitimidade com elas – obedeçam aos mesmos padrões de comportamento?</p> <p>Esta é uma velha questão que se pode ler entre as linhas das conversas entre ativistas e dadores, embora não tenda a ser discutida diretamente por causa do desconforto e dos problemas que pode causar. Mas ocasionalmente esta questão irrompe na esfera pública, proporcionando uma oportunidade para revisitar as regras éticas que regem o financiamento da transformação social. Estamos a testemunhar neste preciso momento um desses momentos, exemplificado na figura de Darren Walker, Presidente da Fundação Ford. &nbsp;</p> <p>No dia 28 de outubro de 2016, o <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/business/an-activist-for-the-poor-joins-pepsis-board-is-that-ethical.html?_r=0">New York Times</a> revelou que Walker receberá entre 275 mil e 418 mil dólares por ano para integrar conselho de administração da <a href="http://www.pepsico.com/">PepsiCo</a> – uma multinacional de <em>junk food, </em>como afirma <a href="https://www.philanthropy.com/article/Opinion-Foundation-CEOs/238284?cid=cpfd_home">Marion Nestle</a>, professora de nutrição na Universidade de Nova Iorque –, uma serie de bónus em forma de opções sobre ações e um salário que em 2015 alcançou os 789 mil dólares. </p> <p>Esta situação não é ilegal. Nem é uma novidade. O que torna este caso interessante é que Walker <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/toward-a-new-gospel-of-wealth/">declarou publicamente o seu compromisso</a> para repensar todo o trabalho da Fundação Ford sobre a desigualdade. E expressou o desejo de encontrar soluções transformacionais, em vez de ficar pelas zonas limítrofes dos problemas sociais e económicos, confrontando o <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/ignorance-is-the-enemy-within-on-the-power-of-our-privilege-and-the-privilege-of-our-power/">espinhoso assunto do privilégio</a>, tanto a nível institucional como ao nível pessoal.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">O que torna este caso interessante é que Walker&nbsp;declarou publicamente o seu compromisso&nbsp;para repensar todo o trabalho da Fundação Ford sobre a desigualdade.&nbsp;</p> <p>Essas ideias foram desenvolvidas numa <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">série de artigos e discursos cuidadosamente elaborados</a> que foi <em>música</em> para os ouvidos dos ativistas e organizações sem fins de lucro – prometendo relacionamentos mais saudáveis e mais equitativos. Mas a decisão de Walker choca com os compromissos que assumiu, ameaçando com debilitar a mensagem que a filantropia está a precisar de grandes mudanças. Como assim?</p> <p>Em primeiro lugar, a desigualdade não se produz por acidente ou por magia: é criada quando determinadas pessoas aproveitam a oportunidade de acumular a riqueza distribuída de forma desigual entre a população - incluindo os lugares bem pagos nos conselhos de administração das multinacionais. Outros funcionários da Fundação Ford estão proibidos de assumir posições remuneradas ou inclusive de exercer consultorias, e nenhuma organização sem fins de lucro pode fazê-lo devido aos conflitos de interesse em causa. Portanto, parece que Walker estar a publicitar um comportamento que contradiz de forma direta as <em>regras do jogo</em> que defende de forma categórica nos seus artigos. </p> <p>Em segundo lugar, e apesar da retórica de transformação, a atitude de Walker deixa-nos uma sensação recorrente. Os presidentes das Fundações têm vindo a fazer parte de conselhos de administração corporativos há décadas. Mas esta propensão pela Responsabilidade Social Corporativa (CSR) só teve resultados positivos em relação às linhas de abastecimento, mal tocando as principais práticas de negócios das grandes empresas. A maior avaliação alguma vez financiada pela União Europeia não encontrou “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-sogge/corporate-wax-nose">nenhuma prova credível</a>” que o CSR tenha tido uma influencia positiva para as economias ou as sociedades da região. Os novos membros dos conselhos de administração também não foram capazes de impedir a queda em desgraça de empresas como a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/hsbc-files">HSBC</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/us-money-blog/2016/sep/22/wells-fargo-scandal-john-stumpf-elizabeth-warren-senate">Wells Fargo</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/nov/06/volkswagen-inquiry-widens-to-include-former-finance-chief">Volkswagen</a>, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/mitsubishi-motors-plans-one-time-loss-for-fuel-economy-scandal-1466147113">Mitsubishi</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ben-phillips/unilever-s-racist-marketing-shows-why-companies-can-t-be-relied-on-to-re">Unilever</a> e muitos <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/oxfam-multinational-companies-failing-csr">outros ícones</a> da responsabilidade social corporativa.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Walker estar a publicitar um comportamento que contradiz de forma direta as&nbsp;<em>regras do jogo</em>&nbsp;que defende de forma categórica nos seus artigos.</p> <p>A PepsiCo não é a pior destas empresas, apesar de <a href="https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/pepsico">ter sido acusada</a> de atividades antissindicais, trabalho forçado e violações do direito à terra. Mas o “estamos a ouvir e vamos fazer melhor” é sempre a desculpa – apoiada pela respeitabilidade que <em>outsiders</em> como Walker oferecem. Infelizmente, por mais que façam, continuarão a ser uma empresa de acionistas convencionais que tem o dever de maximizar os seus lucros vendendo coisas de pouco valor a pessoas que realmente não precisam comprá-las. Não há nenhum potencial transformador nesta equação. A verdadeira transformação reside na nova economia das cooperativas e outras experiências que não estão sujeitas às mesmas restrições. Num momento em que os ativistas estão a explorar energicamente a possibilidade da <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-beer/four-futures-life-after-capitalism">vida depois do capitalismo</a>, é dececionante ver a Fundação Ford <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged">defender o sistema atual</a> e limitar-se a levar a cabo operações <em>cosméticas</em>. </p> <p>Isto leva-me ao problema número três: a decisão de Walker supõe uma oportunidade perdida para fazer uma declaração forte e influente sobre o futuro da filantropia, justamente quando a pressão para mudar as coisas está a aumentar através da campanha <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ShiftThePower?src=hash">#ShiftThePower</a> e outros esforços. Todos os que trabalham para uma fundação, uma ONG ou uma agência de ajuda têm sido cúmplices de não investir o suficiente naqueles ativistas que se encontram na primeira linha de combate ou naquelas comunidades diretamente afetadas.<em> </em>Assim como pelo correspondente excesso chegada a hora de recompensar aqueles que decidem financiá-los ou apoiá-los de outras maneiras.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A decisão de Walker supõe uma oportunidade perdida para fazer uma declaração forte e influente sobre o futuro da filantropia.</p> <p>Eu fui beneficiário deste sistema por muitos anos, lutando pela justiça e pelo conforto da <em>classe económica </em>enquanto aqueles que fazem o verdadeiro trabalho e sofrem as consequências são amontoados na parte traseira da <em>Economia</em>. Este é um arranjo peculiar – divisionista, desatualizado, ineficaz e pronto para ser substituído se os financiadores estiverem dispostos a aceitar o desafio. E é por isto que a decisão de Walker é instrutiva.</p> <p>Ao longo da história, a rejeição absoluta de privilégios e estruturas de poder desiguais tem vindo ser uma ferramenta-chave da transformação social: pensemos nos direitos civis ou na libertação das mulheres ou em qualquer movimento social bem-sucedido. Pertencer a uma organização pode promover algumas mudanças quando esta situação vem acompanhada por uma pressão externa. Mas nunca ninguém transformou o <em>Establishment</em> unindo-se a ele. A pressão funciona quase sempre na direção oposta, de forma subtil e ao longo do tempo, estreitando os horizontes para que eles se adaptem ao que é esperado. Afinal, quanto mais tenhamos investido em qualquer sistema, menos provável será que nos enfrentemos a ele. &nbsp;</p> <p>É por isso que o impacto duma rejeição pública do convite da PepsiCo poderia ter sido um poderoso sinal: que uma importante fundação está disposta a reduzir os seus laços com o mundo corporativo e focar a sua atenção nas dezenas de milhares de pessoas que estão a trabalhar naqueles lugares onde a mudança social está <em>realmente</em> a acontecer.&nbsp; </p> <p>Ninguém espera que os presidentes das fundações trabalhem de graça. Mas não é irracional esperar um certo nível de consistência entre as suas ações e as suas palavras. Como neste caso, a consistência envolve alguns sacrifícios, mas os mesmos não representam nada em comparação com a força extra e a solidariedade que é gerada no processo. A mesma é muito mais importante para a luta a longo prazo pela transformação social.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta DemocraciaAbierta Civil society Culture Ideas Michael Edwards Mon, 05 Dec 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 107363 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trump wins, what now? https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-edwards-francesc-badia-i-dalmases-thomas-rowley-natalia-antonova/trump-wins <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy editors from around the world react to the victory of the billionaire businessman.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/PA-29125724.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="President-elect Donald Trump speaks on election night. Evan Vucci AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/PA-29125724.jpg" alt="lead " title="President-elect Donald Trump speaks on election night. Evan Vucci AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>President-elect Donald Trump speaks on election night. Evan Vucci AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2>Michael Edwards, Editor, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation">Transformation</a>: "Everyone hates each other now, don’t they?"</h2><p>I’m in aisle six at Shoprite in Liberty, New York, two hours north-west of Manhattan in the Sullivan County Catskills. “Everyone hates each other now, don’t they?” a voice says to me while I’m head down in my shopping cart, starting to unpack my groceries. You know things are bad when the supermarket checkout clerk is moved to sum up the state of US politics like this on the day of the election. </p><p dir="ltr">Judging by this morning’s results she was right to be concerned: a nation thoroughly divided, full of pain and rage, shortly to be ruled by the man the experts said could never win. Angry white rural, blue collar and suburban voters came out in droves for Donald Trump, who proved to be the strongest motivator —&nbsp;<a href="http://michaelmoore.com/trumpwillwin/">Michael Moore was right</a> in his predictions. </p><p dir="ltr">Sullivan County mirrored these results — turning from solidly Democratic (it voted twice for President Obama) to a majority of 55 per cent this time around for the Republicans. The county’s population is poorer and less educated than the rest of New York State, and three-quarters white. Rising progressive star Zephyr Teachout also lost her race to represent us in Congress.</p><p dir="ltr">So now we have our very own political shockwave, much bigger (for us) than Brexit but rooted in similar emotions. What happens now? </p><p dir="ltr">I would say that the prospects at the national level are completely uncertain — who knows what a Trump administration will do? Many wheels will be spun in the weeks and months ahead in trying to predict the unpredictable. But ‘everyone hates each other’ is not a sustainable condition, so something has to give.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Who knows what a Trump administration will do?</p><p dir="ltr">Could a more positive variant of the popular revolt that Trump has manipulated be hammered together at the local level as the red mists start to dissipate? In terms of the work that must be done, party affiliations mean much less in a county of 60,000 people where anger and insecurity are shared. At least it’s worth a try — it’s either that or hunker down and start again in four years time in the hope that Trump will screw up mightily, while the Democrats search for a more attractive candidate. But somehow that doesn’t feel enough. </p><p>As usual, we have to go on.</p><h2>Francesc Badia i Dalmases, Director, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta">democraciaAbierta</a>: "A business tycoon as the new CEO of America Inc."</h2><p>Latin Americans were expecting North Americans to elect the next president of the United States, and yet what they have got looks more as if they have appointed a business tycoon as the new CEO of America Inc.</p><p>Among the many anxieties Donald Trump is raising this morning, his total lack of political experience may be the most disturbing one. With his explicit rejection of the political establishment (and of politics as such), he has instead leveraged his experience as a private entrepreneur. He is ready to run the most powerful country on earth as he has been running Trump enterprises. Yet, one out of two voters has trusted him on this, reaffirming one of American dream’s core narratives: in the land of good opportunities, if you can run a business and become a millionaire, you can run the country and make it richer. Remember the story of Citizen Kane?</p><p>Almost everybody knows that things are not that simple, and that politics is more about reaching reasonable compromises than about making profitable deals. Yet, in the age of anxiety and uncertainty, an oversimplified and populist message clearly hits hard. We have seen this happen recently in the UK, even more recently in Colombia —&nbsp;and we now are witnessing it in the US.</p><p>Many Americans thought that populism was a typical phenomenon of southern, underdeveloped countries like the ones of Latin America. Not anymore. After hearing the direct threats the newly elected President of the United States was posing to the Hispanic community, many were expecting a surge in the Latino vote against him. Instead he has got 30% of that minority’s votes; more or less the same as Mitt Romney four years ago. If the Latino community's higher turnout to the polls was supposed to make the difference between the two candidates, at the end of the day, this isn't what happened. Not even the plan of building a wall along a more than 3000 km long border with Mexico —&nbsp;a wall that is supposed to be paid for by the Mexican government —&nbsp;was scary enough to awake that “sleeping giant”.</p><p>In any case, the unexpected results are sending huge shockwaves across the continent south of Rio Grande. The Mexican peso has plummeted. The NAFTA might come under new scrutiny and become a more asymmetric deal. Contingency plans are on in most factories around a country that has the US as its primary customer. Many Central American economies depend on the migrants’ revenues, and fears of massive deportations are high. In Colombia, the Plan Colombia 2, with its extra 350 million dollars may still be approved by the US Congress, but the positive involvement of US diplomacy in the peace talks with the FARC may be revised.<br /><br /><span class="mag-quote-center">Latin America will have to navigate these unchartered waters with caution amid a reinforced anti-American feeling </span> </p><p>Something similar could happen in Venezuela, where the US has been supportive of the ongoing talks between Maduro and the opposition. The&nbsp;<em>chavista</em>&nbsp;rhetoric about a US-led conspiracy and economic war against Venezuela would make much more sense with Trump in the White House. Brazil’s new government was hoping to quickly normalise its relationship with the US after the deep mistrust caused by Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA’s tapping into Dilma Rousseff’s phone. Putting the economy back on track is top priority, and uncertainty about how the new US president wants to deal with Brazil will certainly not help. In Peru, Pedro Pablo Kaczynski was expecting to do good business with democrats in power, but now he will have to wait and see. In Argentina, President Mauricio Macri, who had an unpleasant experience with Trump back in the 80’s&nbsp;<em>à propos&nbsp;</em>some real state business in New York, was very happily hosting the Obamas in Bariloche, Patagonia, and was dancing tango with them some months ago. He will have to renew all of these diplomatic efforts, but now with somebody he doesn't trust.</p><p>All in all, what Trump has in mind for Latin America —&nbsp;as it is the case for other regions around the world —&nbsp;is basically unknown. Latin America will have to navigate these unchartered waters with caution amid a reinforced anti-American feeling. And there are those on the left cheering how the worst case scenario of a Donald Trump’s victory has come true, as this could well revive anti-imperialism forces and give them a chance to regain power. The Kremlin is smiling, and pundits from RT in Spanish were in high spirits today. As Trump knows first-hand, just like Farage in the UK&nbsp;or Uribe in Colombia, having someone to blame about all your anxieties works amazingly well at the polls.</p><h2>Thomas Rowley and Natalia Antonova, Editors, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia">oDR</a>: the view from Eurasia</h2><p>The spectre lurking behind Clinton’s email hack, a source of alleged financial and political support for Trump and, of course, a partner-cum-rival in the ongoing negotiations over Syria — Russia <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexey-kovalev-ilya-yablokov/putin-and-trump-s-bad-bromance">has been a huge topic in the elections</a>.</p><p>The words “Russia” and “Putin” were <a href="https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/789642611439042565/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">mentioned more than any other subject</a> during the presidential debates. The speech marks are, of course, telling. So often, it wasn’t just the evidence of the Kremlin’s interference that mattered, but perceptions and assumptions of Russia. As Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, <a href="http://izvestia.ru/news/643691">tweeted late last night</a>: “Putin intervened in our elections and succeeded. Well done.” The Democrats’ tendency to externalise domestic problems all too often made Russia into a convenient scapegoat.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet Trump’s <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/trump-putin-yes-it-s-really-a-thing">position on Russia and eastern Europe</a> will have many worried — and rightly so. Unfortunately, as with many of his positions, what will happen in practice is hard to predict. How will the president-elect’s softer position on Russia translate in terms of State Department activity, and what position will a renewed House and the Senate take on Russia? What will Trump’s desire to toe the Kremlin’s line on Ukraine mean for Kiev’s reform process and the international community’s resolve in supporting Ukraine?</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, Ukraine is likely to be the biggest immediate loser of a Trump presidency. The US has long been a key rhetorical and financial supporter of Ukraine. (Back in the year 2000, Bill Clinton appeared before a crowd in central Kiev and, in a classic JFK moment, <a href="http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=58595">quoted Taras Shevchenko to applause</a>: “Boritesya - poborete”, or “keep on fighting”.) Ukraine has received millions of dollars in US aid for years, as well as US political pressure on an aggressive Russia and a deeply troubled domestic reform process — Ukraine may find itself abandoned when Trump takes office.</p><p dir="ltr">Trump has gone on record to say that “Putin is not going to go into Ukraine” — after Russia seized Crimea and ignited a shadow conflict in the Donbas. It’s not just Trump’s soft stance on Russian aggression toward Ukraine that should be worrying now, it is his lack of knowledge, and clear disinterest in gaining said knowledge.</p><p dir="ltr">The Kremlin is likely to seize on all of this (in fact, Putin would be stupid not to). Considering Trump’s contempt of both NATO and America’s other international commitments, we could see a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, under whatever pretext the Russian state media manages to drum up, whenever the Kremlin turns its eyes away from Syria.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The idea that the Russians can control Trump by threatening to impugn his moral character seems almost laughable</p><p dir="ltr">That said, though Putin may initially enjoy the same “buddy cop”-like relationship with Trump that the former had with Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, if Trump’s long history of burning is business partners is any indication of his future political dealings, the relationship is likely to turn sour. The kind of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/natalia-antonova/trumputin-what-russia-can-teach-us-about-us-election">narcissistic tendencies that Trump has displayed on the campaign trail</a> suggest that Putin’s expectations of a more equal relationship with a Trump-led United States will eventually be disappointed. Of course, such expectations may also be offset by the possibility that Russian intelligence has <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/10/veteran-spy-gave-fbi-info-alleging-russian-operation-cultivate-donald-trump">cultivated and compromised</a> Trump.</p><p dir="ltr">Ultimately, it may be argued that Trump has compromised himself enough as it is — with his boasts about assaulting women and reports of him <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/24/inside-donald-trump-s-one-stop-parties-attendees-recall-cocaine-and-very-young-models.html">hosting sex-parties for rich men eager to sleep with young models</a> — and the American voters simply didn’t care enough about that. At this point, the idea that the Russians can control Trump by threatening to impugn his moral character seems almost laughable.</p><p dir="ltr">Much like Ukraine, the US’ strong strategic interest in Georgia and Moldova could take a hit — though <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/tom-junes/trap-of-countering-russia">their public support for “pro-western” politicians across eastern Europe is questionable</a>, US embassies in the region and the State Department itself are powerful behind-the-scenes actors in political adjudication and reform processes. </p><p>Inside Russia, it is likely that parts of the Russian public will welcome Trump’s victory. Not only he has come to symbolise many people’s desires <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anton-barbashin/limits-of-anti-americanism-in-russia">for a US that doesn’t lecture and doesn’t intervene</a>, but also <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/diana-bruk/why-do-russian-americans-hate-hillary-clinton">a moment of transatlantic schadenfreude at a rival’s upheaval</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">When it comes to Syria, Trump has said that the focus <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/25/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-syria-world-war-three">should be on defeating ISIS</a>, not the removal of Assad, and suggested that a no-fly zone could lead to World War Three. On the eve of the election, it was reported that Russian navy and air forces were preparing for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/08/russia-syria-airstrikes">a significant assault on Aleppo</a>. It seems like Putin and Trump could have a lot to talk about. The real question is, will they hear each other?</p><p>Putin’s senses are dulled by too many years spent unchallenged at the top. As for Trump, we’re dealing with a president-elect who has no political experience, but ample experience at evading responsibility for his costly business ventures. In light of that, this <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/alexey-kovalev-ilya-yablokov/putin-and-trump-s-bad-bromance">bromance</a> isn’t likely to be very heartwarming in the long run, and the most vulnerable nations in Russia’s orbit may bear the brunt. We wish we could be more optimistic, but sometimes, optimism is simply another word for naivete.</p><h2>Adam Ramsay, Editor of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk">oD-UK</a>, reporting from the West Bank</h2><p>The Israeli settlers I met on Monday will be celebrating this morning. The Kiriat Arba settlement, outside Hebron, was largely a Middle Eastern alcove of America’s now not-so-‘alt’ right, complete with guns and Humvees; suburban shopping centres and religious zealotry. They railed against Clinton’s ‘political correctness’ and complained that she is ‘a girl’ while he is ‘a strong man’. They thought that Clinton would be ‘good for Arabs’ and Trump ‘good for Jews’ or ‘better for Israel’. One man told me I should follow the arch conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and another, that Trump is ‘a straight talker’. They were helpful, interested, passionate and fascist. And tonight, they will celebrate the victory of a man who gives license to their racism.</p><p>For Palestinians, it is a different deal. “It will make no difference to us” was the attitude of the vast majority I spoke to over the last few days. They can list you the dates, they can list you the presidents. They remember the promises, and they no longer believe them. “Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Obama” more than one person said to me, almost like a national catch-phrase “they all promise a Palestinian state. They all break their promises.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Lots of Palestinians will share in the wave of fear washing over the world</p><p>That doesn’t mean that they are all ambivalent about the result. A notable majority of people I spoke to, in Jericho, Bethlehem and Ramallah, will be worried about Trump’s victory tonight. “She is a better diplomat” one said “he is a fascist” said another; “he’s racist”; yet another. Whilst surprising numbers talked about how the Democrats are “better on welfare”. Tonight, while many will switch on the news and conclude that their grim situation remains grim, lots of Palestinians will share in the wave of fear washing over the world.</p><p>In Israel, there is another thought circulating. If liberal American Jews see a fascist president and decide to make <em>aliyah</em> and move to Israel, what impact will that have on elections here? We’ll see.</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="/brian-eno/whats-happening-here-on-earth">What&#039;s happening here, on Earth</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/yanis-varoufakis/trumps-triumph-how-progressives-must-react">Trump&#039;s triumph: how progressives must react</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mohammed-fairouz/as-trump-comes-to-power-america-relinquishes-world-leadership">As Trump comes to power, America relinquishes world leadership</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/daniel-bell-opendemocracy/in-trump-s-america-you-can-t-lecture-china-any-more">In Trump’s America, you can’t lecture China any more</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> Francesc Badia i Dalmases Natalia Antonova Adam Ramsay Thomas Rowley Michael Edwards Wed, 09 Nov 2016 12:02:29 +0000 Michael Edwards, Francesc Badia i Dalmases, Thomas Rowley, Natalia Antonova and Adam Ramsay 106615 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The privilege of being privileged https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/privilege-of-being-privileged <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Ford Foundation believes we have an obligation to strengthen capitalism. In fact we have a duty to transform it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DarrenWalker_2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. Credit: Joi Ito/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>It takes a special sort of <em>chutzpah</em>, as we say in New York, to deliver a homily on privilege from the summit of the <a href="https://www.fordfound.org/">Ford Foundation</a>. So kudos to Ford’s President <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darren_Walker">Darren Walker</a> who has done just this in his <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/ignorance-is-the-enemy-within-on-the-power-of-our-privilege-and-the-privilege-of-our-power/">latest annual letter</a>. “Privilege allied with ignorance,” he writes, “has become an equally pernicious, and perhaps more pervasive,&nbsp;enemy&nbsp;to justice,” before going on to focus on disability as a missing piece in the Ford Foundation’s jigsaw of diversity.</p> <p>If people are concerned about privilege, of course, there’s an obvious solution—just give it up: spend out your wealth, roll up your sleeves, and get involved in building alternatives which don’t start from the same position. If you don’t like privilege then don’t create or sustain it. Focus instead on building a system that produces less of the stuff in the first place. Problem solved.</p> <p>But Walker takes a different approach. “The paradox of privilege,” he writes, “is that it shields us from fully experiencing or acknowledging inequality, even while giving us more power to do something about it.” In other words, privilege is not a problem but a puzzle, just as inequality represents an opportunity not just a threat—because it creates the conditions for more philanthropy.</p> <p>This has been a consistent theme in Walker’s writings, including the “<a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/toward-a-new-gospel-of-wealth/">New Gospel of Wealth</a>” which launched the Ford Foundation’s return to a focus on inequality in 2015. We have an “obligation to capitalism” he writes, since capitalism is what created the Foundation in the first place, and it’s what makes philanthropy “both possible and necessary. I believe we are obligated to strengthen and improve the system of which we are part. Philanthropy’s role is to contribute to the flourishing of the far greater part—to help foster a stronger safety net and a level playing field.”</p> <p>Walker takes this position to extremes in defending <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Zuckerberg">Mark Zuckerberg’s $44 billion fortune</a> in an <a href="http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article51450655.html">op-ed in the Sacramento Bee</a>, on the grounds that it will “spur imaginative solutions” to the great problems of our times—like the $3 billion investment in new medical technologies <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/technology/mark-zuckerberg-priscilla-chan-3-billion-pledge-fight-disease.html?_r=0">recently announced by the Facebook CEO and his wife, Priscilla Chan</a>. So long as those at the top of the tree give something back to society then the system will improve—even if it continues to produce great costs and inequalities in the process.</p> <p>In developing this position Walker sits squarely within the traditions of American liberalism, with its belief that promoting equality of opportunity within the current economic and political system is the best response to its failings. Everyone should have the same chance to be privileged, you might say, so that they can use their privilege to attack privilege more efficiently. </p> <p>There’s some logic to this line of reasoning, but it rests on two questionable assumptions.</p> <p>The first is that generating more philanthropy is effective as a route to reducing inequality. If it isn’t, then the intellectual scaffolding supporting Walker’s arguments collapses, because the problems of capitalism can never be addressed regardless of how many new philanthropists it creates. At the macro level however, <a href="https://data.oecd.org/inequality/income-inequality.htm">societies that are most dependent on philanthropy like the USA are also the most unequal and vice versa</a>—it’s the social democracies of Scandinavia that have the highest levels of equality and wellbeing, <a href="http://www.hudson.org/content/researchattachments/attachment/1229/2013_indexof_global_philanthropyand_remittances.pdf">where the foundation sector is very small</a>.</p> <p>Tax-funded, redistributive government; people-funded, independent civil society action; and dynamic but well-regulated businesses are far more important. It was the same story in America under the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Deal">New Deal</a> and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Society">Great Society</a>, which <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_United_States">kept economic inequality at much lower levels</a> before the new gilded age began around the turn of the Millennium. In fact in the US, philanthropy has increased <em><a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/12/05/u-s-income-inequality-on-rise-for-decades-is-now-highest-since-1928/"><em><em>in line</em> with </em>inequality over the last 50 years</a></em>, so the more you have of one, the more you have of the other. Statistically speaking, philanthropy is a symptom of inequality and not a cure.</p> <p>But that’s far too crude, you might say. What’s more important is the evidence at the micro-level that shows all the good things foundations are supporting (including openDemocracy, where you’re reading this). Unfortunately the conclusion is the same: <a href="https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/bitstream/handle/123456789/3717/Bellagio-Edwards.pdf?sequence=1&amp;isAllowed=y">there’s no evidence that this support has had any significant effect on economic inequality</a> since Ford and the others were established. Of course, the past isn’t necessarily an accurate guide to the future—maybe foundations will find a magical solution that turns these findings on their heads—but for now, the many small successes don’t add up to anything that’s powerful enough to halt society’s slide into a permanent division between the one per cent and the other 99.</p> <p>If that’s the case, then Walker’s second assumption doesn’t add up either: we don’t have ‘an obligation to strengthen capitalism’ as he puts it, we have a duty to transform it, since that’s the only way to attack inequality and privilege at their source. Otherwise the runaway train of inequality will keep on disappearing into the distance even as we re-double our efforts to catch up with it. Instead, we have to alter the production and distribution of wealth and power in fundamental ways—who owns what, who gets what, who pays what and who makes decisions. No more $44 billion fortunes, and enough shared wealth for everyone to be their own philanthropist. The changing structure of work and the rise of the tech economy complicate the answers to these questions, but they don’t change the questions themselves or the imperatives of transformation.</p> <p>This is where privilege is incredibly important. Privilege imposes all sorts of conscious and unconscious filters that frame each potential course of action as realistic or utopian, effective or superficial. Even the evidence about ‘what works’ is processed through these filters. The world looks very different from the top and bottom of the pile, but if the supply of money for social change is controlled by those at the top then only a restricted range of possibilities will be supported—and they won’t include transforming the system that put them there in the first place: there’s way too much to lose.</p> <p>That’s because <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-another-year-of-transformation">transformative solutions rely on sacrifice, sharing and radical equality</a> so that the interests of the ‘non-privileged’ are prioritized and actualized at every step—the millions of people who do the work of justice and caring and organizing and protesting and governing and creating and performing on a daily basis. Liberalism keeps the relationships between money and social change pretty much as they are, doling out a few more crumbs from the rich man’s table in the hope that they’ll eventually make a cake. Transformative approaches accept that the cake must be baked from a whole new recipe that restructures those relationships, opening the way for more radical solutions to gain support.</p> <p>This is immensely demanding work both personally—in making equality the default setting of our lives—and politically, in reinventing institutions like the Ford Foundation so that they can practice what they preach. At present, their strategies are incompatible with the goals of transformation because privilege, inequality and control are hardwired into their structure, governance and operations. It’s that sense of privilege that sees <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/megan-tompkins-stange/why-should-bill-gates-decide-how-our-children-will-be-educated">public schools and low-income communities as laboratories</a> for foundation-funded experiments, or convinces philanthropists that they know best even though their on-the-ground experience is generally so limited, or simply that your phone call or proposal don’t merit a response. Privilege is rarely more seductive than when cloaked in altruistic garb.</p> <p>To his credit, Walker <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/ignorance-is-the-enemy-within-on-the-pow">recognizes many of these issues</a> in his letter. “By acknowledging my&nbsp;individual privilege and ignorance,” <a href="https://www.fordfoundation.org/ideas/equals-change-blog/posts/ignorance-is-the-enemy-within-on-the-pow">he writes</a>, “I began to more clearly perceive the Ford Foundation’s&nbsp;institutional&nbsp;privilege and ignorance as well. Transformation starts with acknowledging our own fallibility and deficiencies. To do this, we need to put aside our pride. We need to open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts in order to embrace a complete and intersectional view of inequality. Only when we permit ourselves to be equal parts vigilant and vulnerable, can we model the kind of honest self-reflection we hope to see across our society. Empathy and humility must be among justice’s greatest allies.”</p> <p>I think that’s true. However, it doesn’t matter how much empathy and humility you have if you’re not willing to tackle the structural factors that create so much privilege in the first place. For Ford, it seems that every other form of inequality can and should be challenged, whether it’s based on race, gender, sexuality, income, geography or disability, but the structure of the economic system—the biggest privilege-producing machine on the planet—must be preserved.</p> <p>As Walker’s letter shows, some foundations are recognizing that their current models aren’t working very well, but their search for alternatives is restricted to a narrow band that can’t provide the answers. Renouncing privilege is central to widening that band, so Walker is right to place this issue front and center. But privilege isn’t actually a puzzle—it just takes courage to let it go and work from a different place.</p> <p>In that respect, Walker quotes the writings of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Baldwin">James Baldwin</a> with admiration, but another social justice icon, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audre_Lorde">Audre Lorde</a>, is a better guide to the Ford Foundation’s future. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” <a href="http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/lordedismantle.html">as she put it in 1979</a>. Imagine what would happen if we re-configured the supply of money for social change with that advice in mind? It would mean the wholesale transformation of institutional philanthropy, since for Ford and others like it an assault on privilege is essentially an assault upon themselves.</p> <p>Future annual letters should make for interesting reading.</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/erica-kohlarenas/can-philanthropy-ever-reduce-inequality">Can philanthropy ever reduce inequality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/fatima-van-hattum-arianne-shaffer/transforming-philanthropy-it%E2%80%99s-time-to-get-serious">Transforming philanthropy: it’s time to get serious</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/megan-tompkins-stange/why-should-bill-gates-decide-how-our-children-will-be-educated">Why should Bill Gates decide how our children should be educated?</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 Inequality philanthropy Michael Edwards The role of money Economics Mon, 17 Oct 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 105989 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What’s to be done with Oxfam? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Too small to influence economics, too bureaucratic to be social movements, banned from politics and removed from the societies they’re trying to change, where do NGOs go next? <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">Part 2 here</a>&nbsp;on the Haiti scandal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Oxfam2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Recycle_for_Oxfam_or_you%27ll_be_sorted_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1501324.jpg">Wikimedia/Chris Reynolds</a>. <a title="Creative Commons" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons">Creative Commons</a>&nbsp;Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.</p> <p>On a bookshelf in my office sits a large red book with a plastic cover to ward off mud and blood, sweat and tears. Like all new <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/">Oxfam</a> staff I was given a copy of the <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Field-Directors-Handbook-Development-Workers/dp/0199201536">Field Director’s Handbook</a></em> to guide me when I arrived in Lusaka in 1984. It’s still the best job I ever had.</p> <p>Conspicuously missing from the Handbook was a section on the agency itself, these being times when self-questioning was largely absent from the world of NGOs. But on a visit from headquarters my boss <a href="http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/blog/author/david-bryer">David Bryer</a> told me something that really made me think.</p> <p>“Our goal Mike,” he said, “is to make Oxfam the non-governmental equivalent of the United Nations.” That impressed me at the time (I was only 27), but in the intervening years I’ve accumulated many doubts, as much about the UN as about Oxfam and other NGOs. </p> <p>Both institutions continue to provide useful, concrete assistance to people who really need it, but the moral energy and clarity of purpose that marked out their early years have largely disappeared as their bureaucracies have blossomed and global circumstances have shifted. Still dominated by rich country interests despite their best intentions, they have come to rest in the comfort blanket of foreign aid. No-one is willing to close them down, and no-one is willing to transform them into something more suited to the multi-polar, post-aid world that’s rapidly emerging.</p> <p>So what happens next?</p> <p>That’s the question that I and others debated at the <a href="http://www.ids.ac.uk/news/exploring-the-state-market-and-society-triad-for-a-new-development-era">50th Anniversary of the Institute for Development Studies</a> in Brighton in July 2016. We discussed three different scenarios, the first involving a radical change of role. </p> <p>At present, all the Oxfams of the world follow a similar model: services for the poor and advocacy with the rich. This makes a lot of sense organizationally: providing humanitarian assistance and channeling resources to development projects in the South brings in lots of money to sustain a growing infrastructure (and does something practical to help); while putting pressure on governments, corporations and international institutions through research, reports and lobbying tries to get at some of the causes of poverty by using field experience as a source of experience, legitimacy and expertise.</p> <p>The problem is that none of this has much effect on the big problems of our time such as climate change and inequality. That’s because elite advocacy is too thin and foreign aid is too blunt a weapon to influence deep-rooted social, political and economic forces that have to be addressed through struggles between local institutions. </p> <p>Too small to be agents of economic transformation; too big and bureaucratic to be social movements; banned from politics because of their charitable status and structurally removed from the societies they’re trying to change, Oxfam and the others end up sitting uncomfortably in the middle as the real action takes place around them—doing what they can to save lives, speak out and build on small successes in the process. But what if that intermediary position were seen as a positive and used to retool these organizations as bridges and connectors?</p> <p>That’s the alternative that seems to be supported by many NGOs themselves, including those who <a href="http://www.climatejusticeaotearoa.org/2016/05/21/an-open-letter-to-our-fellow-activists-across-the-globe-building-from-below-and-beyond-borders/">signed an open letter</a> in 2014 that called on the sector to reposition itself <em>in service to</em> social movements and other expressions of indigenous civil society. One of the signatories was <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/profiles/adriano-campolina">Adriano Campolina</a>, now the director of <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/who-we-are">Action Aid International</a> and another panelist at IDS.</p> <p>Campolina outlined his vision of NGOs as ‘whitewater rafts’ instead of ‘supertankers,’ working in the spaces between governments, civil societies and markets; bridging across different geographies and constituencies; and focused on embedding values of equality, sustainability and rights into larger systems instead of implementing aid-funded projects. There are already echoes of this approach in <a href="http://www.just-food.com/analysis/how-oxfam-rates-food-majors-on-worker-issues-in-their-supply-chains-and-how-the-companies-reacted_id133233.aspx">Oxfam’s work on supply chains</a>, for example, and in efforts by <a href="http://www.christianaid.org.uk/">Christian Aid</a> and others to engage with social activism at home. It’s well-suited to the increasingly networked nature of politics, economics and social change.</p> <p>But as panelist <a href="http://www.healthpolicyproject.com/hivAdvocates/index.cfm?page=9">Denise Namburete from N’weti</a> in Mozambique pointed out, working as an intermediary in these ways requires that you take a backseat to larger struggles, always giving precedence to others so that they can occupy the driver’s seat of their own social change. It’s a lesson that’s well-established in the history of social movements. Think of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highlander_Research_and_Education_Center">Highlander Center</a> in Tennessee, for example, and the behind-the-scenes role it played in the US Civil Rights movement; or a group like the <a href="https://populardemocracy.org/">Center for Popular Democracy</a> in Brooklyn today.</p> <p>The problem is that you can’t make enough money from these roles and relationships to sustain a large and growing organization, and no NGO is going to voluntarily reduce its size, income or status. So while intellectually attractive, this option seems impractical in terms of decision making by boards of trustees and directors, none of whom wants to be the first to see their organization shrink in the service of a somewhat abstract cause. As I’ve learned for myself after 40 years in NGOs and foundations (and despite all evidence to the contrary), in the minds of those in charge it’s still size that matters.</p> <p>That brings me to option two: until the foreign aid stops flowing, why not grab as much of it as you can to deliver more of what you’re already doing? &nbsp;<a href="http://insights.careinternational.org.uk/people/governance-team/john-plastow">John Plastow</a>, another of the panelists who recently left a senior position with <a href="http://www.careinternational.org.uk/">CARE</a>, foresaw this happening with a number of NGOs as well as the so-called ‘beltway bandits’—consultancy outfits in Washington DC and other donor capitals who compete for huge contracts in health, education and emergency work. <a href="http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/">Save the Children</a> seemed <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jul/28/justin-forsyth-if-ngos-stay-politically-correct-we-wont-have-an-impact">to be heading this way</a> under its recently-departed CEO, <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53015#.V5eKaPkrI2w">Justin Forsyth</a>.</p> <p>With growth as the guiding light, the temptation is to bring back the ‘poverty porn’ in order to lever more donations; do as many deals as possible with corporations, governments and foundations; and eschew any criticism that might upset those in power. Providing more services, or even running more campaigns, won’t do much to tackle the roots of inequality and dispossession, but if such goals aren’t part of your strategic plan anyway then that’s no great loss. </p> <p>For those convinced by the argument that <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/scott-weathers/can-effective-altruism-change-world-it-already-has">immediate lifesaving is a better option than long term social transformation</a> this strategy may be attractive, but most of the people I talk to inside Oxfam and other agencies aren’t persuaded. While they see problems in going forwards, they have no interest in going backwards—which is what this option represents. Instead, there’s a third model available which is the unsurprising choice of the majority: let’s try to do the best we can to improve things without any revolutionary upheavals.</p> <p>This strategy still requires reforms, which is why Oxfam and the others are putting so much time into internationalizing their structures as a way of engaging more effectively with forces on the ground and answering criticisms about their legitimacy. There are also efforts to <a href="https://charter4change.org/signatories/">re-direct more resources to other NGOs in the South</a>. Whether Oxfam India or Kenya will ever become authentically rooted in their own societies is a crucial question, but one that’s too early to answer now. What’s clear is that there’s little appetite for more fundamental changes, a stance that annoys commentators like <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/deborah-doane">Deborah Doane</a> (another panelist) who has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/deborah-doane">written along these lines for The Guardian</a>. </p> <p>Institutional inertia is a feature of all large organizations, though it’s often quite subtly expressed. Deviations from ideal scenarios like ‘putting ourselves out of a job’ or ‘handing over control’ can easily be rationalized until the boundary between altruism and self-interest eventually disappears—so what’s good for Oxfam is automatically seen as good for the people on whose behalf it works. And there’s a common belief that roles and relationships can be successfully adjusted without reducing the size or importance of the institution itself. After all, that’s how institutions think.</p> <p>I don’t expect these rationalizations will go away. Externally, there are few lines of accountability through which pressure can be exerted, since donors need NGOs to deliver foreign aid and recipients have no voice. Internally, no one disruptive is going to be hired to a leadership position and there’s little of the angst that’s seen in conferences like IDS. So what’s going to happen? </p> <p>Tensions between reform and transformation are hardwired into the NGO community and look set to continue, unless or until some large scale shock arrives to force through more fundamental changes—like the end of foreign aid, or the removal of public credibility in the wake of some massive scandal, or a blanket ejection of foreign organizations by Southern governments. But those prospects seem remote.</p> <p>Against that background, the panel’s conclusion was predictable but well-grounded: there won’t be one common pattern, but there will be increasing differentiation within the NGO community as each agency moves forward. I have a soft spot for Oxfam, so I hope they become a pioneer at the transformational end of that spectrum. </p> <p>Just like the United Nations, NGOs have become a comfortable part of the furniture of foreign aid that was first designed in the 1950s, so it’s not surprising that they now look a little dated. But you don’t get rid of that old armchair in the corner of the living room just because the upholstery is frayed around the edges. Eventually, however, you do have to let it go.</p><p><strong>In the light of the sexual abuse scandal surrounding Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies I've updated this piece <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">here</a>.</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/money-in-terms-of-social-change-it%E2%80%99s-both-%E2%80%98beauty-and-beast%E2%80%99">Money: in terms of social change, it’s both ‘beauty and the beast’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rosalind-eyben/i-am-sorry-for-you-you-mean-well-trust-and-history-in-making-of-better">I am sorry for you, you mean well: trust and history in the making of a better world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alessandra-pigni/no-you-can%E2%80%99t-%E2%80%98be-change%E2%80%99-alone">No, you can’t ‘be the change’ alone</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation foreign aid NGOs Oxfam Michael Edwards Internationalizing Human Rights Organizations Activism Economics Mon, 01 Aug 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 104407 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us and not what’s worst? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/is-there-any-hope-for-new-age-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Both inner and outer change are essential for political transformation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TimGray_1.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/">https://pixabay.com</a>. CC0 Public Domain.</p> <p><span>Picture a human anus superimposed on President Obama’s mouth, or a smiling Hilary Clinton attached to the giant belly of a hog, or a presidential primary debate “</span><a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/donald-trump-makes-his-penis-campaign-issue-during-debate-n531666">featuring Donald Trump comparing his genitals</a><span> with those of a group of fellow frat boys.” Disgusting right? Welcome to election season in America.</span></p> <p><span>Some Democrats have also been honing their skills on Photoshop, though they usually limit their efforts to Pinocchio-sized noses or unfortunate expressions captured on the faces of Republicans. Still, Sarah Palin received the same ‘lipstick-on-a-pig’ treatment in 2008 as Clinton is getting now.</span></p> <p><span>But so what? Isn’t this all part of the normal rough and tumble of highly-contested politics? After all, unflattering cartoons have been part of every election season since the U.S. Constitution was adopted. Politics has always been a “contact sport” </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/06/huma-abedin-hillary-clinton-anthony-weiner-documentary">as Clinton aide Huma Abedin puts it</a><span>, “it’s not for everyone.”</span></p> <p><span>Or perhaps it’s not for anyone if </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout">declining voting rates</a><span> are anything to go by in many countries (recent referenda in the UK notwithstanding). </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ray-filar/dont-vote-political-case-for-not-voting-in-2015-general-election">Why bother to vote</a><span> if your voice just gets lost in the noise created by mindless slanging matches between uninspiring candidates? And that’s the problem: this style of politics is deeply antagonistic to any genuine expression of democracy, since democracy requires engagement, reflection, compromise and negotiation as well as protest and opposition—and therefore a good deal of empathy and openness to other people’s views. A number of commentators see Trump’s ascendance not as a freakish occurrence that threatens to place the ugliest of Americans in the White House, but as the logical end point of a long-term degeneration in the manners of political engagement.</span></p> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/opinion/the-governing-cancer-of-our-time.html">Writing in the New York Times, for example, David Brooks</a><span> cited Trump as the apotheosis of “antipolitics,” arrived at through “a series of overlapping downward spirals” revolving around the election of incompetent but determined politicians, a dedicated refusal to compromise, and the exaggeration of all political differences. </span><a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/3/1495636/%3Ca">Bob Burnett went further for Daily Kos</a><span> by tracing these trends back to Ronald Reagan’s encouragement of “absolutism” in politics (partly to tempt evangelical Christians into the Republican fold), which also encouraged the celebration of ignorance on policy questions and the raising up of opposition at all costs to whatever the ‘other side’ recommends.</span></p> <p><span>‘Defeat, ignore and dominate’ becomes the mantra, accumulating political power for no creative purpose. The human costs of this process must be considerable in terms of dividing the polity still further, fomenting conspiracy theories and mistrust, and rendering progress pretty much impossible on key issues like health, education and inequality—beyond a few tweaks here and there that can actually make it through the logjam of parliament or Congress.</span></p> <p><span>There’s already evidence that the bullying style of the Trump campaign is filtering down into schools and other institutions. For example, an </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/09/california-primary-trump-rhetoric-school-bully">online survey of 2,000 teachers</a><span> carried out in June 2016 revealed an increase in racist and other taunts that, at least in part, was attributable to the xenophobic rhetoric of the presidential primary debates—with children repeating some of Trump’s statements almost word for word (“You were born in a Taco Bell”).</span></p> <p><span>It’s all a million miles away from </span><a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/12/remarks-president-barack-obama-%E2%80%93-prepared-delivery-state-union-address">President Obama’s final State of the Union speech</a><span> delivered in January 2016. “How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us,” he asked, “and not what’s worst.” Instead, politics has become a canvass for expressing the most limited and fearful expression of our identities.</span></p> <p><span>So it’s perfect timing for the revised edition of a classic book from the 1970s that goes right to the heart of these dilemmas and offers an optimistic route into the future—</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Satin">Mark Satin</a><span>’s “</span><a href="http://www.radicalmiddle.com/nap.htm">New Age Politics: our only real alternative</a><span>.” Originally published in 1976 by a non-profit publishing collective in Canada, the book became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. </span><a href="http://www.fritjofcapra.net/">Fritjof Capra</a><span> wrote a foreword to the German translation and Satin was later celebrated as one of Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson’s “</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cultural_Creatives">Cultural Creatives</a><span>.”</span></p> <p><span>In an email exchange after the release of his new book, Satin told me of his struggles with </span><a href="https://nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy">diabetic retinopathy and macular edema</a><span>. These health problems limit him to three hours of reading or writing a day—making the publishing process much more difficult—but he was still upbeat.&nbsp; “Yes, the term New Age is out of fashion” he said, “but substitute red-green, integral, or transformational” and the story is the same—there won’t be any breakthrough in politics without a shift in consciousness inside those who take part, but those shifts are more likely to occur through new political institutions that encourage openness and collaboration.</span></p> <p><span>In exploring these personal-political relationships Satin traces everything back to what he calls the “six-sided prison:” patriarchal attitudes, egocentricity, scientism, a bureaucratic mentality, nationalism, and the “big city outlook” (by which he means living in any oversized place where we are distanced from nature).This prison is responsible for racism, sexism, ecocide and repression, which are then institutionalized in social, political and economic systems like schools, families, religions, hospitals, the military, and the “hyper-centralized state.”</span></p> <p><span>By developing a “prison-free consciousness,” alternative, non-monolithic institutions can be created like </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation-special-issues/transpartisan-politics">trans-partisan decision-making</a><span>, healing instead of industrial medicine, learning in place of school production lines, job sharing instead of competition, and lots of different kinds of families and sexual partnering. Satin sees these things as forming the essential sub-structure of a different form of politics, but where to start?</span></p> <p><span>His advice is simple and to the point: “inner before outer, but don’t dawdle.” Begin by examining yourself and your role in maintaining this prison, but move quickly into action by creating new institutions. “I wish I was able to tell you how to break down each of the prison walls,” he writes, “But the truth is, I’m still hacking away at my own.” It’s a refreshing dose of honesty in a conversation about personal change, mindfulness and meditation in politics which </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/darrin-drda/selective-awareness-of-wisdom-20">often seems shallow and self-serving</a><span>.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>In </span><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-heller/the-new-age-40-years-late_b_9765486.html">an interview for Huffington Post</a><span> Satin emphasized that “the prison doesn’t exist only in our minds, and we can’t just wish or meditate or educate it away….One thing I have noticed over the years is that some of the most dedicated meditators I know are also some of the most aggressive, manipulative, and competitive people…a transformational mass political movement can’t be generated by telling people what to do. Instead, we need to make our goals&nbsp;</span><em>and our everyday processes</em><em>&nbsp;</em><span>seem so compelling, so life-affirming, and so sustainable that people will want to live in that world even if it means they’ll have to drive smaller cars.”&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>With its advocacy of a whole raft of institutions that are now beginning to emerge 40 years after Satin first outlined them, New Age Politics was way ahead of its time. But strangely for a book with that title, it doesn’t contain much concrete guidance on alternative political systems. Localization is suggested as a way of boosting political participation, along with new political parties and systems that emphasize “the obligation of officials to help everyone get their way” (as opposed to serving one particular faction). Yet it’s precisely the lack of detailed working alternatives that bedevils the search for political transformation.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Of course the screen isn’t completely blank. Satin published a more elaborate account of his political ideas in a more recent book called <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001NPD2ZQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&amp;btkr=1">The Radical Middle</a>. The social and political movements that have unfolded across Europe in the last five years like </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/lorenzo-marsili-jorge-moruno/podemos-reclaiming-europe-is-revolutionary-slogan">Podemos</a><span> and </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/mediterranean-journeys-in-hope/janina-pescinski/common-humanity-of-nuit-debout">Nuit Debout</a><span> carry within them the seeds of personal-political change that he would instantly recognize as ‘New Age,’ though in most cases they have yet to be connected to the representative elements of democracy in any sustained or substantive fashion. It’s that question—very live right now in the struggles of the Labour Party in Britain and, to a lesser extent, between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the Democrats in the USA—that looks set to dominate progressive politics in the short to medium term.</span></p> <p><span>Removing the toxic influence of money is also vital, as are mechanisms that allow citizens to vote directly on matters of local concern when the national state ignores them—like the ballot initiatives that supported a single payer health insurance system in Colorado. </span><a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/people-are-happier-in-states-that-allow-ballot-initiatives-20160206?utm_source=YTW&amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=20160205">Research suggests</a><span> that people are happier in the 24 U.S. states that make such initiatives a part of the political process because they feel more connected and see that they can have more influence—though ballots and referenda are not, of course, immune from manipulation themselves.</span></p> <p><span>The reality, however, is that none of these experiments have made much headway. Perhaps the US needs its own ‘Brexit moment’ to create space for the kind </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/neal-lawson/labouring-on-its-time-to-leap">of radical regeneration of progressive politics that may be possible in times of crisis</a><span>. But in the face of systemic inertia it’s tempting to return to Satin’s core message that new political institutions need new people to make them work, especially leaders who can break out of the status quo and create space for lots of others to follow suit until some sort of tipping point is reached.</span></p> <p><span>In that sense there’s one other, very good reason to heed his call for ‘inner before outer change, but don’t dawdle,’ and that’s because changing ourselves is something that lies largely within our own control. Structural considerations like race, class, gender and poverty always restrict people’s opportunities and choices, but no-one needs to wait for the revolution before getting started.</span></p> <p><span>So the next time you’re tempted to demonize your opponents, take care—it could be the start of a long and slippery slope. On the other hand, resisting that temptation could be the springboard to New Age politics.</span></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/who%E2%80%99s-afraid-of-partisan-politics">Who’s afraid of partisan politics?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ronan-harrington/why-spirituality-is-key-to-more-visionary-politics">Why spirituality is the key to a more visionary politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/indra-adnan/cyber-age-demands-politics-of-spirit">The cyber-age demands a politics of the spirit</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 Political polarization politics Understanding the rise of Trump Michael Edwards Trans-partisan politics Activism Love and Spirituality Mon, 18 Jul 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 104007 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Crowdfunder: Transformation needs your help https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ray-filar-michael-edwards/crowdfunder-transformation-needs-your-help <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If you care about the possibilities for radical change in society, please join our campaign.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/shutterstock_251596087_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/">www.shutterstock.com</a>/<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-2167259p1.html">Arthimedes</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation">Transformation</a> is a unique global niche for journalism about the possibilities for radical change in society. We launched it as a new section of openDemocracy three years ago. Since then a community has begun to flourish around our debates.</p><p><span>By examining hot-button issues through the frame of the ‘personal and the political’—or ‘where love meets social justice’ as our strap-line puts it—we’ve been able to offer a fresh perspective on politics, economics, culture and social activism.</span></p><p>This has taken us to some fascinating places. We've taken on the ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/adam-parsons/it%25e2%2580%2599s-time-to-put-power-of-sharing-back-into-sharing-economy">sharing economy</a>’ and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/richard-youngs/can-non-western-democracy-help-to-foster-political-transformation">new forms of political participation</a>. We've exposed the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/when-is-civil-society-force-for-social-transformation">creeping corporatization of social movements</a>. Our writers have reported from the front lines of intersectional, grassroots activism. And we’ve also explored the underpinnings of personal change from a critical perspective—things like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/james-k-rowe/zen-and-art-of-social-movement-maintenance">mindfulness</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kristen-zimmerman/forget-empathy-%25e2%2580%2593-it%25e2%2580%2599s-time-for-radical-connection">empathy</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/william-davies/corruption-of-happiness">happiness</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/politics-of-mental-health">mental health</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/juliet-michaelson/in-defence-of-wellbeing">wellbeing</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/how-to-decolonize-your-yoga-practice">yoga</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/darrin-drda/selective-awareness-of-wisdom-20">meditation</a>.</p><p>Our coverage seems to have struck a chord with readers and writers who want to explore the radical potential of love, art and spirit as forces for social change: our audience has grown from zero to over a million people in the last three years; we have readers in over 200 countries; and our articles are regularly republished and translated by other media outlets—over 70 times in 2015 alone. </p><p><span>More than half our contributors are women, 30 per cent self-identify as LGBTQ, a third are people of color, and 54 per cent are 39 years young or younger. We’re committed to platforming the voices of contributors who are often marginalised elsewhere.</span></p><p><span>Now we’re asking for your help. We must raise at least $18,000 over the next four weeks to continue our work through the end of 2016. With these funds we’ll be able to keep publishing four brilliant pieces every week and complete the work that’s required to raise money from our foundation partners for the following two years—so whatever you can give us now will be rewarded many times over in the future.</span></p><p><span>With the money we raise we’ll be able to extend our path-breaking coverage of topics that the mainstream media simplifies, sensationalizes or ignores—like mental health and the economy or the role of spirituality in social movements. And we can reach out to new writers, readers and partners. If you have ideas on who we should commission or what we should cover in the future, please let us know.</span></p><p><strong>How you can help</strong></p><p><span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation">Transformation</a></span><span>&nbsp;</span>is not another good news magazine, but a place to engage with each other about the realities and struggles of the radical imagination. Since we are not bankrolled by corporate funders or advertising we rely on the support of our community of active, visionary readers, partners and contributors. This is where you come in.</p><p><span>We’ve set up a special donation page where you can give whatever you like in whichever currency is most convenient. Click </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&amp;id=14">here if you want to give in UK£</a><span> and </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&amp;id=16">here if you prefer to give in US$</a><span>. You can also use other currencies by inserting the amount you want to give in the “other amount” box on either of these pages and then clicking “confirm contribution,” which will convert your donation into Pounds.</span></p><p>You can also help us by sharing this appeal with others—on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, by email and word of mouth. We know that times are tough, so if you can’t make a financial contribution it would be great if you could help us with publicity. And if you can do both, then that’s the best of all.</p><p>If you enjoy reading Transformation and think that our work is important, we hope that you’ll lend us a hand.</p><p><span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&amp;id=14">Please give generously. Thank you for your support.</a></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-another-year-of-transformation">Welcome to another year of transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-blog/ray-filar/get-ready-for-transformation">Get ready for Transformation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Michael Edwards Ray Filar Mon, 25 Apr 2016 08:21:29 +0000 Ray Filar and Michael Edwards 101589 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why it’s time to say goodbye to ‘doing good and doing well’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/why-it-s-time-to-say-goodbye-to-doing-good-and-doing-well <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Being simultaneously rich and radical is certainly seductive, but the conflicts that have animated history can’t be wished away.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/love-vs-money_2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://www.rebellesociety.com/">http://www.rebellesociety.com</a>. All rights reserved</p> <p><span>I hate to admit it, but it’s been a good week for the </span><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Philanthrocapitalism-How-Rich-Save-World/dp/1596913746">philanthrocapitalists</a><span>—the movement that claims that social and environmental problems are best solved by wealthy people working through business and the market.</span></p> <p><span>First up was </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates">Bill Gates’</a><span> announcement of the “</span><a href="http://www.breakthroughenergycoalition.com/en/">Breakthrough Energy Coalition</a><span>” at the Paris climate conference, a venture designed to channel investment into new, low-carbon technologies. In fact </span><a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/11/30/3726419/bill-gates-breakthrough-energy/">the greatest need right now</a><span> is the mass deployment of </span><em>existing</em><span> technologies like solar power, but that’s a less attractive proposition to investors who are looking for big returns from R&amp;D.</span></p> <p><span>Then came </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/a-letter-to-our-daughter/10153375081581634">Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s letter to their new-born daughter</a><span>, declaring their intention to give 99 per cent of their Facebook shares away during their own lifetimes—around $45 billion for good causes at current prices. Except that ‘holding back’ would be a more accurate description than ‘giving anything away,’ since the new parents are transferring their resources into </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/business/dealbook/how-mark-zuckerbergs-altruism-helps-himself.html">their own limited liability corporation</a><span> (LLC) instead of a charitable foundation.</span></p> <p><span>This move will enable them to exercise more control over how their wealth is invested with even less transparency and accountability, but they’ll </span><a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/mark-zuckerberg-and-the-rise-of-philanthrocapitalism">still get a tax write off if the shares are donated</a><span> (though not if they’re sold at a profit, in which case capital gains tax kicks in). In their letter, Chan and Zuckerberg </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/a-letter-to-our-daughter/10153375081581634">are explicit about the benefits they think will grow from weaving social and financial objectives into a single pattern</a><span>, just as the fates of the LLC and Facebook are intertwined.</span></p> <p><span>The idea that underpins these examples is ‘doing good and doing well:’ there’s no conflict between making money and making change. It’s an old idea that goes back to a misreading of </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Smith">Adam Smith</a><span>, but one that’s been given new energy by the rise of </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_investing">‘impact investing’</a><span> and socially-conscious billionaires. </span><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=qGWghr2JMI8C">Smith knew</a><span> that however efficient it might be in directing money towards its most ‘productive’ use, the market’s ‘invisible hand’ wouldn’t be able to reconcile individual self-interest with collective welfare unless it was guided by some deeper moral force.</span></p> <p>“The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular order or society,” as he wrote in the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Theory_of_Moral_Sentiments">Theory of Moral Sentiments</a>.” That’s an important statement because it reveals the struggles and trade-offs involved in any significant social change—which means there’s nothing automatic about the links between ‘doing well and doing good.’ There may be situations where these trade-offs are deemed acceptable (as in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nelarine-cornelius/recapturing-civic-heart-of-social-enterprise">social enterprises at their best</a>), but for anyone committed to social transformation, this slogan is a dangerous mirage. </p> <p>Being simultaneously rich and radical—the revolutionary who drives a Porsche—is certainly seductive. That’s part of what gives this idea its power and popularity. But the conflicts that have animated history can’t be wished away. Democracy and the market are different organizing principles. The public and the private pull in opposite directions. Your interests are not the same as mine. And self-sacrifice, not self-interest, is central to facing up to the challenges that lie ahead.&nbsp; </p> <p>In making this critique I’m not suggesting that all activists should wear hair shirts, or that markets have no role to play in certain aspects of social change. Providing everyone with a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rajesh-makwana/rethinking-basic-income-in-sharing-society">minimum basic income</a> is a crucial part of any progressive agenda for the future, particularly when more of life’s essentials are being monetized (think health, pensions and education for example). </p> <p>In the US that means between <a href="http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-10-12/what-economics-nobel-winner-angus-deaton-shows-policy-makers">$60,000 and $75,000 a year in current prices</a>, depending on whose estimates one believes. Above that threshold there are no significant increases in happiness, wellbeing or generosity, though these figures are still higher than the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States">incomes of most Americans</a>. In contrast to the 1 per cent, they are doing lots of good as activists and volunteers and donors, but not so well financially. In fact their <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States">median incomes are going down</a>. </p> <p>Similarly, I have no problem with charities that raise commercial revenue as part of their income, so long as this doesn’t deflect them from their mission for social change. And I’d far rather have ‘socially-responsible’ corporations and products and market signals than ‘irresponsible’ ones. But none of this removes the conflicts that exist between profit-making and the demands of social transformation. Here are three reasons why. </p> <p>The first is simple mathematics: climate change, inequality, violence, racism and sexism are such difficult and deep-rooted problems that no less than 100 per cent of our energies will be needed to confront them. We can’t <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/adam-parsons/it%e2%80%99s-time-to-put-power-of-sharing-back-into-sharing-economy">build a sharing economy</a> unless people are actually prepared to share, nor combat environmental degradation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andr%C3%A9-reichel/why-green-growth-won%E2%80%99t-transform-economy">without sacrificing some of our consumption</a>, nor achieve true equality unless men <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gary-barker/why-don%e2%80%99t-men-care">take up a half of all responsibilities in the home</a>. These are extremely demanding challenges that require major personal, social and economic shifts. </p> <p>But blending social and financial considerations together automatically reduces the priority that’s given to one side or the other, since one can’t have more than 100 per cent of anything at one time. Is 50 per cent good enough to make real progress on such problems? What if social considerations fall even further below that level? In theory it’s possible to give equal weight to the social and the financial, but in practice that’s very difficult to do because of the second of my three reasons: money nearly always wins. </p> <p>The mangling of altruism with self interest is supposed to achieve the perfect mix of both, but in reality it usually leads to the erosion of social objectives over time. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rick-cohen/is-social-enterprise-becoming-reactionary-force">Social enterprises</a> begin to ignore clients who are more difficult to reach (it’s the same problem with <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/10/19/charter-school-demographics-coming-under-fresh-scrutiny/">charter schools</a> in the USA); <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/keston-k-perry/public-private-partnerships-they-re-as-old-as-christopher-columbus">public-private partnerships</a> begin to lean further towards commercial interests and priorities as accountability to the public is diluted; <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=4Z-LuQAACAAJ&amp;dq=impact+investing+bugg+levine&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiWloWGxsrJAhWB1x4KHWUrArUQ6AEINzAB">impact investors</a> are more patient than the stereotype of Wall Street suits or those in the City, but they still need to make some money, and that limits what they can support. And I don’t know any <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=GXb0cISOd8UC&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;dq=small+change+edwards&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiKu5bWxsrJAhXJ7R4KHcu5CjIQ6AEINjAB#v=onepage&amp;q=small%20change%20edwards&amp;f=false">philanthrocapitalist</a> who’s willing to transform the system that has put them firmly at the top.</p> <p>The reason this happens isn’t rocket science: money doesn’t only ‘talk’ as the old saying puts it, it jabbers incessantly in your ears until even the socially-conscious begin to listen, especially in conditions of widespread financial insecurity and corporate domination of politics and the media. There may not be a need to sacrifice financial returns in order to achieve a positive social impact, <a href="http://thephilanthropist.ca/2009/12/oil-and-water-or-the-perfect-margarita-where-is-the-social-in-the-social-economy/">but there <em>is</em> a need to sacrifice <em>social</em> returns in order to make a profit</a>. And that excludes huge areas of important social action that need more time and patience than can be ‘afforded,’ or that prioritize quality over quantity regardless of the cost, or that simply can’t be monetized. </p> <p>That takes me to reason number three: social change and market mechanisms aren’t easily interchangeable. They are fundamentally different—more like ‘oil and water’ than the ‘perfect Margarita’ that’s presented by advocates of ‘<a href="http://www.blendedvalue.org/">blended value</a>.’ Take, for example, cooperation and competition. These are not points along the same continuum, but opposing principles and values.&nbsp; It’s the same for individualism and collective action, or intrinsic and instrumental value, or gifts versus investments. </p> <p>One of most pernicious effects of philanthrocapitalism is to make <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy">gifts and gift relationships</a> somehow seem suspect, second-rate or backward. But these relationships—expressed through community and solidarity and social movements—are the basis of all healthy human interaction. Our imaginations have become so colonized by market thinking that we no longer know or care what it means to be fully human in this sense—to give freely with no expectation of return; to show solidarity without the need for a reward; or to hold a conversation that doesn’t degenerate into a transaction or a deal.</p> <p>The truth of the matter—demonstrated time and again through <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/joe-guinan-thomas-m-hanna/privatisation-very-british-disease">the history of privatization and the decline of public or civic values</a>—is that markets have little useful role to play in any humanistic endeavor. That includes health, education, politics, civil society and the arts. As Adam Smith realized, markets are good at some things and lousy at others. They’re not designed to transform themselves or to build new systems based on love and compassion. Both are needed, but each in their place. Resisting such incursions is one of the keys to reformulating society around a radically different rationality than self-interest.</p> <p>Let’s not shy away from the confrontations that reveal where social and financial considerations can fit together and where they should be kept apart. It’s those confrontations that open the door to deeper-rooted changes in people, values and institutions.</p> <p>The goal of making money is making money. The goal of social change is social change. Sometimes the two meet in the middle, but usually they don’t, and that’s absolutely fine. For a new generation of Samaritans who need a financial return on their compassion, a new slogan may provide some necessary extra motivation. But the rest of us don’t have to settle for self-limiting, self-promoting and self-interested ‘solutions.’ ‘Doing good and doing well’ is no basis for social transformation. It’s time it was put to bed.</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/money-in-terms-of-social-change-it%E2%80%99s-both-%E2%80%98beauty-and-beast%E2%80%99">Money: in terms of social change, it’s both ‘beauty and the beast’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/it%E2%80%99s-time-to-put-money-out-of-its-misery">It’s time to put money out of its misery</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rick-cohen/is-social-enterprise-becoming-reactionary-force">Is social enterprise becoming a reactionary force?</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 blended value impact investing philanthrocapitalism Michael Edwards The role of money Economics Wed, 09 Dec 2015 00:30:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 98299 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In memory of Rick Cohen https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/in-memory-of-rick-cohen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Civil society in America has lost one of its staunchest defenders</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Rick-Cohen.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Rick Cohen. Credit: Nonprofit Quarterly. All rights reserved.</p> <p><a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/author/rcohen51/">Rick Cohen</a> was the national correspondent of <a href="http://nonprofitquarterly.org/">NonProfit Quarterly</a> in the United States, and a leading writer on philanthropy and social change for <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/rick-cohen">openDemocracy</a> and many other publications. He collapsed and died earlier this week in Washington DC at the age of 64, probably from a heart attack. He’s survived by his beloved daughter Ellie.</p> <p>Earlier this month Rick was working on a piece for Transformation on “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_impact_bond">social impact bonds</a>”—the latest attempt to fix social problems using the magic of the market. But then he sent an email to say he was going to miss his deadline:</p> <p>“Well, I’m going to be a little slow.&nbsp;I had a silly stupid accident (don’t ask) that resulted in a broken leg, ribcage damage, and lots of other stuff which has slowed me down immensely.&nbsp;If I’m able to work a couple of hours a day, I’m lucky.&nbsp;But that means I’m not going to be able to get you the SIBs piece for some weeks, maybe mid-November?&nbsp;I’m sorry, but old brittle bodies break when they bounce on concrete.”</p> <p>I don’t know whether his accident was connected to his death two weeks later. What’s certain is that we’ve lost a critical voice in the conversation about philanthropy and its future. In a field where too many are afraid to tell their truths for fear of offending those in power, or too eager to follow the latest fads and fashions in case they appear to be out of step, Rick was relentless in uncovering the stories that really mattered, and in telling them with style and heart and integrity.</p> <p>I first met him when he worked as director of NCRP in Washington DC—the <a href="http://www.ncrp.org/">National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy</a>, which acts as a pressure group on the foundation sector in the United States. I had been sent by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Berresford">Susan Berresford</a>, then the Ford Foundation’s president, to talk to Rick about a column he had written which called for the chair of Ford’s trustees to resign amidst allegations of financial impropriety at his company, which was Xerox.</p> <p>With the iron fist of money wrapped ever so carefully in the velvet glove of arm-around-the-shoulder advice, my job was to make it clear that Ford’s grants to NCRP were conditional on ‘responsible reporting and constructive dialogue,’ which excluded outright criticism of a major funder.</p> <p>I’m not sure whether I or Rick was more embarrassed at this toe-curling encounter, but thankfully he ignored my advice and went on to make such criticisms a staple of his journalistic diet. That’s what made him so valuable—just keep digging, and tell it like it is, and let the pieces fall where they may. Part investigative journalist, part <em>agent provocateur</em>, part community organizer, and wholly committed to the value of an independent, reflective and democratic life, Rick Cohen made a huge contribution to a field he both loved and disrespected.</p> <p>Profits and non-profits alike were given the same critical attention, with charities involved in any sort of shenanigans or scandals singled out for his attention. They included <a href="http://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/11/11/a-veterans-day-call-for-cleaning-out-the-scamming-veterans-charities/">Veterans charities ripping off their donors</a> or promoting a phony cause—step forward “<a href="http://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/09/17/the-fake-vet-nonprofit-that-sponsored-trumps-uss-iowa-speech-on-veterans-issues/">Veterans for a Strong America</a>” which sponsored Donald Trump’s speech in September on the deck of the battleship USS Iowa. Or <a href="http://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/09/22/rejecting-a-tainted-grant-dan-snyder-just-cant-save-face/">Dan Snyder’s “Original American Foundation”</a> which offers grants to Native Americans in return for their support in maintaining the offensive name of the football team that he owns (the “Washington Redskins”).</p> <p>Unearthing these stories was part of Rick’s commitment to authenticity in any charitable endeavor: there’s no point having a civil society if it doesn’t live up to its own identity and history, unless it can act as a counterweight to sleaze and dishonesty and live out the values and true meanings of democracy and solidarity. In that sense he was something of a traditionalist, and found common cause with some unlikely bedfellows among <a href="http://www.hudson.org/experts/364-william-a-schambra">conservative critics of ‘big philanthropy.’</a></p> <p>Rick’s range, though, was very wide, encompassing government regulation (or the lack of it), community development (including some forensic examination of post-Katrina ‘recovery’ in New Orleans), new social movements like Black Lives Matter, and the “<a href="http://nonprofitquarterly.org/2014/06/06/the-state-of-black-museums-part-i/">State of Black Museums.</a>” <a href="http://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/11/17/news-stories-on-syrian-refugees-and-american-politics-sad-predictable-disappointing/">The last piece he published</a> called out U.S. politicians for their reluctance or refusal to accept Syrian refugees into their states. You can read most of what he wrote here on <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/tag/the-cohen-report/">the Cohen Report</a>—a non-profit treasure trove that’s pretty much unique.</p> <p>One of Rick’s real specialties, however, and one of his most important roles, was to interrogate the fashion for business thinking which began to invade the non-profit sector in the mid-2000s. He did this carefully and strategically, identifying some of the icons of this movement and then following their actual impact over time in mini-essays that are crammed with references and data to back up his judgments. He was pragmatic about money and fundraising and the need for charities to engage with business, but deeply skeptical that this meant a for-profit or pro-market takeover of the non-profit sector.</p> <p><a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/?s=social+impact+bonds">Social impact bonds</a>, ‘<a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/?s=philanthrocapitalism">philanthrocapitalism</a>,’ <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rick-cohen/is-social-enterprise-becoming-reactionary-force">social enterprise</a>, <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/?s=L3c">L3c benefit</a> corporations, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/remko-berkhout/irresistibly-biased-blind-spots-of-social-innovation">social innovation</a> and <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/10/01/the-philanthropy-of-a-corporate-cheat-volkswagen/">corporate philanthropy</a> all came under the microscope, but it was the ongoing attention he paid to concrete exemplars like <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/?s=Teach+for+America">Teach for America</a> and <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/?s=charter+schools">charter schools</a> in the foundation-funded school ‘reform’ movement, or the interweaving of public and private interests in the <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/?s=Clinton+Global+Initiative">Clinton Global Initiative</a>, or the farce of giving charitable status to money-making <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/?s=non+profit+hospitals">‘non-profit’ hospitals</a> and colleges that really set Rick’s journalism apart. He was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rick-cohen/can-philanthropic-oligarchy-nurture-economic-justice">a strong critic of much in the foundation world</a>, especially its reluctance to make grants in rural areas and its lack of diversity, transparency and accountability. </p> <p>Underneath this relentless sense of challenge was a warm and generous human being who had humility, authenticity, and plenty of mud on the soles of his boots. In that sense he was a role model for civil society, and a reminder of what’s most absent from the institutions he critiqued. I will miss his voice enormously. So will <a href="https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/11/17/in-memory-of-rick-cohen/?_hsenc=p2ANqtz--bXBzbZYxok_Ak_Dj3Fi8h1Nts0IGXbAuwnxLdRA_dElIx7hJaA_raBFlpowPXW7GCDm1Ic1CYEpMX5jt7M0lFzSyKRg&amp;_hsmi=23852775">many, many others</a>. Godspeed Rick. I’m very glad that you ignored me.</p> <p class="image-caption">Transformation will be republishing some of Rick Cohen’s articles for openDemocracy over the next three days.</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/rick-cohen/is-social-enterprise-becoming-reactionary-force">Is social enterprise becoming a reactionary force?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rick-cohen/can-philanthropic-oligarchy-nurture-economic-justice">Can philanthropic oligarchy nurture economic justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rick-cohen/indian-diplomat-and-her-nanny-why-consistency-is-crucial">The Indian diplomat and her nanny: why consistency is crucial</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 Civil society nonprofits philanthropy Michael Edwards The role of money Activism Thu, 19 Nov 2015 18:17:51 +0000 Michael Edwards 97805 at https://www.opendemocracy.net I’m out of prison but I’m still not free: the continuing struggles of the Y-12 Three https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/i%E2%80%99m-out-of-prison-but-i%E2%80%99m-still-not-free-continuing-struggles-of-y-12 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Three peace activists followed by openDemocracy have been released from jail, but their work against nuclear weapons goes on.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Meganrice3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">From left: Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli. Credit: <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/">http://www.commondreams.org/</a>Saul Young/News Sentinel. All rights reserved.</p> <p>&nbsp;“Sabotage of the national defense.” That was Judge Amal Thapar’s ruling when <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/unexpected-cloud-of-witnesses-sister-rice-replies">three peace protestors entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee</a>, and daubed biblical slogans on the walls. Thapar handed down his judgment in May of 2013, and sentenced Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli to prison terms of three to five years each. </p> <p>Rice has a very different view of what happened that day when she and her colleagues entered the supposedly high-security complex. “There was no act of sabotage,” she told me in an interview: “It was an effort to heal a declining, decaying and broken facility. Ours was an act of love and compassion for the common good.”</p> <p>Two years and eight days after their incarceration, the Y-12 Three—otherwise known as the “<a href="https://transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/">Transform Now Plowshares</a>” or simply “MGM” after their first name initials—were released from jail <a href="http://www.nukeresister.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/NR-177web.pdf">when the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed their sabotage conviction</a>.&nbsp; A second charge of “depredation of government property” is still pending, but prosecutors have said that they won’t press for re-imprisonment <a href="https://transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/september-15-resentencing-to-be-by-phone/">when the case comes up again in September</a>. </p> <p>Closure, however, remains a distant prospect. “I’m out of prison but I’m still not free,” Rice said when I talked to her about her feelings after her release. “Freedom for one person is incomplete without freedom for all, whether oppression is rooted in the threat of nuclear weapons or unjust incarceration.” </p> <p>“I certainly don’t feel free,” Rice continued, “or any free-er than when I was in prison, except for some obvious and welcome logistical things that I’m now able to do. Prison was another great opportunity to create relationships and learn from others, and that learning has widened my awareness of the devastation of the psyche that comes from years of not addressing the truth—the truth that our systems are unhealthy because they’re based on false principles of economy, ecology and morality and not the common good.”</p> <p>This constant concern for others and the health of the wider struggle has been <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/unexpected-cloud-of-witnesses-sister-rice-replies">a common feature of the Y-12 Three’s beliefs and actions both in and out of prison</a>. In August of 2015 I spoke to each of them about their experiences. Walli is living in the <a href="https://dccatholicworker.wordpress.com/">Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington DC</a>, where he’s been a resident on and off since 1987. Rice is in the same city, living with other members of her religious order, <a href="http://www.shcj.org/american/">the Society of the Holy Child Jesus</a>. And Boertje-Obed has returned to his home in Duluth, Minnesota, <a href="http://loavesandfishesduluth.blogspot.com/">another Catholic Worker House that was started by his wife Michelle</a>.</p> <p>Walli was the first of the group to hear about the success of their appeal in a phone call from their lawyers. “A few days went past and then on the Saturday [May 16th of 2015] I was told to go to the medical records section. There was only one employee there but she processed me out, and I was met by a Catholic priest from Pennsylvania who had served time in the same prison a few years before for protesting the war against Iraq.” </p> <p>On the same day, Rice was following her normal schedule by listening to the BBC World Service News, when she heard the announcer declare their imminent release. “So I began to pack my things and say goodbye, but no one said anything to me officially until a cousin of mine from Brooklyn who happened to be making a scheduled visit was taken aside by a guard and asked what would happen if I were to be released. She told him that she would pick me up and take me home. He didn’t say anything to me, but a few hours later I was out.”</p> <p>Boertje-Obed had no warning at all. “At three o’clock a guard said ‘come with me to the superintendent’s office.’ He didn’t say what for, but you usually go there if you’re in trouble.” Instead he was offered a phone call to his wife and a one-way bus ticket to Knoxville (the wrong destination due to a mix-up by the prison bureaucracy), from where he found his way back to Duluth with the help of his friends. </p> <p>“There was no advance notice from the authorities,” he told me, “so I couldn’t say goodbye to anyone—they didn’t let me go back to the cell block or organize my belongings so I could give my things away. I made deep friendships in prison because you’re sharing suffering together, going through real oppression. Some of us tried to resist the racism that puts people into different gangs inside, so I and a few others made a point of sitting at an integrated table in the dining hall. Previously I had joined a Minnesota table, not realizing that it was just for white people. But after sitting at the integrated table I couldn’t go back to a segregated one.”</p> <p>Rice had the same reaction: “I felt so badly for the other prisoners who were my friends. It’s very difficult spending time doing what I’m doing now while knowing that they are still in jail, when they deserve to be on the clemency list just as much as I do.” For her and the other two protestors, these relationships of love and solidarity—grounded in the vision of a compassionate creator—give them enormous inner strength and confidence. </p> <p>“I see religion, said Rice, “as living according to the gifts that we have been given by our creator, who has revealed to me through many signs and wonders that God is infinitely compassionate and benevolent, who can heal out of every catastrophe and bring good out of every event, so long as we are in harmony with God’s purposes.”</p> <p>But what are “God’s purposes?” That question is crucial in understanding how religion plays into social action.&nbsp; Boertje-Obed answered it like this: </p> <p>“It’s based on inner voices like Gandhi or the Quakers. In moments of quiet you will hear messages of what to do. Of course you have to test these voices by consulting with others and reflecting on the values of what would be ‘good’—your inner voice isn’t God if it’s going to cause harm to other people. So when we are preparing for a Ploughshares [peace] action we go to great lengths to ensure that people don’t feel threatened and aren’t hurt in any way.</p> <p>Megan, Michael and I acted based on our faith in God. Our faith leads us to say, ‘justice is coming, justice is stronger than injustice. Nonviolence is better, stronger, more secure, and safer than violence.’ We all felt that God was leading us to do this particular action and we knew that it might involve years of separation, suffering and pain. Jail is not a pretty place. But we felt that God wanted us to take this risk and that God is on our side. That’s the only thing that made our actions make sense.” </p> <p>Support from the outside also helped. “We had never acted in Tennessee before,” Boertje-Obed continued, “but there was a great outpouring of support from people locally including around the Y-12 complex, which is a little surprising since so many of them work and make their livelihoods there.” &nbsp;“They are the people,” added Rice, “who know why the plant has to be transformed, and that much more life giving and sustaining alternatives are available.</p> <p>“We got hundreds of letters expressing support,” said Boertje-Obed, “contact with the outside world makes a huge difference because your information in prison is so limited. You don’t know what’s going on outside, so it’s an immense boost to get mail from people. In some jails you can’t even receive a letter, only a postcard, and not even a picture postcard but only a plain one.” </p> <p>I sent copies of articles from <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation">Transformation</a> to MGM <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/unexpected-cloud-of-witnesses-sister-rice-replies">when I was writing about their stories</a>, carefully selecting the ones I thought would make it through the censorship of the US prison system. Rice then distributed the pieces to other inmates. &nbsp;“I honor your readership,” she told me, “anyone who is reading about the needs of the common good is acting with the energy, the power, the love, and the gifts that we have received from our common creator—the one who has made everything out of love, in love, and for love.” </p> <p>Since their release, Boertje-Obed, Rice and Walli have continued their work against nuclear weapons, giving interviews and attending events like the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-33792789">memorial for Nagasaki and Hiroshima</a> that was held outside the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge on August 8th 2015. Boertje-Obed is part of <a href="http://www.veteransforpeace.org/">Veterans for Peace</a> in Duluth and numerous other groups. Walli volunteers for the <a href="http://www.catholicworker.org/">Catholic Workers Movement</a>. “There are many ways to express opposition to nuclear weapons and the madness our country is leading the world into. We value all of them. We’re still hopeful. We are fully occupied.”&nbsp; </p> <p>“Before [prison] you were not a credible person to speak about the nuclear situation as well as prison conditions,” Rice concluded, “but now I’m certainly feeling that there’s a wider interest in the message of our action, and that has really energized and exhilarated me. </p> <p>How could there ever be one superpower on this shared planet? It has to be about the common good. <a href="http://catholicsocialteaching.yolasite.com/st-thomas-aquinas-and-the-idea-of-the-common-good.php">St Thomas Aquinas</a> and most other prophets through history have seen the same guiding vision of harmony and balance that is patterned in nature.</p> <p>So long as one nuclear bomb exists it is my responsibility to speak out and resist it for the common good in whatever way I can.”&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/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 even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/unexpected-cloud-of-witnesses-sister-rice-replies">An unexpected cloud of witnesses: Sister Rice replies</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton: two journeys to wholeness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/susan-rakoczy/best-kept-secret-of-catholic-church%E2%80%94its-social-teachings">The best kept secret of the Catholic Church—its social teachings</a> </div> </div> </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 religion and social transformation nuclear disarmament Michael Edwards Transformative nonviolence Love and Spirituality Activism Mon, 31 Aug 2015 23:30:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 95611 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will the left ever get religion? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/will-left-ever-get-religion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can there ever be a truly successful, secular revolution?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/religion.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://blindgossip.com/">http://blindgossip.com/</a>. All rights reserved. </p> <p>Why does religion drive so many people nuts? That’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jacob-z-hess/christianity-was-liberation-for-you%E2%80%94for-me-it-was-slavery-tale-of-two-ki">the question that opens</a> and closes <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/religion-and-social-transformation">our debate on religion and social change</a>. On the surface the answer is obvious, at least for progressives—it’s because of the damage that’s been done by religion to the causes they hold dear: <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kristin-aune/is-secularism-bad-for-women">independence and equality for women</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/put-away-scriptures-and-follow-justice">gay marriage and LGBTQ rights</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ted-grimsrud/violence-as-theological-problem">peace and protection</a> from zealots and fanatics, and safety in the face of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_sexual_abuse_cases">sexual abuse</a>. How come the ineffable being is always a bloke with a beard who privileges others who look the same as him? Religion has become the mother-lode of patriarchy, stupidity, homophobia and all things conservative.</p> <p>But the opposite is also true: religion gives tremendous strength and staying power to the struggle for equality and social justice. It’s a force that makes people <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">go to jail for their beliefs</a>, break into nuclear weapons facilities and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/to-remain-in-prison-for-rest-of-my-life-is-greatest-honor-you-could-g">daub biblical slogans on the walls</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">found social movements</a> that change society, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Chavez">organize workers</a> to stand up for their rights, and confront dictators <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/claudia-horwitz/true-miracle-of-%C3%B3scar-romero">at the cost of their own lives</a>. Religious groups are also the mainstays of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/laura-payne/can-religious-groups-help-to-prevent-violent-conflict">health, education, social welfare and community-level conflict prevention</a> in many countries. For <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">Dorothy Day</a>, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Chavez">Cesar Chavez</a>, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.">Martin Luther King</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/claudia-horwitz/true-miracle-of-%C3%B3scar-romero">Oscar Romero</a> and many others, religion isn’t incidental to social change, it’s pivotal—it’s the reason <em>why </em>they are willing to give so much to the cause.</p> <p>Faced by these contradictory realities, what’s the best response for those committed to radical transformation? Ignoring, belittling or actively opposing religion all have their supporters, but <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/put-away-scriptures-and-follow-justice">active, open and critical engagement </a>is likely to be much more effective, for at least three reasons. </p> <p>First, <a href="http://www.livescience.com/50370-worlds-religious-population-will-grow.html">the world is increasingly religious</a>, and is likely to continue along this path. According to data from the <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/">Pew Center for Research on Religion</a>, <a href="http://www.livescience.com/50370-worlds-religious-population-will-grow.html">84 per cent of adults in their global surveys said they were affiliated to one religion or another in 2010, a figure that’s projected to rise to 87 per cent by 2050</a>—if for no other reason than the demographic growth of the Islamic population, which accounts for much of this extrapolated expansion. </p> <p>But Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and what Pew calls “folk religions” like traditional African and Native American faiths are also set to grow. The exception is Buddhism—the result, perhaps, of too much meditation and not enough procreation along the spiritual path. Intriguingly, the trends are different among <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religiously-unaffiliated/">members of the millennial generation</a> in the West, who are deserting established religions in favor of “<a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religiously-unaffiliated/">unaffiliated spirituality</a>.”&nbsp; In a new report called “<a href="https://caspertk.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/how-we-gather.pdf">How we Gather</a>,” authors Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile write that “millennials are flocking to a host of new organizations that deepen community in ways that are powerful, surprising, and perhaps even religious,” but not defined along the lines or hierarchies of existing faiths. </p> <p>Against this background, ignoring, insulting or attempting to eradicate religion can’t be viable options for anyone concerned with social transformation, since large parts of the required constituency for radical action will be marginalized as a result—far better to negotiate a democratic settlement between secular rights and religious freedoms. But this requires abandoning the absolutism that’s often the hallmark of enthusiasts on both sides of the debate—an attitude that leaves no room for forward movement except on terms that are unacceptable to the other. France’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kristin-aune/is-secularism-bad-for-women">ban on the wearing of the veil</a> is one example.</p> <p>Unfortunately such liberal-democratic settlements won’t work precisely where they’re most needed—the Islamic State for example, or Zionism, or the core of conservative Christian fundamentalism, but perhaps religion isn’t the key to any of these cases: if both conservative and progressive forces are at work in religion, then religion itself can’t be the deciding factor. So problems of ‘religious’ violence and discrimination may have less to do with religion versus secularity than with forces that stretch across and underneath this divide—like the urge to dominate and destroy, to accumulate more power for our tribe, to turn our fears outwards into the oppression of someone else, or to refuse to negotiate or to bend. </p> <p>Fundamentalism of any kind is a threat to democracy and equal rights, but it springs from a generalized desire for hegemony and control. Is neo-liberalism more or less damaging than Catholicism? Is religious violence worse or better than the secular variety? Religion is a mask of convenience for those who need an extra dose of legitimacy as a cover for their sins, but there are many other, secular disguises waiting in the wings.</p> <p>The second reason for recommending a strategy of engagement is that religions are increasingly fluid and diverse in relation to their social teachings, and this generates more room-to-maneuver for those who want to encourage a shift towards equality and rights. Everything that’s required to accentuate this shift is already present in religion—in the form of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/best-kept-secret-of-catholic-church%E2%80%94its-social-teachings">liberal and progressive readings of key religious teachings</a>. But the reverse is also true—everything required to defend the status quo is also present. So “religion is always an act of interpretation” as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/william-eichler/heretics-and-liberals-what-ayaan-hirsi-ali-gets-wrong">William Eichler puts it</a>, and interpretation is a matter of human agency and politics, not religious faith. &nbsp;</p> <p>Efforts to transform religion in this way have to come from within, though they can be encouraged by active, supportive engagement from without. This is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zaheer-kazmi/is-liberal-islam-answer">Zaheer Kazmi’s point</a> about ‘liberal Islam’ as strategy for Muslim moderation: because liberal ideas are inextricably entangled with geopolitics and Western foreign policy, they are unlikely to have any purchase where their impact is most needed. But voices that are respected <em>because</em> they are religious are likely to be listened to, like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/maia-duerr/can-religion-be-force-for-transformation">Ouyporn Khuankaew</a>, a Buddhist teacher and former nun in Thailand who's revolutionizing attitudes towards LGBTQ equality. </p> <p>For secularists it may be difficult to talk about the ‘good’ parts of religion without the ‘bad,’ since all the parts are bad, but an attitude of welcome and respect is vital if religious reformers are to be strengthened instead of undermined by association with ‘outsiders.’ Despite the fact that secular-religious debates are often couched in terms of certainty, the reality is that beliefs on both sides of the divide are fluid, which opens up more space for mutual learning. </p> <p>There may also be surprises along the way—<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jacob-z-hess/christianity-was-liberation-for-you%E2%80%94for-me-it-was-slavery-tale-of-two-ki">like support for gay marriage among conservative Mormon Christians</a>. Politics and religion rarely map seamlessly onto the same, unchanging landscape. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez, for example, were both highly traditional Catholics</a> <em>and</em> highly radical in their politics. Because of these fluidities, the long arc of religion <a href="http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/11/15/arc-of-universe/">may yet bend towards social justice</a>.</p> <p>Finally, religion—or at least spirituality—has something important to offer the left in thinking about the <em>personal</em> changes that <em>social</em> transformation requires. Re-structuring the economy, deepening democracy, and re-ordering social relationships are not simply matters of institutional reform—<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">they also rely on ‘new people’ to make them work</a>, people who are willing to make sacrifices and live out their values in truly radical ways. &nbsp;</p> <p>Clearly, not all religious believers undergo such changes, and religious experience isn’t essential for personal change—<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/floris-van-den-berg/first-do-no-harm-expanding-our-moral-circle-beyond-religion">humanism and other similar philosophies insist</a> that personal commitments to radical values are enough, and that secularism can consciously cultivate qualities like love and compassion. “The experience of awe and wonder at the universe is something that is common to all humanity” <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/james-page/does-phenomenology-herald-new-era-for-religion">as James Page puts it</a>. </p> <p>But <em>some</em> form of deep, inner experience is vital to overcome selfishness and greed, and to turn people away from the urge to dominate and destroy. These experiences are what distinguish authentic spirituality—or <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ralph-singh/religion-from-inside-out">what Ralph Singh calls</a> “religion from the inside out.” Feelings of joy, community, connection and liberation are common denominators of spiritual experience, but they also comprise the emotional infrastructure of democracy and equality-consciousness. &nbsp;So these forces can be very powerful in animating progressive politics and social activism: “<a href="http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Emma_Goldman">what’s the point of revolution if we can’t dance</a>” as Emma Goldman famously put it?</p> <p>However, emotional depth and resonance have been conspicuous by their absence from left party politics for 40 years or more, which is one of the reasons for their decline. This is not the case in newer forms of participatory political engagement like <em><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/tim-baster-isabelle-merminod/podemos-new-type-of-resistance">Podemos</a></em> and in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/james-k-rowe/zen-and-art-of-social-movement-maintenance">social movements like Occupy</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/kat-eghdamian/what-was-role-of-religion-in-arab-spring">parts of the Arab Spring</a>, which have all made a point of bringing spirituality and artistic celebration back into the heart of politics and social struggle. This fits well with the rise of ‘unaffiliated spirituality’ among millennials noted by The Pew Center, though it’s unlikely to displace formal religion because of the structure and security that mosques and churches can provide. </p> <p>There’s no doubt that faith-based approaches to politics are “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/laura-payne/can-religious-groups-help-to-prevent-violent-conflict">a provocation</a>” to progressives, but perhaps that’s exactly what is needed to repair the emotional and spiritual disconnect that may undermine their appeal? And who better to look to for guidance than religious and spiritual traditions that have been developing techniques for personal revolution for the last 3,000 years?</p> <p>If the world is becoming more religious and religiosity is deeply felt, then the only option for the left is engagement, but not the pursed lips, ‘let’s humor them’ variety that’s common among some secular progressives. Only when the left recovers its own ‘religious’ fervor—with or without formal religion—will it create a constituency for social transformation.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jacob-z-hess/christianity-was-liberation-for-you%E2%80%94for-me-it-was-slavery-tale-of-two-ki">Christianity was liberation for you—for me it was slavery: a tale of two kingdoms</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/put-away-scriptures-and-follow-justice">Put away the scriptures and follow justice</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Transformation North-Africa West-Asia Transformation Religion religion and social transformation spirituality Michael Edwards Religion and human rights Love and Spirituality Tue, 23 Jun 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 93727 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Don’t punish yourself to make the world a better place https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/don%E2%80%99t-punish-yourself-to-make-world-better-place <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why do Westerners go to extremes in following Eastern spiritual paths?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Scottcarneycropped3.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="562" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Gotham Books. All rights reserved.</p> <p>When <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Death-Diamond-Mountain-Obsession-Enlightenment/dp/1592408613/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&amp;sr=&amp;qid=">Emily O’Conner leapt to her death</a> from the roof of a dormitory in the Indian town of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodh_Gaya">Bodh Gaya</a>, she believed she was a <em><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhisattva">Bodhisattva</a></em>—an enlightened being who didn’t need her body anymore. She was part of a group of American exchange students who travelled to India in search of spiritual experiences in the mid-2000s. </p> <p><span>The leader of the exchange program was Scott Carney, a writer, ethnographer, and student of Tibetan Buddhism whose own thinking about spirituality was profoundly affected by O’Connor’s death. At the time, he dismissed the event as an isolated case, but as he continued his research he found hundreds of examples of “madness and meditation” as he calls them: suicides and psychotic episodes brought on by spiritual practice.</span></p> <p><span>The results of Carney’s work are captured in his new book, </span><em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Death-Diamond-Mountain-Obsession-Enlightenment/dp/1592408613/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&amp;sr=&amp;qid=">A Death on Diamond Mountain</a></em><span>, which tells the story of another seeker named Ian Thorson who died from dehydration and dysentery in the arms of Christie McNally—his former guru’s ex-wife—on an Arizona mountaintop in 2012.</span></p> <p>The couple had been forced out of a Buddhist meditation retreat, ending up in a cave that was pock-marked with soot from the fires of Native Americans many years before. There they carried on their spiritual practices, but drank contaminated water as their supplies ran out even though they had a filter. When Thorson was close to death, McNally activated a GPS signal on her cell-phone to reveal their whereabouts, but he died before the rescue party reached them. His corpse weighed a hundred pounds.</p> <p>Carney’s book is a gripping read—equal parts investigative journalism, thriller, and critical examination of spirituality in the West. But does it have anything to say to the vast majority of people who follow a spiritual path without descending into madness? </p> <p><span>More to the point for readers of </span><em>Transformation</em><span>, did O'Conner and Thorson's fate hinge on their overemphasis on personal experiences to the exclusion of their role in a highly political world, including the world of spirituality and spiritual teachers? To find out answers to these questions, I spoke to Carney in May of 2015.</span></p> <p><span>I began by asking him what really goes wrong in the cases he has studied—individual susceptibilities perhaps, or is there a broader pattern?</span></p> <blockquote><p>“These examples happen much more frequently than you might expect,” <span>he told me</span>. “A common factor in the tendency to pursue the spiritual life obsessively is that Westerners often have grandiose expectations of Eastern spirituality and religion. They forget that Buddhist and Hindu teachings were developed in a vastly different context, and so they may be out of line with contemporary needs and realities.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Many seekers in the West come from a Christian background, so they already have feelings of being special or chosen which feed into and out of ‘<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_exceptionalism">American exceptionalism</a>’ and the search for human perfection. That then gets mixed in with Eastern traditions which say that you can develop special powers or reach a special destination through meditation and other practices. Put these things together and you have a powerful mix.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Eastern teachers were attracted by what they saw in the West, especially in the United States—things like wealth, open minds, high levels of education, and an eagerness to learn. So they took on lots of Western students, but these students lacked a toolbox to criticize and make sense of these new ideas, this syncretic mixing of traditions. There’s a uniquely American tendency to mix and match Eastern religious traditions like Lego pieces. Americans search for inner peace like they are competing in a sporting event.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>It isn’t bad that Eastern faiths are coming to the West, but we have to accept that there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ spiritual inquiry. We need to go into these practices and question them, be critical and self-critical, and realize that all paths and their teachers are fallible and imperfect. You might receive something beneficial from them, or you might not. You might feel a connection to the divine, when in reality, you might just be crazy.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The goal of spiritual inquiry is not apotheosis or extinction, nor thinking that you are greater than anybody else, nor in possession of special powers, but that’s essentially what happens in these cases. We can learn from them, not just from the positive experiences—even in a bad lesson you can find good knowledge. We have to learn from the dark side of spirituality too. The real lesson of spiritual practice is that there are no right answers. Spiritual inquiry almost always ends in enigma.”</p></blockquote> <p>What’s also clear is that the details of spiritual practice and the characteristics of its teachers are also major factors. Ian Thorson, for example, studied under a controversial Buddhist <em>guru</em> named <em><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Roach">Geshe Michael Roach</a></em>, “who promises wealth and good fortune to those who follow his teachings.” Thorson and Christie were staying at his “<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Mountain_Center">Diamond Mountain University</a>” during their final retreat, a collection of Mongolian yurts sited on land rented from a Mormon rancher in Arizona.</p> <p>Roach taught his students that “the truth can be unlocked through self discipline”—through the dissolution of the ego using intense meditation and the study of Buddhist Tantric texts. As a specialist in Buddhist thought Carney acknowledges the origins of these ideas, but he’s wary of encouraging Westerners to follow them to excess. &nbsp;Intensive practice can also lead to mental instability or madness—“could silence itself be damaging?” he writes at one point in his book. “The path to enlightenment can be riddled with danger. People can develop a kind of spiritual, mental and physical sickness,” called “Lung” (the Tibetan word for “wind”). </p> <p>Along with critical inquiry, principles like balance, discernment, integrity and consistency are important factors in halting the slide into madness along the spiritual path—and in alerting seekers to the dangers it represents. Roach seems particularly weak in these respects.&nbsp; He made a fortune in New York’s diamond business while studying to be a Buddhist monk, and later <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Diamond-Cutter-Buddha-Managing-Business/dp/038552868X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1432245197&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=The+Diamond+Cutter%3A+The+Buddha+on+managing+your+business+and+your+life">co-wrote a bestseller</a> to share his secrets with the business world. </p> <p>“The greatest business people have a deep inner capacity,” Roach writes in his book, “they hunger—as we all do, but perhaps more strongly—for a true spiritual life.” In an echo of other scandals in the world of Eastern spirituality, his vows of celibacy were followed by bouts of enthusiastic sex with Christie, who was married to Roach before she formed a relationship with Thorson. It’s here in this murky undergrowth that the tendency of Americans to react uncritically to teachings from the East is most apparent.</p> <p>The final theme in Carney’s research is social disengagement as a factor in spiritual psychosis. Towards the end of his book, he cites the experiences of Meredith Sagan, a psychiatrist and “<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inedia">breatharian</a>” who believed she could survive on air alone. Seated “in a dark cave, eating only <em>prana</em> (breath)”, he writes, “she realized that life was a choice. She could stay in a state of bliss, a place where the broader community no longer mattered, or return to society and leave her transcendent experiences—no matter how real—behind her. Sagan chose life. Not everybody does.”</p> <p>It’s a conclusion that sums up Carney’s findings, but is it a real choice or a false one for spiritual seekers who are trying to integrate both of these things together? After all, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation">uniting ‘love and social justice’</a> has been the goal of many social-spiritual movements in the US and beyond. I put this question to Carney and this is what he said:</p> <blockquote><p>“No matter what the ultimate spiritual truth actually is, it seems to me that if there is a final judgment then we’re going to be judged at the end by how we’ve lived in the world. Spirituality can be great motivator, and if you go into these experiences and come out with the inspiration to do good in the world then that’s the perfect marriage. Spirituality <em>should</em> be motivating in this way. We have to live our lives the best we can.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span>I don’t just want to tell great stories. I’m interested only if they tell us something about what it means to be human in the world <span>(his </span></span><a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Red-Market-Brokers-Traffickers/dp/0061936464">previous book</a><span><span> took on the subject of organ trafficking).</span> So in this book I’m writing about the point and pitfalls of spiritual inquiry. Instead of thinking of spiritual practices as good or bad in themselves, it is more fruitful to think of them as potentially powerful.”</span></p></blockquote> <p><span>How we use that power is down to us, I think Carney is saying, not our spiritual teachers or books or techniques. In making these choices, a critical and self-critical approach is vital, as are balance and common sense. Using spirituality as a springboard for an honest, authentic and reflexive engagement with the world is the only way to avoid ‘a death on Diamond Mountain.’</span></p> <blockquote><p>“Our bodies do matter,” <span>Carney continued,</span> “they are what underpin our ability to live usefully in the world. The spiritual isn’t more or less important than the material. You can experience both at the same time, albeit imperfectly. There’s no need to go to either extreme.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Don’t punish yourself to make the world a better place.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote><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/ralph-singh/religion-from-inside-out">Religion from the inside out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michel-bauwens/is-there-any-value-in-new-age-thinking">Is there any value in New Age thinking? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Transformation Transformation Buddhism Religion religion and social transformation spirituality Michael Edwards The politics of mental health Love and Spirituality Wed, 03 Jun 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 93259 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Welcome to Transformation https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can the world be reconstructed through the fusion of personal and social change? We say yes. Here's to another year of Transformation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MLK250x300_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><span class="image-caption">Martin Luther King. Credit: mugshots.com. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>On a winter’s night in 1955, a young preacher named Martin Luther King climbed into the pulpit of the Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.&nbsp;Once there, he delivered a speech to a packed crowd of close to five thousand people that would eventually lead to his own assassination, but breathe new life into the struggle to transform America and the world.&nbsp;</p> <p>If his speech that night is remembered at all these days it’s because of what it helped to launch - the&nbsp;<a href="http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_montgomery_bus_boycott_1955_1956/" target="_blank">Montgomery Bus Boycott</a>, which heralded a decisive turn in the movement for civil rights. What King said has largely been forgotten, yet the content of his speech was revolutionary in ways that stretch far beyond the context in which he delivered it.&nbsp;As I listen to it now on a scratchy&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGtp7kCi_LA" target="_blank">YouTube clip</a>&nbsp;the hairs on my neck stand up straight, the voices of the crowd rising to a crescendo as King talks about love for others and non-violence as the keys to the struggle for equal rights.</p> <p>“But it is not enough for us to talk about love,” he said, “there is another side called justice. And justice is love in calculation. Justice is love working against anything that stands against love. Standing beside love is always justice.” “There lived a people, a black people” he continued, “a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights, and thereby infused new meaning into the veins of history.”</p> <p>Love is the anchor or inward expression of social justice, I think King was saying, and justice is the outward expression of “love in calculation” - a conscious design for remaking the world around a radically-different rationality than self-interest. Deep transformations are possible if love and justice reinforce each-other to create a permanent shift in direction among human beings and the institutions they create.</p> <p>“Only new selves could give birth to a new world, but only a new world could sustain the new human beings who constituted it, and who would sustain it in turn,” as&nbsp;<a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/royce/" target="_blank">Josiah Royce</a>&nbsp;put it in the aftermath of the American Civil War, almost one hundred years before.</p> <p>Today there is a resurgence of interest in the possibilities of transformation and an upsurge in attempts to put them into practice, spurred on by the failure of conventional approaches to make much headway against inequality and the urgency of problems like climate change which demand boundary-breaking solutions. That’s why we launched <em>Transformation</em> as a new section of openDemocracy on July 1, 2013. The section is designed to celebrate and debate the practice of radical change in our societies, examined through the interaction between love and social justice. </p> <p>King, of course, was drawing from much older sources when he made his remarks that night, including philosophers like Royce and later on&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Tillich" target="_blank">Paul Tillich</a>&nbsp;(the subject of his doctoral dissertation), the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and his&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyagraha" target="_blank">Satyagraha</a>&nbsp;movement, and the traditions of the social gospel. It’s also fair to say that there were others in the civil rights movement like&nbsp;<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>&nbsp;who translated King’s words into on-the-ground realities with much more consistency, through their commitment to grassroots democracy and the struggle against sexism among their colleagues.</p> <p>Then as now, there will be no end to patriarchy without deep-rooted changes in men’s behavior; no solution to climate change unless all of us reduce our consumption and carbon footprint; no decline in inequality unless we learn to share resources with each-other; no meaningful democracy until we work through our differences in a spirit of common purpose; no lasting peace if we continue to project our fears and insecurities onto other people.</p> <p>But turning these examples around, there must also be real and living forms of politics and economics that grow from and reinforce the best qualities in ourselves, and in which we can actively participate. “We must be the change we want to see in the world” is a favorite quotation attributed to Gandhi, but it’s equally true that we must see the change we want to be – otherwise transformation is pure theory, and that means showing people that real economies can deliver justice and wellbeing, and real politics can bring people together to break the logjam of vested interests.</p> <p>Unfortunately, such boundary-breaking experiments are in short supply, constantly constrained by the mantra that change is impossible because of – insert your favorite bogeyman – the world economy, footloose corporations, human nature, the weakening of governments, corruption in politics, the decline of the public, too much TV and far too much Rupert Murdoch. If we believe that only small changes are possible in our political and economic systems, then small change is all we’re going to see – another turn of the wheel with little or no forward movement.</p> <p>The challenges of uniting personal and social change in this way were central to the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, expressed through civil rights, gay liberation, the rise of the women’s movement and the first stirrings of environmentalism. In the decades that followed, this spirit was less in evidence in politics and activism, though it remained alive among feminists and other radicals like&nbsp;<a href="http://audrelorde-theberlinyears.com/audre.html" target="_blank">Audre Lorde</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.junejordan.com/" target="_blank">June Jordan</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQUuHFKP-9s">bell hooks</a>&nbsp;in the USA. Elsewhere, the social and spiritual sides of activism began to move apart, perhaps exhausted by earlier efforts or beaten down by the arrival of the neo-liberal revolution, and the celebration of self-interest and materialism that followed in its wake.</p> <p>When we launched the new section we wanted it to be a place where people across the world could engage with each-other about the meaning of social transformation; where we could showcase concrete examples of politics, economics, and social activism that have been or are being transformed; and where we could share and debate the lessons about transformation that are being generated along the way. We were interested in contributions in any area of transformation, including practices like “mindfulness” which seem to help the processes of personal development along, and new institutions and ways of doing things that build on and nurture a commitment to non-violence, love for others and radical equality. Most of all, we wanted to publish stories of people who are re-combining the personal and political in new ways. How have we progressed in our first eighteen months?</p> <p>In raw numbers we’re doing better than expected. Our articles have been read over two million times, with 40 per cent of readers coming from North America, 37 percent from Europe, and 23 per cent from other countries. Our contributors are a very diverse group: around 60 per cent are women, 55 per cent are aged under 40, and 61 per cent self-identify as LGBTQ. One big disappointment is that we haven’t attracted many writers from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, so that’s something we’re going to work on in the coming year. </p><p>Un<span>derneath these numbers, we’re reasonably satisfied with the spread of topics that we’ve covered. They range from racism to restorative justice, from war to nonviolence, from activism to formal politics, and from empathy to love in the public sphere. In each case, we’ve worked hard with contributors to bring out the added, transformative dimension of the experiences they describe, though it’s true that we’re still experimenting with how to do this well. It’s not easy! Sometimes the links between personal change and social change are obvious, as in new forms of economics that require a commitment to sacrifice and sharing; but elsewhere they are much more complicated. We’ve also covered the human dimensions of problem-solving that encompass art and music, storytelling and poetry, and the world of the emotions.</span></p> <p>Through all these articles, we’ve aimed to challenge the reluctance of many progressive activists and writers to take the personal dimensions of social change as seriously as the political, by showing that personal change is not New Age narcissism – it means engaging in the daily struggle for dignity and justice in a different spirit that opens up more effective routes to action. </p> <p><span>At the same time we also want to challenge the reluctance of many spiritual and self-help advocates to take the political dimensions of personal change as seriously as the inner life they espouse, by showing that love flourishes more easily when new institutions are built on sharing and solidarity instead of the mindless pursuit of competition, growth and power.</span></p> <p><span>Both challenges have proven to be tough, and we’ve received some useful pushback in the comment threads on our articles from readers who are not persuaded about the benefits of a transformational approach as we define it. There are still doubts and suspicions - useful ones - on all sides. Some readers have posed questions about the value of mindfulness and other personal development practices when faced by the raw realities of power and injustice; while others who are steeped in these practices have reacted against the perceived antagonism that runs through some of the pieces we have published. But there is also a sense running through all of our material that we – as readers, editors and writers – are navigating through territory that doesn’t have a map.</span></p> <p><span>Marrying a rich inner life dedicated to the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion with the practice of new forms of politics, economics and social activism is the key to transformation, but how this will actually work is anybody’s guess. Those who think they already have the answers waiting to be rolled out in detail are either fools or liars. </span><em>Transformation</em><span> is not another good-news magazine, but a place to engage with each-other about the realities and struggles of the radical imagination.</span></p> <p><span>All great stories are love stories in one form or another, but the story of love and justice has not yet been told. With your help we aim to put that right. Welcome to another year of Transformation.</span></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Transforming Ourselves Transforming Politics Transforming Society Michael Edwards Activism Economics Wed, 31 Dec 2014 13:51:46 +0000 Michael Edwards 73708 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The political emotions of Martha Nussbaum https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/political-emotions-of-martha-nussbaum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why does love matter for democracy? A conversation with one of the world’s leading philosophers.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Martha3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Martha Nussbaum/University of Chicago. All rights reserved.</p> <p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Nussbaum">Martha C. Nussbaum</a><span> is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the </span><a href="http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/nussbaum">University of Chicago</a><span>. She has made landmark contributions across a wide range of issues including democracy, sexuality, justice, human development and religion, but it was her book </span><a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674724655">Political Emotions</a><span> that caught my attention when it was published in October 2013—probably because I was launching a </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation">new section of openDemocracy</a><span> at the time that seemed to build on the same philosophy.</span></p> <p>Nussbaum’s book explores how “public emotions rooted in love—in intense attachments to things outside our control—can foster commitment to shared goals and keep at bay the forces of disgust and envy.” But what kind of love does she mean, and will it be strong enough to counter the rising influence of individualism, greed and division across the world? To find out more, I asked her some questions.</p> <p><strong>ME:</strong> Why did you write this book and what did you hope to achieve?<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><strong>MN:</strong><span> This book has been on my mind for a long time.&nbsp;Actually I announce it at the end of </span><a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674024106">Frontiers of Justice</a><span>.&nbsp;For years I have defended a demanding normative approach to basic political principles, which requires considerable sacrifice and altruism on the part of citizens.&nbsp;I have also worked a lot on the emotions, and on what emotions promote or impede progress toward a more just society.&nbsp;I was also aware that the Western tradition of political philosophy contains numerous attempts to describe the way in which a just society encourages emotions that support its own principles.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rawls">John Rawls</a><span> made this ability to engender appropriate emotions a linchpin of political justification, since he argued that one cannot justify a political structure without showing that it can be stable “for the right reasons,” that is, because citizens affirm it, not just because they are afraid of chaos.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>But Rawls was simply following a long tradition of reflection on this question that included </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Jacques_Rousseau">Rousseau</a><span>, </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuseppe_Mazzini">Mazzini</a><span>, </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguste_Comte">Auguste Comte</a><span>, </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stuart_Mill">John Stuart Mill</a><span>, and—in India—the great philosopher </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabindranath_Tagore">Rabindranath Tagore</a><span>. One of my main purposes in the book was to recover Tagore's neglected philosophical contribution.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>So I knew that I needed to delve into the history of this question.&nbsp;But since these thinkers missed some points of moral psychology that I believe are crucially important (particularly the role of bodily disgust in impeding social inclusion), I also needed to map out a moral psychology that politics can use to reflect about stability.&nbsp;In the process, I draw on a lot of new and important research in cognitive psychology.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Finally, I needed to ‘get real’ and talk about ways of engendering emotion without violating liberal freedoms.&nbsp;Since I think any good way of doing this is sensitive to context and history, I chose to focus on two nations, India and the US, to illustrate the ways in which emotion-shaping does and does not work. I hoped by this analysis to reawaken interest in this question, and to give thoughtful people in public life a set of examples to think with.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>ME:</strong><span> Aren't you being a little romantic given the pressures&nbsp;most people are under and the winner-takes-all mentality that characterizes contemporary politics?</span></p> <p><strong>MN:</strong> I don't think I am demanding too much of people.&nbsp;In a family or a community, we'd never accept the excuse that people are too busy making money to care for one another, and I don't see why we should accept this excuse in a nation.&nbsp;Of course much of the work of sustaining political principles must be done by institutions, but my point is that institutions will never remain stable unless people are attached to them and to one another as fellow citizens.&nbsp; </p> <p><span>I argue that only an emotion as strong as love can overcome the disgust and shame that often inhibit our dealings with one another. Love can take many forms—parental, filial and erotic—but there's a quasi-erotic element in all these forms, a kind of excitement and zeal that takes one out of oneself. </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Whitman">Walt Whitman's poetry</a><span> is a terrific example of what I'm talking about. &nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>ME:</strong><span> Where does such love come from, and how is it sustained in the rough and tumble of life?</span></p> <p><strong>MN:</strong> Well, we do have to hope that love begins in the family (as Rawls also argued), and so I have always been a strong supporter of aid for families and of early interventions of a wide range of types, from nutrition and health care to preschool.&nbsp;But then, education at all levels can and should impart a sense of the project of the nation, at the same time inspiring attachment to that project.&nbsp;And a variety of strategies in society—festivals, public art, public parks and political rhetoric—reinforce these educational efforts.&nbsp;Dissenters have to be respected, and indeed part of what gets portrayed as lovable is the idea of critical freedom and dissent.&nbsp;</p> <p><span>Such an emotional platform must carefully avoid establishing a single religion, and I talk a lot about this. I think Rousseau and Comte were much too dictatorial, in ways that run afoul of important values. &nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Any set of political principles requires emotions of some type for its sustenance and stability, so this basic approach is utterly neutral.&nbsp;But a libertarian minimal state requires, perhaps, fewer and thinner emotional attachments than a social-democratic state.&nbsp;I begin by simply stipulating that we're talking about a conception of social justice that pursues equal respect and inclusion for all and that commits itself to an ample social safety net, and then I ask: how might such a society ever come into existence and sustain itself?&nbsp;That's a huge question for me, since the society I have defended elsewhere as a just society is hard to realize. One really cannot justify it as the just society without showing that it is possible!</span></p><p><strong>ME:</strong> But how, in concrete terms,&nbsp;might&nbsp;love be expressed in politics and the public sphere?</p> <p><strong>MN:</strong> Of course love is expressed in many parts of civil society, but that is not my question.&nbsp;My question is what government itself can do, without trampling on the rights of dissenters.&nbsp;Looking back at history, I argue first that any good project is particular—using what will move people starting from where they are.&nbsp;I then examine some successful strategies.&nbsp;My American heroes are <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln">Lincoln</a>, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_D._Roosevelt">Franklin D. Roosevelt</a> (FDR), and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.">Martin Luther King, Jr</a>., but also a variety of artists who have created public art and public parks under the aegis of cities and their people.&nbsp; </p> <p><span>In India I examine the work of </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi">Gandhi</a><span>, </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jawaharlal_Nehru">Nehru</a><span>, and </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._R._Ambedkar">B. R. Ambedkar</a><span>, and I look again at civic architecture and public art. Music plays a very important role in India, since there are 22 official languages, but music speaks to all.&nbsp;So I devote time to Tagore's contribution in particular: the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh, and the song that became one of the keys to Gandhi's freedom movement.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>One thing to emphasize is that we do not want artists to become mere flunkeys of the politicians, as Comte imagined, and as ‘socialist realism’ enacted.&nbsp;This is disaster, for artists only create moving and inspiring artworks if left to their own devices. On the other hand, since we know that art can stir up hate as well as love, and alienate as well as include, we do need some type of supervision.&nbsp; I favor a combination of public discussion and peer review, as happened with </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_Veterans_Memorial">Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial</a><span>, one of my favorite works, and with </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennium_Park">Chicago's Millennium Park</a><span>, which is another. &nbsp;</span></p><p><span></span><span>What's happening right now in Chicago is a fascinating paradigm of how such supervision should unfold.&nbsp;George Lucas has offered to endow a museum of popular culture, and the Mayor has offered him some land on the precious lakeshore.&nbsp;</span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Yansong">Ma Yansong</a><span>, a highly reputable and innovative architect, was chosen by Lucas to propose a design for the museum. However, the design he proposed has attracted a huge amount of criticism, both from our leading architecture critic </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blair_Kamin">Blair Kamin</a><span> and from the public at large. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>First of all, it is too high, blocking views of the lake.&nbsp;Second, the design, while interesting in an abstract way, strikes people as weird and forbidding, like an invading spaceship of some type.&nbsp;So people are demanding a different aesthetic, one that is more people friendly and suited to the environment.&nbsp;People aren't always right: thus the Picasso in Daley Plaza was hated at first, but it is now loved as a symbol of the city's daring, humor, and openness.&nbsp;But I think they are right in this case, and what they are doing is what in a democracy people have a right and a duty to do: speak up for civic values and express their love of the land.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>We don't get to propose our own design of course, but let's hope that the controversy gives both Lucas and Ma Yansong plenty of information to run with in redesigning the proposal.&nbsp;So there's still plenty of artistic freedom, but in a climate of civic participation and civic love. &nbsp;</span></p><p>It is noteworthy, and a little disturbing, that so many of my examples are situated either in cities, or are monuments that have to be visited in person.&nbsp;We are a diffuse society, and it is no longer the case that stirring political rhetoric such as that of Lincoln and FDR can reach everyone.&nbsp;TV is a cool medium, and the internet is a weirdly balkanized one, so I feel that more needs to be said about how my challenge can be taken up in the current media climate.&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/ray-filar/willing-impossible-interview-with-judith-butler">Willing the impossible: an interview with Judith Butler </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/roberto-mangabeira-unger/religion-of-future">The Religion of the Future</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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Democracy and government public art philosophy emotions Transforming Ourselves Transforming Politics Transforming Society Michael Edwards Trans-partisan politics Empathy Mon, 15 Dec 2014 01:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 88858 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Let’s get real about the transformation of society: can you email me directions? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/let%E2%80%99s-get-real-about-transformation-of-society-can-you-email-me-direc <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Following activists on twitter is easier than following them to jail. Why can’t we do both?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://opendemocracy.net/files/internet3.jpg" alt="" width="420" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://akrockefeller.com/blog/beyond-internet-activism/">http://akrockefeller.com/blog/beyond-internet-activism/</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>I fell in love with the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_District">English Lake District</a> as a boy, and I’ve wanted to live there all my life. But since my home and family are thousands of miles away in upstate New York I’ve had to make do with contacts and connections via social media, supplemented by the occasional dose of walking in the hills. </p> <p>For the longest time I saw my web surfing and Facebook chatting as a poor substitute for being there in person, but I’ve come to realize that both the ‘actual’ and the ‘virtual’ are part of the same reality—just experienced in different ways. Since I have so little ‘free’ time anyway—like most people in these days of over-burdened late-stage capitalism—I couldn’t spend more of my days tramping over mountains even if I wanted to. </p> <p>The contributors to Transformation’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/social-media-and-social-transformation">special series on social media</a> seem to have come to the same conclusion: organizing face-to-face and activism on the internet aren’t, or shouldn’t be, substitutes for one another. Instead, their different characteristics can be combined for mutual benefit—just as I can follow climbs on a webcam that I can’t physically do myself. </p> <p>It’s surely a good thing that social media make <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/stephen-hopgood/why-social-media-won%E2%80%99t-transform-our-politics">certain aspects of social activism easier</a>, like connecting across different geographies and making vital information more accessible. They also make it possible to accommodate <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/alice-neeson/small-steps-big-changes-how-social-media-contribute-to-social-transforma">different levels of commitment</a> that suit the circumstances of different people. Not every activist has to sit at <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensboro_sit-ins">a lunch counter in Greensboro</a> or stand in front of a tank in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989">Tiananmen Square</a>. What matters is that the whole ‘ecosystem’ of social change is healthy and well-connected.</p> <p>In any case, history has already by-passed the sterile debate on whether social media are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for activism, since social movements have always incorporated the latest innovations in communications technology into their work. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine">Tom Paine</a> wasn’t criticized for writing his pamphlets on newsprint instead of parchment or clay tablets; nor was Martin Luther King admonished for picking up the telephone when organizing the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_on_Washington_for_Jobs_and_Freedom">March on Washington DC</a> in 1963. So why would activists today eschew the latest social media advances?</p> <p>The real question is the one that’s been posed in different ways throughout this special series: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/stephen-hopgood/why-social-media-won%E2%80%99t-transform-our-politics">where’s the ‘sweet spot’</a> between online and offline action?</p> <p>In theory it’s easy to find an answer to this question. Face-to-face engagement is vital in directly confronting those in power, mobilizing high levels of lasting commitment to a cause, and persuading people to open and change their minds. At its heart, social transformation is a physical, visceral experience, because it demands deep changes in human behavior and relationships. </p> <p>But social media make it possible for much larger numbers of people to access information, make connections, and feed their views into decision making and debates, and to do so at a speed, cost and reach that could never be replicated in face-to-face encounters. That’s because <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mark-engler-paul-engler/should-we-fight-system-or-be-change">direct democracy and pre-figurative politics</a> demand continuous inter-personal negotiation.</p> <p>In practice however, these ‘sweet spots’ are much more difficult to find. For one thing, virtual activism is easier and less demanding, so it could become a substitute for more intensive actions on the ground. To continue with my Lake District analogy, actually climbing a mountain like <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scafell_Pike">Scafell Pike</a> takes much more energy than watching someone else as they struggle to the top via a camera feed to my computer. Following me on twitter is a lot less stressful than following me to jail.</p> <p>For another, are Facebook and twitter neutral tools for communication, or could they alter values and behavior in ways that dilute the transformative potential of social action—especially when corporations <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/kaliya-%E2%80%9Cidentity-woman%E2%80%9D/open-protocols-and-open-people-preserving-transformational-po">want to shape our social media activities</a> in ways that benefit their own commercial interests? </p> <p>Unfortunately, there’s surprisingly little unbiased research around these questions, partly because there’s a tendency to argue ‘<a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113272/eric-schmidt-and-jared-cohenthe-new-digital-ages-futurist-schlock">for</a>’ or ‘<a href="http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/evgeny_vs_the_internet.php?page=all">against</a>’ social media in order to prove a predetermined point (and sell more books along the way). </p> <p>But on the first question—does more online participation lead to less offline involvement—<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Civil-Society-Michael-Edwards/dp/0745679366/ref=la_B001HOUIH8_1_4_title_0_main?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1415130457&amp;sr=1-4">the answer is probably ‘no,’ though both reshape each other in a variety of ways</a>.</p> <p>It’s true that some <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/when-is-civil-society-force-for-social-transformation">traditional forms of activism (like labor unions) are declining</a>, but those trends were set in motion well before the arrival of social media. They are also counterbalanced, at least to some extent, by the arrival of new forms of activism in which social media play a vital role—like the street protests that have proliferated from the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring">Arab Spring</a> to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_movement">Occupy</a>. None of these protests were ‘Facebook or twitter revolutions’ (<a href="http://fuchs.uti.at/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/fuchs_castells.pdf">93 per cent of communications</a> between activists in Cairo’s Tahrir Square turned out to be face-to-face), but the extra connectivity provided by social media did help people to create, expand and sustain them.</p> <p>In similar fashion, the popularity of online petitions has made them a standard feature of social media, but <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/cristina-maza/why-internet-makes-personal-even-more-political">making connections in other ways</a>—by sharing information, coordinating action, advertizing protests, and developing collective strategies across large numbers of participants—are equally if not more important. Groups like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-blog/mary-fitzgerald/most-important-thing-you%E2%80%98ve-never-heard-of">Avaaz</a> and <a href="http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/">Making Change at Walmart</a> show that synergies can be built between online and offline action if there’s a deliberate intent to do so. </p> <p>On the second question of values and behavior, there’s <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Alone-Together-Expect-Technology-Other/dp/0465031463/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1415130821&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=sherry+turkle">a common fear</a> that social media will harden in-group ties and make bridge-building harder. That’s because—online or offline—people tend to congregate in like-minded groups. The fractures and inequalities that already exist in society <a href="http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195398571.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195398571-e-27">are replicated</a> in the virtual world, not diluted or extinguished, and that makes it more difficult to forge connections and alliances across pre-existing differences (an essential component of successful political action). Against this background, it’s unrealistic to expect online activism to be free from the same distortions, especially because the anonymity of the web allows people to hide in the shadows. The internet isn’t exactly known for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/liz-pleasant-jim-mcgowan/six-ways-to-bring-more-empathy-to-internet">cultivating empathy</a>.</p> <p>In addition, the distinctive culture of social media—a high-adrenalin mix of speed, instant feedback, information overload and never-ending availability—may encourage a degree of superficiality, or at least an over-simplification of problems and solutions. Shorter attention spans are unlikely to make people more willing to grapple with the complexities of social change. There’s also a kind of ceaseless, unreflective energy online that seems constantly in search of self promotion. By contrast, asks <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/niki-sethsmith/what-i-learned-from-going-cold-turkey-on-technology">Niki Seth-Smith</a> in her contribution to the series, “what would happen if we all thought twice?”</p> <p>That sounds like wise advice to me, and it provides at least a partial response to the fears of social media skeptics: <em>be reflective about the internet but don’t ignore it</em>. Pause before you click, read books as well as blogs, talk and listen to your colleagues in real time (and don’t send touchy messages by email), get together in your communities, meditate, chill out, and listen to the silence of the dawn—and then get back online whenever it makes sense. </p> <p>No-one is forced to surf the web 24 hours a day, and when we do open our computers it’s perfectly possible to be discriminating. Few people, it seems to me, are genuinely “<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/15/addiction-internet-cyborgs-google-glass-withdrawal">addicted to the internet</a>.” It can be a powerful ‘drug’ for sure, but if we read and follow the ‘instructions on the label,’ the benefits should outweigh the costs.</p> <p>That’s always assuming that people can write and follow their own ‘instructions’ on the internet, rather than be duped, bribed or manipulated by corporations who want to use it for their own ends. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/kaliya-%E2%80%9Cidentity-woman%E2%80%9D/open-protocols-and-open-people-preserving-transformational-po">Who owns and controls the infrastructure of the internet</a>—its algorithms, codes and servers—will ultimately determine the uses to which it’s put. </p> <p>These points are sometimes ignored by activists or relegated to the domain of pointy-headed geeks, but they are critical to preserving the transformational potential of social media. Online activism provides a refuge when offline spaces are closed down, but it’s also vulnerable to the same authoritarian and commercial pressures. </p> <p>The truth is that we don’t know the answers to any of the questions that I’ve posed. The evidence isn’t there one way or another, and its significance is constantly debated. Perhaps in fifty years time we’ll be able to say whether online activism complements or substitutes for the offline kind, and whether human beings are indeed becoming wired for a different future. But for now, the most important task is to experiment with using both together, and to make adjustments along the way.</p> <p>Social media are defined by their technology, but—codes and algorithms notwithstanding—their impact depends on people. That’s because it’s people who make the decisions on how, when and where social media are used.</p> <p>We can email each other plenty of directions, but the transformation of society remains a deeply human journey.</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/stephen-hopgood/why-social-media-won%E2%80%99t-transform-our-politics">Why social media won’t transform our politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/cristina-maza/why-internet-makes-personal-even-more-political">Why the Internet makes the personal even more political</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/niki-sethsmith/what-i-learned-from-going-cold-turkey-on-technology">What I learned from going cold turkey on technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/alice-neeson/small-steps-big-changes-how-social-media-contribute-to-social-transforma">Small steps, big changes: how social media contribute to social transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/liz-pleasant-jim-mcgowan/six-ways-to-bring-more-empathy-to-internet">Six ways to bring more empathy to the internet</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kaliya-%E2%80%9Cidentity-woman%E2%80%9D/open-protocols-and-open-people-preserving-transformational-po">Open protocols and open people: preserving the transformational potential of social media</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/liberation-in-age-of-hashtag-activist">Liberation in the age of the hashtag activist</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Internet Michael Edwards Social media and social transformation Activism Wed, 05 Nov 2014 10:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 87475 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An unexpected cloud of witnesses: Sister Rice replies https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/unexpected-cloud-of-witnesses-sister-rice-replies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Collective recognition is more important than the raising up of icons: there is no mastermind in the transformation of society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://opendemocracy.net/files/MeganRice2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed. Credit: <a href="http://www.americanfreepress.net/">www.americanfreepress.net</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>Megan Rice is a member of a Catholic religious order called the <a href="http://www.shcj.org/">Society of the Holy Child Jesus</a> that was founded in 1846.&nbsp; She’s also serving a three-year prison term in Brooklyn, New York, for “sabotage of the national defense”—a judgment handed down by Judge Amul Thapar for entering the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility in Oakridge, Tennessee in July of 2012 without permission. <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/19/nun-jailed-break-in-nuclear-plant">Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli</a>, two more experienced <a href="http://transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/">Plowshares</a> activists, accompanied Rice in this action and were given longer sentences.</p> <p>On August 18th 2014 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/to-remain-in-prison-for-rest-of-my-life-is-greatest-honor-you-could-g">I published an article</a> about Sister Rice and the origins of moral courage, and sent her a copy of the piece in jail. “I am grateful for your giving notice and taking notice of our action for building peaceful alternatives at Y-12,” she wrote back to me in a letter, “You join an unexpected cloud of witnesses who have emerged in real solidarity as co-participants in extending its message. Since you asked for some feedback from me about your article, I did regret the chance to point out some details I was not very comfortable with.”</p> <p>What follows are Sister Rice’s observations and corrections, along with some additional material that I think is relevant to the points she makes, collected by me from the other articles to which she refers. This new piece was approved by her prior to publication.</p> <p>First, she writes, “It would have helped that the three of us could be named together as ‘entering’ the facility (not ‘broke in’ or ‘cut through non-functioning fences’). The fences were illegal.”</p> <p>Second, “there was no time to sit for any ‘picnic.’ We thought it was fifteen minutes before security arrived; the court said seven. We acted quickly!”</p> <p>As an interesting coda to this part of the story, <a href="http://www.nukeresister.org/2014/07/28/two-years-on-the-crime-remains-the-same-to-honor-the-transform-now-plowshares-we-must-continue-the-work-of-disarmament/">Ellen Barfield</a>, another Plowshares activist writing on the second anniversary of the action at Y-12, noted that “security” turned out to be a guard who had prior experience with peace activists at the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Flats_Plant">Rocky Flats</a> nuclear weapons plant in Colorado:</p> <p>“He knew he faced no physical threat and did not use violence. The video of that meeting we saw later in court was touching: MGM [a common acronym for the three protestors—Megan, Greg and Michael] bowing and holding out their hands in friendship, offering bread and flowers, and the guard’s calm demeanor in response. What a shame that plant management fired him for doing his job so well. His union continues to support his claim of wrongful dismissal.”</p> <p>Third, Rice continues, “We never ‘wanted to expose the ineffectiveness of the security systems that were supposed to protect these weapons from theft or damage.’ It revealed itself.” Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa, who edit the <a href="http://www.nukeresister.org/">Nukeresister</a> newspaper, expanded on this concern in an email to me after my article came out:</p> <p>“While safety concerns were the primary focus of most media coverage (to the point that the critique of nuclear weapons was lost in the hysteria over a spectacular trespass), the point the three protestors would make instead is that we are less secure simply because these weapons exist as moral and legal abominations, regardless of the efficacy of the walls and fences alleged to protect them.” Rice, Boertje-Obed and Walli believe that it’s impossible to ‘secure’ nuclear weapons without <em>eliminating</em> them.</p> <p>Finally, Rice responded to the link I had placed at the end of my piece to a petition advocating for MGM’s release:</p> <p>“Too bad the promotions of the petition ‘request a pardon’—we could never ask for a pardon when what was done was stating the truth under the constitution protecting human rights, and the responsibility to expose known crimes even of government.”</p> <p>Barfield’s article supports this position: “I agree they should be released, but I don’t think that serves them. What they want is for the rest of us to get off our couches and do something about the weapons: sign the petition at <a href="http://www.nuclearzero.org/">www.nuclearzero.org</a>, support the Marshall Islanders in their lawsuits against the nine nuke nations for not disarming, and learn more and find ideas at <a href="http://www.wagingpeace.org/nuclearzero">www.wagingpeace.org/nuclearzero</a>; help organize and speak out on the upcoming Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days, support strengthening the recent bills in the US Congress to reduce weapons budgets, write to tell MGM what you are doing. This is what they want us to do. ”</p> <p>A common theme in Rice’s reactions and the commentary surrounding the Y-12 judgment is that collective struggle and recognition is more important than the raising up of three individual heroes, or indeed a focus on Rice herself in contrast to Boertje-Obed and Walli. “To listen to many outlets you would almost think Sister Megan acted alone” as Barfield puts it.</p> <p>Rice expanded on this theme in a letter to friends and supporters dated September 7th 2014:</p> <p>“Some may have seen the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/opinion/sunday/nicholas-kristof-sister-acts.html?_r=1">book review by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times</a>. I wish to comment and to dispel a possible myth that it may create. No true Plowshares act of resistance can contain the concept of ‘masterminding.’ By nature of being true resistance in nonviolence, Plowshares actions strive to be the result of genuine, communal discernment, and this, if faith inspired, involves collaborative research, planning, enactment and follow up, in which we each are now involved….there can be no ‘mastermind.’”</p> <p>The article she’s referring to was published by journalist Nicholas Kristof on August 16th 2014. It’s a review of <a href="http://www.jopiazza.com/">Jo Piazza’s</a> forthcoming book entitled “<a href="http://flavorwire.com/475291/jo-piazzas-subversive-if-nuns-ruled-the-world-shatters-the-sister-act-stereotype">If Nuns Ruled the World</a>.” Kristof opens the piece with a call for more “superheroes in an age of villainy”, before citing nuns as possibly “the best superheroes yet.” The celebration of individual heroism over collective action is <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/annanorth/the-anti-nicholas-kristof-backlash#1d9krva">a long-running theme</a> in Kristof’s writings. </p> <p>One of these “superhero nuns” is Sister Rice, who Kristof describes as “masterminding a break-in of a nuclear complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to call attention to the nuclear threat.” “I don’t approve of breaking into national security compounds,” Kristof opines, “and I think nuclear doctrine is more complex than Sister Megan probably does. Nonetheless I admire someone with such guts and commitment to principles.”</p> <p>As her September 7th letter to supporters makes clear, Rice rejects this analysis. For her, the adulation offered to individual ‘masterminds’ is a travesty, the opposite of the “community discernment” that members of the Plowshares movement advocate. Perhaps it’s even a cover for secrecy. She provides a list of books that expand on these themes:</p> <p>“If one reads one of the oral histories, like <a href="http://www.girlsofatomiccity.com/">The Girls of the Atomic City</a> by Denise Kiernan, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Groves">General Leslie Groves</a> memories recounted in 1983 under the title <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Now-It-Can-Told-Manhattan/dp/0306801892">Now It Can Be Told</a>, or Mary Palevsky’s 1999 <a href="http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520220553">Atomic Fragments: A Daughter’s Questions</a>, we see stories that are opposite to this kind of community discernment: the practice of all-pervading secrecy. We might even say the flourishing of some sort of ‘master-mindedness’ in the raw, and seventy years of living in a state of denial of truth, as well as a state of planetary peril, constantly creating its own destruction.” </p> <p>It’s a powerful statement that summarizes what for me is the key to Rice’s story: the constant <em>practice</em> of openness, sharing and solidarity to set alongside the theory. There is no inconsistency here, and that makes her example, and that of her two colleagues, all the more compelling. The rest, I think she’s saying, is up to us.</p> <p>“With sincere gratitude for all your efforts to restore harmony to our sacred planet in its work of constant transformation into the fullness of life,” she signs off in her letters:</p> <p>&nbsp;“Megan.”</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/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 even"> <a href="/transformation/robert-holtom/we-need-more-humans-not-more-heroes">We need more humans, not more heroes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton: two journeys to wholeness</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Transformation Transformation Social activism nuclear weapons Transforming Ourselves Transforming Society Michael Edwards Transformative nonviolence Activism Wed, 29 Oct 2014 09:49:18 +0000 Michael Edwards 87228 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From empire to earth community: Casa de Paz https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/from-empire-to-earth-community-casa-de-paz <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the Fruitvale district of East Oakland, California, 36<sup>th</sup> Avenue is the turf of three major gangs. Yet the residents of Casa de Paz never lock their doors.&nbsp;<em>(Video 6 minutes)</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Anchored by Pancho Ramos Stierle and Adelaja Simon, Casa de Paz (“House of Peace”) is part of a group of homes that form an intentional community of peace and nonviolence in an area rife with structural and physical violence. Their goal is nothing less than a “total revolution of the human spirit” to support the transition from “empire to earth community.”</p><iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/97298474?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&color=ff0179" width="460" height="361" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p align=right><I><small>A film by <a href="https://vimeo.com/user13912830">Michelle Moore</a>.</small></i></p><p><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">Read more about </span><a style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=127">Pancho Ramos Stierle</a><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">, now known worldwide as one of the men arrested for meditating to reduce the growing tension between police and protesters during Occupy Oakland.</span></p> <p>Casa de Paz is part of the Canticle Farm community. Learn more about the founders, their philosophy, and the practices that anchor the community <a href="http://ncronline.org/blogs/road-peace/making-peace-inner-city-oakland-one-block-time">here</a>. </p> <p>This video first appeared on <a href="http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=4616">Karmatube</a> and is re-posted here with permission.</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/should-we-fight-system-or-be-change">Should we fight the system or be the change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/bellamy/smashing-egoism-against-flashpoint-action">Smashing egoism: against flashpoint action</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/darrin-drda/selective-awareness-of-wisdom-20">The selective awareness of Wisdom 2.0</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"> Copyright </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation peace street gangs Transforming Ourselves Transforming Society Michael Edwards Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 02 Sep 2014 09:15:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 85603 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Does the left still need transformation? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/does-left-still-need-transformation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Strategy is weak without soul: readers react to openDemocracy’s newest section, and where it goes next.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://opendemocracy.net/files/MLKcropped_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Minnesota Historical Society. All rights reserved.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Matter-Kansas-Conservatives-America/dp/080507774X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1409066548&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=whatever+happened+to+kansas">What’s the matter with Kansas?</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">” was published in 2005 by the writer </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Frank">Thomas Frank</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, I rushed out to buy it along with all my other left/progressive friends. The book promised to explain why so many blue-collar workers in the United States vote for Republicans when they’re ‘supposed’ to vote for Democrats, thereby reducing the supporter base for radical changes in society. At last, the secret to success…..</span></p> <p>Frank’s explanation is that these voters are deluded into supporting a party that provides them with attractive religious and cultural references (like taking a stand against abortion), while ignoring the actual effects of Republican economic policies on the working- and middle classes - in other words, on themselves. Conversely, the Democrats bang on endlessly about <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/why-americas-workers-need-faster-wage-growth/">rising inequality and declining real wages</a> - the same old boring facts - while failing to connect with people on a deeper, emotional level by providing an overarching moral vision for the future. The same arguments could be made about traditional left parties in Europe.</p> <p>I think much of this is true, but as an explanation for the absence of transformational constituencies in politics I don’t think it’s convincing. </p> <p>For one thing, Democrats have been appealing to “attractive cultural references” for years - think ‘welfare scroungers’ or ‘let’s get-tough-on-immigration,’ for example. These tactics have done nothing to build support for radical positions. Instead, they’re part of a simplistic strategy to ‘build progressive power’ by aggregating votes around particular issues and identities. Even when this strategy produces electoral success, the ‘power’ that results is never used to overturn politics-as-usual - the endless round of influence peddling and deal making that limits government action to tinkering around the edges of economic and social problems. </p> <p>In addition, cultural, religious and political differences remain deeply embedded in society, often resulting in combinations of beliefs that may seem surprising, as they were to Thomas Frank in Kansas. This can work against the advance of progressive ideas, but it also provides an opportunity to find more common ground. The Tea Party and Occupy aren't linked by much, for example, but they share a deep antipathy to ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/arthur-pe%c3%b1a/gay-marxist-meets-tea-party-in-california">crony capitalism’</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/dini-merz/can-pentagon-be-tamed">spiraling military spending</a> that has already found expression in some successful joint campaigns. &nbsp;</p> <p>While conventional politics revolve around the <em>accumulation</em> of formal power - almost inevitably concentrated in the same, small numbers of hands and becoming corrupted over time - transformational politics aim to <em>reshape</em> power relations at a much deeper level in order to open up the system to new ideas and possibilities. That’s why “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mark-engler-paul-engler/should-we-fight-system-or-be-change">pre-figurative politics</a>” are so important: forms of political action that practice what they preach in the form of equality, democracy, transparency and deep listening. This was the central insight of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Dr Martin Luther King</a> and pretty much every progressive social movement: that only the fusion of personal and political change can ultimately transform the deep structures of self and society.</p> <p>I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions lately, since I’ve been analyzing the results of a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards-ray-filar/what-do-you-think-of-transformation">reader survey</a> that was commissioned to gather feedback on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation">Transformation</a>, the newest section of openDemocracy that was launched on July 1<sup>st</sup> last year. Thanks to everyone who sent in their comments, which make for fascinating reading. The inadequacy of conventional left/progressive thinking emerges as a common theme in the responses, along with the need to explore how alternative forms of politics and social activism actually work or don’t work in practice - warts and all.</p> <p>Readers say they value a number of things about the new section. First, it provides a space to think beyond reformism, even when the constraints on doing anything more radical are very strong. “Keep up your critiques of the charity sector, philanthropy and NGOs,” said one respondent, “along with the technocratic, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/genevieve-lebaron-peter-dauvergne/not-just-about-money-corporatization-is-weakening-a">corporatized brand of activism</a> that’s gaining ground.” The same applies to the transformation community itself where these trends are also becoming more apparent – for example, in the use of meditation and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/darrin-drda/selective-awareness-of-wisdom-20">‘mindfulness’ in Silicon Valley</a> and elsewhere in the corporate world. We can’t claim to be transforming anything if we’re not critical of ourselves. </p> <p>Second, readers like the fact that the section presents both the theory and the practice of transformational alternatives, though there seems to be more interest in the latter than the former: the most positive reactions revolved around story-based journalism that shows what real people are doing in real situations. “The link between self-development and societal advancement is in itself a great contribution as it is covered nowhere else, to my knowledge, and it provides a unique view on a familiar question.” </p> <p>But there’s a caveat: the balance between the ‘personal and the political’ in these stories has to be equal. “You have to overtly draw the links between structural violence of various kinds and how they play out in our lives.” “It’s good to focus on the personal but it has to remain completely inclusive” of all people and all notions of who and what is being transformed. That means pushing back against uniform notions of what it means to be ‘normal,’ a theme that came out of many of the articles that we’ve published on and from the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/liberation-series">LGBTQ community</a> and around the “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/politics-of-mental-health">politics of mental health</a>.”</p> <p>Third - and linking back to “What’s the Matter with Kansas” - readers like the fact that the section explores every facet of human experience as a resource for radical change: <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kali-swenson/social-justice-with-knitting">art</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-abi-karam/political-poetry-does-not-ask-permission">poetry</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jo-tyabji/what-would-you-do-in-revolution">theatre</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/simon-hodges/what%E2%80%99s-so-special-about-storytelling-for-social-change">storytelling</a>, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michel-bauwens/is-there-any-value-in-new-age-thinking">spirituality</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/alessandra-pigni/practising-mindfulness-at-checkpoint">personal development</a> as well as the latest advances in social activism. Strategy is weak without soul, one might say, especially when the goal is to enlist large numbers of people in transformative thinking and action outside their existing comfort zones. Transformation is “almost unique in exploring the human dimensions of social change without being too New Age,” one reader said, “I love that <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/claudia-horwitz/why-we-need-radical-love-to-create-change">love</a> is central to everything.”</p> <p>Transformation is undeniably an emotional experience as well as a political commitment, a message that contrasts powerfully with the narrow view of social change as <em>policy</em> change that infects so many political parties, trade unions, think-tanks and NGOs. “I tend to think of openDemocracy as more oriented towards a hard-headed mainstream policy discourse (which may be wrong) and I think the explorations into more risky and visionary possibilities is a very good thing” as one reader put it. </p> <p>Respondents to the survey also suggested some useful tweaks: more series of inter-linked articles on the same theme like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation-themes/empathy">empathy</a>, and the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation-themes/role-of-money">role of money</a>; and more debates which deliberately set different views alongside each other, perhaps starting with the role of religion. “People self-medicate too much” as one reader put it, “everyone needs the experience of contrasting points of view.” A number of answers highlighted the need for more international material (i.e. views and voices from outside the US and Western Europe); along with a request that we should make more effort to link with other sections of openDemocracy when they publish transformational thinking of their own.</p> <p>In general, however, the section received a big vote of confidence: 100 per cent of respondents said that we should carry on next year. So that’s what we’re going to do, and it means asking for your continued support as readers. </p> <p>You can sign up for our weekly email alerts of new articles <a href="http://opendemocracy.us1.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=9c663f765f28cdb71116aa9ac&amp;id=9f93c95423">here</a>, like our <a href="https://www.facebook.com/odtransformation">Facebook page</a>, and follow us on <a href="https://twitter.com/oDTransform">twitter</a>. We hope you’ll also make a financial contribution within your means, since we are entirely dependent on voluntary support from individuals and foundations, and there aren’t many who are willing to support the kind of work we want to publish. You can click the “donate” button below which will take you to a secure Paypal page.</p><div style="text-align: center;"> <form action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr" method="post"> <input name="cmd" type="hidden" value="_s-xclick" /><input name="hosted_button_id" type="hidden" value="7LUF2689H5HAU" /><input alt="PayPal – The safer, easier way to pay online." name="submit" src="https://www.paypalobjects.com/en_US/GB/i/btn/btn_donateCC_LG.gif" type="image" /><img src="https://www.paypalobjects.com/en_GB/i/scr/pixel.gif" border="0" alt="" width="1" height="1" /></form> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">All in all, Transformation has had a very good year, but we know our work is just beginning. As another reader said when answering the question “what do you like about the section?” “Its physical beauty, the promise now associated with that color yellow, the fact that I haven’t a clue where you might go next - and its always closer to home than I think.”</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards-ray-filar/what-do-you-think-of-transformation">What do you think of Transformation?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-blog/ray-filar/get-ready-for-transformation">Get ready for 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"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Transformation Transforming Ourselves Transforming Politics Transforming Society Michael Edwards Activism Economics Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:30:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 85519 at https://www.opendemocracy.net To remain in prison for the rest of my life is the greatest honor you could give me: the story of Sister Megan Rice https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/to-remain-in-prison-for-rest-of-my-life-is-greatest-honor-you-could-g <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Where does moral courage come from - the energy and strength to challenge and transform much larger powers? A prison correspondence provides some answers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://opendemocracy.net/files/SisterMeganRicecropped_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:<a href="http://climateviewer.com/">http://climateviewer.com</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p><span>The </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y-12_National_Security_Complex">Y-12 nuclear weapons plant</a><span> in Oakridge, Tennessee, is supposed to be impregnable. But on July 28</span>th<span> 2012, an </span><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megan_Rice">84 year-old nun called Sister Megan Rice</a><span> broke through a series of high-security fences surrounding the plant and reached a uranium storage bunker at the center of the complex. She was accompanied by </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/19/nun-jailed-break-in-nuclear-plant">Greg Boertje-Obed (57) and Michael Walli (63)</a><span>.</span></p> <p>The trio daubed the walls of the bunker with biblical references like “the fruit of justice is peace,” and scattered small vials of human blood across the ground. Then they sat down for a picnic. When the security guards arrived they offered them some bread, along with a candle, a bible and a bunch of white roses.</p> <p>Two years later, Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed were <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/19/nun-jailed-break-in-nuclear-plant">sentenced to federal prison terms of between three and five years, plus restitution in the amount of $53,000</a> for damage done to the plant - far in excess of the estimates produced at their trial. Rice, who received the shortest sentence of the three, was sent to a detention center in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then transferred to a prison in Ocilla, Georgia. She is now serving the rest of her sentence in the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Detention_Center,_Brooklyn">Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York.</a></p> <p>When questioned about her actions at her trial by <a href="http://www.nukeresister.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/NR173web.pdf">Judge Amul Thapar, Rice told him</a> that her actions were intended to draw attention to the US stockpile of nuclear weapons that she and her co-defendants felt was illegal and immoral. They also wanted to expose the ineffectiveness of the security systems that were supposed to protect these weapons from theft or damage. “We were acutely mindful of the widespread loss to humanity that nuclear weapons have already caused,” wrote Rice afterwards in a letter to her supporters, “and we realize that all life on earth could be exterminated through intentional, accidental or technical error. Our action exposed the storage of weapons-making materials deliberately hidden from the general public. The production, refurbishment, threat or use of these weapons of mass destruction violates the fundamental rules and principles by which we all try to live amicably as human beings.”</p> <p>All three defendants were found guilty of “<a href="http://www.nukeresister.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/NR173web.pdf">sabotage of the national defense</a>.”Just before they were sentenced, Rice <a href="http://www.nukeresister.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/NR173web.pdf">made a statement to the court</a> which ended like this: “We have to speak, and we’re happy to die for that. To remain in prison for the rest of my life is the greatest honor that you could give me. Please don’t be lenient with me. It would be an honor for that to happen.”</p> <p>What struck me most about the accounts of the trial I read wasn’t just the honest fearlessness of these words, but the serenity and lack of malice with which they were delivered - as though they represented a simple, straightforward and legitimate truth instead of a potential death sentence behind bars, given Rice’s age. </p> <p>That set me thinking. Where does such moral courage come from - the energy and strength that are needed to challenge and transform much larger powers? So I decided to write to Sister Rice in prison, not expecting a reply.</p> <p>But reply she did, in letters handwritten in perfect script, on standard-issue, lined prison notepaper. The letters were full of spontaneous last minute additions and corrections inserted into the margins; key words bolded, capitalized and underlined; text running up and down and sideways as one thought led to another. One common theme emerged from our correspondence and from Rice’s letters to her supporters, which are available <a href="mailto:nukeresister@igc.org">here</a>: everything is connected for good or for ill, from the way we are brought up as children (“We were never spanked or shouted at growing up”), to our actions towards each other as adults (“Great harm is done by <span>abuse</span> and <span>violence</span> at any stage of life”), to the militaristic policies of nations. </p> <p>For Rice, the immorality of nuclear weapons is linked to the injustices she has witnessed first-hand in the dehumanizing conditions of the prison system. Both stem from a culture of violence in the USA which is reinforced at every turn by allegiance to the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military%E2%80%93industrial_complex">military industrial complex</a> and the interests it serves, and which filters down like a poison through the institutions of prisons and police, schools and even families.</p> <p>“Detainees arrive, already abused, to experience overcrowded prison systems and botched justice”, she says in one of her letters. “I saw needless theft by officials and denial of the use of eye glasses for a significant number of inmates (so they can’t read), and the absence of adequate programs for real, creative growth through restorative healing processes. Instead of engagement in any productive activities…officers waste time by devising ways to further incriminate, punish and suppress the most vulnerable citizens. I personally received three charges for refusing to strip-search i.e. 1) possession of a paper clip (among my privileged legal papers) and one metal clasp on a paper envelope called ‘dangerous contraband;’ 2) failure to obey lawful rule; and 3) interference with a search, for which I was pronounced guilty then given 31 days <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockdown">lock down</a>. I had 7 fellow inmates in my lockdown pod sentenced for things like reserving a single arthritis pill to take at night so the inmate could sleep (which was designated as ‘hoarding pills’).”</p> <p>Just as important, this culture of violence can be systematically reversed through interlinked, personal and political action. For Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed, this process ends with “the transformation of weapons of mass destruction to sustainable life-giving alternatives,” but it starts by modeling a radically different set of relationships with other people wherever they are. What shines out from Rice’s writings is always life over death, love over fear, and joyful subversion instead of the passive acceptance of our circumstances. </p> <p>“Dear sisters and brothers,” she begins her letters to her supporters, “united as we are in efforts to transform weapons of war into projects fostering <strong>LIFE</strong> in all its fullness, restorative of justice, and healing for our planet.” Everything she does is infused with this same spirit. Even a ride in a prison van turns into an opportunity for celebration: Rice and her two co-defendants were separated after their trial, but briefly reunited inside a prison vehicle on their way from Tennessee to Georgia. “You can imagine our joy in finding ourselves seated in front of or behind each other in a comfortable prisoner transport van,” she writes, “where we could have our first chat since last May. The memory of chatting is truly treasured!”</p> <p>This vignette reminds me of the school children who <a href="http://www.biography.com/news/black-history-birmingham-childrens-crusade-1963-video">joined hands and sang</a> as they marched into jail during the “children’s crusade” for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. In the face of bureaucratic authority, the expression of joy can be both powerful and subversive, partly because it is so unexpected. It disarms those in power through an absolute refusal to be provoked or humbled, and it provides great inner strength for the struggles that lie ahead.</p> <p>How does such exuberance survive in the face of injustice? For Rice this is a spiritual and religious matter. “By gift of birth through choices made”, she told me in a letter, “Religion is and has always been understood as those activities which enhance my awareness of being in union with God, understood as the source of my being. God cannot be seen or heard, but there is a way of feeling that God is near to me…and so the experience of spirit became real, as God is spirit, and I have a spirit part which is <span>real</span> in <span>me</span> and all other beings…I learned, from those who surround us also, that spirit manifests itself, or its presence in me, as conscience. We sense what is fair and just, true and genuine, loving and good for <span>all</span> of us…Genuine religious activity calls us to actively work for fairness, peace, and harmony in all our relationships...in all that fosters life on this planet Earth.” </p> <p>Everything is connected from that spiritual center, she seems to be saying, but this time in reverse – all the way up the system from loving personal relationships to a foreign policy no longer based on fear and domination. Every act of resistance becomes an act of liberation from the need to exercise raw power over others; a contribution to breaking the cycle of violence and re-building relationships around the radically different rationalities of love, joy and justice.</p> <p>As Rice wrote in her most recent letter to me: “I learned that people in government can and do act unjustly, and that resisters are often unjustly tried and persecuted for their faithfulness to their consciences…So it would be no surprise if acting to end imperialism causes one to end up in prisons of some sort…I am assured that in the long run, truth will be served despite appearances.”</p> <p>Given that logic, I suppose it makes sense to tell a judge that “to remain in prison for the rest of my life is the greatest honor you could give me” even if you’re already 84 years old. </p> <p>Here’s to love, life and Sister Megan Rice.</p> <p class="image-caption">If you would like to receive copies of Sister Rice’s letters to her supporters, please email <a href="mailto:nukeresister@igc.org">nukeresister@igc.org</a>. Mailing addresses for Sister Rice and her co-defendants can be found at <a href="http://www.transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/">www.transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com</a> and <a href="http://www.nukeresister.org/inside-out">www.nukeresister.org/inside-out</a>. You can also sign a petition requesting their pardon <a href="http://www.change.org/petitions/president-barack-obama-pardon-anti-nuclear-activists-gregory-boertje-obed-sister-megan-rice-and-michael-walli">here</a>. Unless otherwise stated, all the quotes used in this article come from my correspondence with Sister Rice.</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/unexpected-cloud-of-witnesses-sister-rice-replies">An unexpected cloud of witnesses: Sister Rice replies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/i%E2%80%99m-out-of-prison-but-i%E2%80%99m-still-not-free-continuing-struggles-of-y-12">I’m out of prison but I’m still not free: the continuing struggles of the Y-12 Three</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Transformation Transformation nuclear weapons Prison joy women and power women and militarism Michael Edwards Transformative nonviolence Activism Mon, 18 Aug 2014 08:38:28 +0000 Michael Edwards 85269 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What do you think of Transformation? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards-ray-filar/what-do-you-think-of-transformation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Transformation, openDemocracy’s newest section, turns one year old today. We want your help in evaluating our progress.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/shutterstock_113505436.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Shutterstock. All rights reserved.</p> <p>One year ago almost to the day, we launched a new section of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/">www.openDemocracy.net</a> called <em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation">Transformation</a></em> &ndash; &ldquo;where love meets social justice.&rdquo; Our objective was to explore how personal and social change can be combined in order to re-imagine societies in truly radical ways. </p> <p>In the <a href="http://opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">launch piece for the new section</a>, we said that we wanted to challenge the reluctance of many progressive activists and writers to take the personal dimensions of social change as seriously as the political. We argued that personal change is not New Age narcissism &ndash; it means engaging in the daily struggle for dignity and justice in a different spirit, opening up more effective routes to action.</p> <p>At the same time we also wanted to challenge the reluctance of many spiritual and self-help advocates to take the political dimensions of personal change as seriously as the inner life they espouse, by showing that love flourishes more easily when new institutions are built on sharing and solidarity instead of the mindless pursuit of competition, growth and power. </p> <p>We&rsquo;ve made good progress towards these objectives, attracting a great and diverse group of writers and activists as contributors, and a growing audience that has read our stories over one million times in the last twelve months. </p> <p>We want to say a big &ldquo;thank you&rdquo; to everyone who has supported us this far, including all our colleagues at openDemocracy.</p> <p>Now we want to evaluate our successes and failures in order to make some decisions on the road ahead when our pilot project comes to an end in December of this year. </p> <p>Have we added anything to openDemocracy&rsquo;s stellar coverage of politics, economics and international affairs? What have been our most interesting stories? Should <em>Transformation</em> continue, and if so should we be looking to expand our coverage of particular issues, or regions, or writers?&nbsp; </p> <p>To that end, we want to hear what you think. We&rsquo;ve put together a very short survey which has ten questions and should only take 5-10 minutes of your time. To take this survey, please click on this link and fire away:&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SQVR3V6">https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SQVR3V6</a></p> <p>All the questions except number one are open questions, so you can say whatever it is you want us to hear. </p> <p>If you prefer to leave a comment rather than fill out the survey you&rsquo;re welcome to do so below this article in the space provided. You can also email us at <a href="mailto:Transformation@opendemocracy.net">transformation@opendemocracy.net</a>. </p> <p>However you want to provide it, your feedback will be extremely useful to us in deciding <em>Transformation&rsquo;s</em> future. Please send this request to others who you think will be interested in responding. Thanks again for your time, your interest and your support.</p> <p>Michael Edwards and Ray Filar</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="/od-blog/ray-filar/get-ready-for-transformation">Get ready for Transformation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ideas Transforming Ourselves Transforming Politics Transforming Society Ray Filar Michael Edwards Activism Economics Tue, 08 Jul 2014 07:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards and Ray Filar 84298 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When is civil society a force for social transformation? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/when-is-civil-society-force-for-social-transformation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There are more civil society organizations in the world today than at any other time in history, so why isn't their impact growing?&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/civilsociety.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Civil society in action? Credit: <a href="http://www.iisd.ca/">http://www.iisd.ca</a>. All rights reserved. </p> <p>When you look at the numbers, the growth of civil society has been remarkable: 3.3 <em>million</em> charities in India and 1.5 million across the United States; NGOs like the <a href="http://www.brac.net/">Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee</a> that work with <em>hundreds</em> <em>of millions</em> of people; 81,000 international NGOs and networks, 90 per cent of them launched since 1975. That&rsquo;s not counting all the street protests, social movements and informal community groups that are often omitted from the data. In the UK, for example, these latter outnumber registered charities by more than four to one.</p> <p>These statistics are mightily impressive - except when compared to the problems that civil societies want to solve. You could argue that things would be worse without the involvement of these groups. There&rsquo;s also evidence to show that they&rsquo;re making inroads around the edges of poverty and injustice. </p> <p>But there&rsquo;s no sign that the underlying structures of social, political and economic violence and oppression are being shaken to their roots.</p> <p>As a result, fewer people in the world are dying young, and basic indicators of health and education, income and employment are getting slightly better - <a href="http://hdr.undp.org/en/2013-report">at least for most people in most countries</a>. However, economic inequality is rising, democracies are being hollowed out, climate change is worsening, and discrimination based on race, gender, ability and sexual orientation remains endemic. </p> <p>Social movements have helped to challenge these underlying problems, and they&rsquo;ve successfully unseated dictators in many parts of the world. But they haven&rsquo;t been able to secure lasting gains in democracy, equality and freedom. </p> <p>Expecting civil society groups to achieve these gains by themselves would be foolish. However, given the rapid growth of all these organizations, shouldn&rsquo;t they be having at least some impact on the deep transformation of self and society? What is going wrong?</p> <p>I&rsquo;ve spent the last 30 years trying to figure out an answer to that question, and every so often I <a href="https://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745679358">put some thoughts down in print</a>. Of course, like the proverbial painter on the Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland, I have to start afresh as soon as I&rsquo;ve finished each round of revisions, since civil societies are constantly mutating.&nbsp; But they don&rsquo;t seem to be mutating in the direction of social transformation, despite the headline-grabbing protests of the Arab Spring and other &lsquo;revolutions.&rsquo; In fact my conclusion this time around may be surprising: the strength of civil society is declining even as its size continues to expand.</p> <p>I think there are two main reasons for this mismatch. The first is that civil society groups are increasingly divorced from the forces that drive deeper social change. When one looks at the few times in history when civil society has functioned as a powerful and lasting moral and political lever - like the civil rights and women&rsquo;s movements of the 1960s and 1970s - large numbers of people became active in translating ethical action into power structures at every level, from the family to the courts and corporations. </p> <p>In this sense, civil society is like an iceberg, with the peaks of protest rising above the waterline and the great mass of everyday citizen action hidden underneath. When the two are connected - when street protests are backed up by long-term action in every community, bank, business, local government, church or mosque, temporary gains in equality and diversity have more chance of becoming permanent shifts in power and public norms. In that respect it&rsquo;s not the Arab or any other &lsquo;Spring&rsquo; that really makes the difference, but what happens in every other season, of every other year, across every generation. </p> <p>Unfortunately these episodes of large-scale, joined-up action are quite rare, and the long-term trend has been the opposite, at least in Europe and North America. Traditional forms of participation - like voting and membership in labor unions and other mass organizations - <a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9685.html">have declined alarmingly</a> over the last 50 years. Other forms of participation have emerged in their stead, but they haven&rsquo;t had the same effect in pulling large numbers of people into face-to-face, ongoing, and potentially transformative activities.&nbsp; </p> <p>These new forms of participation are largely social media-based, but they also include social enterprises and professional advocacy groups which have strong messages but much weaker memberships. They may well attract large numbers of people to donate money, sign petitions, and consume less harmful products, but none of these actions <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ray-filar/liberation-in-age-of-hashtag-activist">have the same amount of purchase</a> in the heartlands of politics and economics. They are too thin to have much effect on the transformation of society.&nbsp; </p> <p>As an indicator of changing fashions, the number of Google searches for &ldquo;civil society&rdquo; fell by 70 per cent between 2004 and 2012. During the same period, searches for &ldquo;social media&rdquo; and &ldquo;social entrepreneurs&rdquo; rose by 90 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. </p> <p>It isn&rsquo;t that these new trends are bad in themselves - successful social movements have always made use of innovations in marketing, revenue-generation and communications. The problems arrive when they <em>displace</em> other forms of civil society action that remain essential. In that respect, it&rsquo;s significant that today&rsquo;s most transformative civil society groups incorporate both online and offline activism around a strong ethos of democratic participation and accountability. &ldquo;<a href="http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/">Making Change at Wal-Mart</a>,&rdquo; for example, uses Facebook to help employees identify which of their &ldquo;friends&rdquo; works for the company, to supply them with information about their rights, and then to connect them to ongoing campaigns and demonstrations on the ground.</p> <p>But in terms of <em>transformation</em>, it <em>does</em> matter that a different ethos of competition and technocracy <a href="http://opendemocracy.net/transformation/genevieve-lebaron-peter-dauvergne/not-just-about-money-corporatization-is-weakening-a">is increasingly influential</a> in civil society itself. In a classic case of cooptation, what was designed as a solidarity-based alternative is being turned into an integral component of the social capitalist economy.&nbsp; </p> <p>The second reason for the decline in civil societies&rsquo; transformative potential is that structures that used to mediate between people of different views and backgrounds have largely disappeared. Getting large numbers of people to participate in politics and civic life is priority number one. But those people will likely disagree with each other on everything from gay marriage to student debt. That&rsquo;s the reality of civil societies everywhere, which don&rsquo;t belong to conservatives or progressives, or to anyone else in particular, but to everyone. </p> <p>So priority number two is to find ways for people to come together <em>across </em>their differences and hammer out some common ground. That common ground then gets translated formally into laws and policies by voting in reforming governments, and informally into the norms of public opinion that help to set some sense of direction for society. </p> <p>This was precisely the process that underpinned broad, public support for redistributive actions like the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G.I._Bill">GI Bill of 1944</a>, which made college education and other benefits accessible for all returning veterans in the USA. Many future leaders of the US Civil Rights movement were graduates of these programs. Something similar took place in Britain after the end of World War Two, when the newly elected Labour Government introduced <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_state_in_the_United_Kingdom">the Welfare State</a>. Greater social intermingling during the war years, and a sense of shared experience and responsibility, helped to draw in a wider range of support. </p> <p>In both these examples, the ground was laid for potentially transformative changes in society, though much of it has since been eroded. By guaranteeing the conditions in which broad swathes of the population could participate in politics and public life, governments gave civil society a tremendous boost.</p> <p>The problem is that most of the structures through which people participated have been destroyed or allowed to wither on the vine. They included labor unions (which declined by 43 per cent in the USA between 1950 and 2000), parent-teachers associations (which lost 60 per cent of their members during the same period), political parties, and national federations of women&rsquo;s groups. As a result, the rich and diverse ecosystems of civil society that had brought different groups together, however imperfectly, began to resemble monocultures in which organizations looked alike or turned into single issue or constituency groups.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>This process was most visible in the decline of particular kinds of civic institutions, but it also had a personal face. Coalition building, or simply arguing with each-other to create a sense of the public interest, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/who%E2%80%99s-afraid-of-partisan-politics">require a willingness to engage</a>, and to recognize that sustaining civil society is a shared responsibility, even if we disagree about the details of what civic groups should do. </p> <p>At its core, civil society has always been a deeply human construction, a way of &ldquo;<a href="http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195398571.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195398571-e-2">rearranging the geometry of human relationships</a>&rdquo; and not just cementing the bricks and mortar of NGOs and other groups. That, too, is being lost to the tide of corporatization and technocratic management.</p> <p>Reversing the decline of civil society as a force for transformation will be exceptionally difficult, because the processes of hollowing out and separation, of commercialization and muzzling have become so deeply embedded. Any group that bucks these trends will be isolated and undermined. Philanthropists will deny them funding, politicians will curb their rights to organize, corporations will co-opt their language and their tactics, and other, less radical groups will try to colonize their work and capture their supporters. </p> <p>But since civil societies are ours to lose, they are also ours to reclaim, to refresh and re-energize against the background of a constantly shifting landscape of opportunities, tools and techniques - social media and social enterprise included. </p> <p>The destruction of civil society is easy, and it&rsquo;s happening around us now. Its re-creation is much more difficult, a task akin to accumulating all the &lsquo;snow&rsquo; that eventually makes the &lsquo;iceberg&rsquo; of everyday citizen action. </p> <p>That may sound like too little, too late, or simply take too long, or be too much work in an era when instant gratification is demanded. But it will be worth it. After all, it was an iceberg that sank the Titanic.</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/ray-filar/liberation-in-age-of-hashtag-activist">Liberation in the age of the hashtag activist</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/genevieve-lebaron-peter-dauvergne/not-just-about-money-corporatization-is-weakening-a">Not just about the money: corporatization is weakening activism and empowering big business</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/marisa-handler/petition-for-redress-to-oxford-english-dictionary">Petition for redress to the Oxford English Dictionary</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Civil society Democracy and government Ideas NGOs public sphere Transforming Politics Transforming Society Michael Edwards Trans-partisan politics Activism Fri, 30 May 2014 07:00:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 83240 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Damned is the man who abandons himself: the remarkable story of a homeless poet https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/damned-is-man-who-abandons-himself-remarkable-story-of-homeless-poet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho lived and wrote for decades on a roadway median he called "The Island" in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This is his story (video, 4 minutes).</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Though his material circumstances were dire, Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho wrote each day with diligence and passion, signing his poems as “The Conditioned.”&nbsp; His dream was to share his work with the world, but he lived fundamentally disconnected from other people. Or did he? </p> <p>This short film speaks to the human bonds that exist everywhere, and the inspiring changes that can take place when we recognize and build on what we share in common.</p><iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/85667492?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&color=ff0179" width="460" height="272" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe><p>Video from <a href="http://www.karmatube.org">KarmaTube</a></p>To visit the Facebook page set up for Raimundo by&nbsp;​Shalla Monteiro, <a href="http://on.fb.me/1lwyZRi">click here</a>.<p>Writing has always been an important expressive outlet for marginalized people. You can sample the work of more homeless poets <a href="http://bit.ly/1gdDicm">here</a>.</p><p>The work of homeless poets and storytellers is published in many cities in "<a href="http://bit.ly/1gdYf6R">street sheets</a>", simple tabloid gazettes distributed by the homeless themselves. </p><p><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">This video originally appeared on </span><a style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=4895">Karmatube</a><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;"> and is reproduced here with permission.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andrea-abi-karam/political-poetry-does-not-ask-permission">Political poetry does not ask permission</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jody-mcintyre/we-could-learn-from-bluesof-langston-hughes">We could learn from the blues/of Langston Hughes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/simon-hodges/what%E2%80%99s-so-special-about-storytelling-for-social-change">What’s so special about storytelling for social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/joanna-wheeler/unlocking-transformative-potential-of-storytelling">Unlocking the transformative potential of storytelling</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ali-brumfitt/my-transformative-icon-ua-fanthorpe">My transformative icon: UA Fanthorpe</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Copyright </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Culture Brazil Transforming Ourselves Transforming Society Michael Edwards Mon, 19 May 2014 08:30:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 82922 at https://www.opendemocracy.net