George Lakey cached version 14/12/2018 19:00:52 en It’s time to go on the offensive against racism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nonviolent direct action campaigns that stay on the offensive can build vision-led movements that win.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Black Lives Matter protesters kneel and raise their hands in London's Oxford Street - 8 July 2016. Credit: <a href="">Flickr/Alasdair Hickson</a>. <a href="">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p>When I read this in the morning paper, my heart stopped: Just 40 minutes away from me, the white mother of black children in New Jersey was repeatedly harassed via Facebook by a stranger, who told her that her children should be hung.</p> <p>Kentucky police arrested the young white man on Oct. 18, as he was backing out of his driveway with weapons, 200 rounds of ammunition and plans for shooting up a nearby school. The authorities thanked the mom —&nbsp;<a href="">Koeberle Bull</a>&nbsp;of Lumberton, New Jersey — for alerting them.</p> <p>I’m the white grandfather of a family of mostly black children. Someone armed and active is so offended by a mixed-race family that he wants to kill children like mine. Supported by my white daughter Ingrid, I allowed the terror to move through me while I raged and cried.</p> <p>After a while, when the intensity of my feelings lessened, Ingrid asked, “Isn’t it time to go on the offensive against racism?”</p> <p>I needed to access positive energy. While I was still identifying with the New Jersey mom and immersed in the feelings of fear, the ideas running through my head were all about defense.</p> <p>That’s the intention of terror, after all, whether it’s expressed in packages of bombs sent to prominent people or conducting a massacre in a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. I was gripped by my human programming: When under attack, defend!</p> <p>When I released enough fear to be able to think again, I could hear Ingrid’s question and access my strategy brain. Strategy urges the opposite of fear’s reactivity. Mohandas K. Gandhi, observing Indians reacting against the British Empire, urged his people to go on the offensive. Military generals agree with Gandhi: Wars can’t be won by staying on the defense.</p> <p>For its part, folk wisdom couldn’t be clearer: “The best defense is a good offense.”</p> <p>Despite this, many Americans at this moment — perhaps especially activists — are locked into reactivity and defense. I see the resulting frustration when I observe activists attacking each other. Going on the offense has different outcomes: It builds healthier movement cultures and shifts our focus to winning over allies in an expanding struggle.</p> <p><strong>What an offensive against racism looks like.</strong></p> <p>I often heard Bayard Rustin, a senior strategist for Martin Luther King Jr., say at the height of the civil rights movement, “We’ve got to change our economic system or in 50 years we’ll still have ugly racism!”</p> <p>He’s backed up by a trio of political scientists who recently&nbsp;<a href="">studied polarization in the United States</a>. They found that polarization was directly linked to economic inequality. In other words, the economic elite that makes the basic decisions in the United States has, since the Reagan revolution, dramatically increased inequality and therefore accelerated polarization.</p> <p>But what does polarization have to do with the violent expression of racism?</p> <p>Even though racism is an integral part of American culture, how strongly it is felt and expressed varies on a spectrum, from subtle stereotyping and micro-aggressions on one end to the would-be Kentucky shooter on the other. That means there is always some racial hatred around; we need to just face that. What usually keeps people from violently acting out their hatred is the social context.</p> <p>Polarization releases people to act out their hatred. In the 1920s economic inequality deepened, polarization grew, and the Ku Klux Klan was everywhere. It’s not only racism that’s released by polarization. As society heats up movements on the left grow, too. That’s why we saw powerful movements for progressive change in the 1930s, even while the American Nazis were busy recruiting.</p> <p>The biggest mistake 1930s activists could have made was going on the defensive because, as it turns out, it was exactly the time to go on the offensive. Thankfully, that’s what they did. The result was the biggest decade of gains for American progress in the first half of the 20th century. Historic breakthroughs on&nbsp;<a href="">racial integration of industrial unions</a>&nbsp;were made in that very period.</p> <p>In the 1960s, bombings of Mississippi black churches became epidemic, along with killings of black people and their white allies — even in broad daylight. Nonviolent civil rights leaders understood this dynamic. </p> <p>King and his comrades were clear that the remedy is to take the offensive, and the movement won gains that, at the time, appeared to be impossible. The economic emphasis of Rustin and A. Philip Randolph also gained support. The 1963 March on Washington — dreaded by President John F. Kennedy and most Democratic Party leaders — significantly named itself the March for Jobs and Freedom, attracting significant trade union support.</p> <p>King modeled for all of us what offensive strategizing looks like, as illustrated in the outstanding film&nbsp;<em>Selma</em>. He felt his feelings about the latest outrage, but instead of letting his feelings control his behavior he channeled the energy into action aimed at changing institutions. The more that vicious attacks targeted him and his people, the more clearly he saw that injustice is reinforced by the economic structure. Increasingly he linked racism and poverty to capitalism.</p> <p>As the current political turbulence swirls around us, the need grows for models of grounded campaigns that take the offensive and make the racial and economic connections. One example is the&nbsp;<a href="">Power Local Green Jobs campaign</a>&nbsp;in North Philadelphia, which incorporates a strong racial and economic justice dimension.</p> <p>Most activists can find ways to connect the dots even if their primary issue is gun control, sexism, incarceration, rights for trans people, peace or raising the minimum wage. Progress on many issues is opposed by the economic elite, whether acting through Donald Trump or Congress or state governments. The only way to break this opposition is to push the economic elite out of its position of dominance, so we can make the required changes toward equality (both economic and racial) and enjoy the social peace that results.</p> <p><strong>Three steps help put us back on the offensive.</strong></p> <p>The good news is that activists, by taking three strategic steps, can dramatically increase our power and effectiveness. The steps are not rocket science — in fact, they are perceived by people outside the activist bubble as common sense steps to take.</p> <p><em>1. Shift away from reactive, one-off demonstrations.</em>&nbsp;Protests can be emotionally satisfying, but they rarely produce change. Again, the black-led civil rights movement showed its strategic brilliance by focusing on campaigns rather than episodic protests. A campaign has a specific demand for change, a target (the deciders who can yield to the demand) and an escalating series of actions that build the campaign. Campaigning doesn’t guarantee winning, but it increases the chance of success from near-zero using one-off demonstrations to a chance that’s better than even.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;<em>Link the network of campaigns on an issue into a movement</em>. That movement can result in the movement winning in the big picture, even if some specific campaigns within the movement&nbsp;<a href="">don’t win</a>. The military analogy is that generals don’t expect to win every battle, but if they retain the initiative they do expect to win the war.</p> <p>Linking campaigns into a movement also promotes the learning curve of the campaigners, by comparing themselves to each other. They learn how to figure out the opponent’s vulnerabilities and how to sustain themselves over time.</p> <p>3.&nbsp;<em>Create a vision of what justice looks like</em>. While the Occupy movement changed the conversation, it was held back partly by its lack of a concrete vision of what should replace the unjust status quo. Fortunately, the&nbsp;<a href="">Movement for Black Lives issued a vision draft</a>&nbsp;in 2016 that has gathered endorsements by many national and grassroots groups.</p> <p>The hope for a movement of movements that can amass enough power to push the 1 percent out of dominance lies, I believe, in taking at least these steps. A series of nonviolent direct action campaigns that stay on the offensive can build vision-led movements that — finding themselves facing the same opponent — create a coalition and win.</p> <p>That is the shift that can make possible, at long last, a decisive win against racism.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/navigating-white-water-of-these-turbulent-times">Navigating the white water of these turbulent times</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/to-succeed-movements-must-overcome-tension-between-rationality-and-emoti">To succeed, movements must overcome the tension between rationality and emotion</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 08 Nov 2018 20:43:43 +0000 George Lakey 120382 at With the crisis of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation comes opportunity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>All of us living through America’s crisis time need to remember that our strategizing brain lives within a whole person: acknowledge your feelings and turn to the group for support.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a></em></p><p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Stop Brett Kavanaugh Rally, Downtown Chicago, 2018. Credit: <a href="">Flickr/Charles Edward Miller</a>. <a href="">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>October 6 was a tough day for a group of social justice activists to hold a strategy retreat. Brett Kavanaugh was clearly going to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, and we weren’t in any kind of mood to plan next steps for our campaign.</p> <p>Fortunately, facilitator Yotam Marom was prepared. He invited everyone to take two sheets of paper and a set of pastel crayons. Each of us was to make two pictures: One would represent what losing our fight might look like, and the other one would represent what winning the fight might look like.</p> <p>The group came through: the array of images we created and our talking about them permitted and normalized the rage, grief and despair we were experiencing. Because fear is so rooted in individual ego, our sharing about it in the group brought us back to the present moment, able to think again. We ended the day with a plan, and a higher degree of unity than before.</p> <p>All of us living through America’s crisis time need to remember that our strategizing brain lives within a whole person, holding feelings that can block clarity and creativity. Fortunately, humans have evolved to handle this problem: feel and acknowledge your feelings, and turn to the group for support.</p> <p><strong>Kavanaugh creates an opportunity.</strong></p> <p>While trust in elected officials has been waning in recent years, the Supreme Court has managed to retain at least some respect as “above the fray.” Even though the court was trending toward the political right, neither political extreme has fully gotten what it wants from the court and most of the citizenry has had some confidence in its steadiness and caution — until now.</p> <p>The 2016 refusal of the Republicans to fill the empty seat, and now the choice of Brett Kavanaugh, combine to reduce the court’s reputation. This means that the entire federal government’s credibility is in serious decline.</p> <p>People on the left do not agree on a diagnosis of this legitimacy crisis. Some don’t see its link to the&nbsp;<a href="">dramatic polarization</a>&nbsp;that has been accelerating in recent decades and that it is structural, related as it is to the widening income gap. They therefore believe there’s a political fix that can restore trust in government, like a third party or limiting campaign contributions or persuading the Democratic Party to defy its Wall Street controllers.</p> <p>What they don’t see is that the legitimacy crisis is an opportunity. It’s a truism in political science that when regimes lose their legitimacy, major change — even revolution — becomes a possibility. After all, that’s when the&nbsp;<a href="">Swedish and Norwegian movements made their move</a>, and pushed their economic elites out of dominance.</p> <p>In the United States, movements aimed for that during the Great Depression, when free market capitalism lost its legitimacy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats responded to the nonviolent action of mass movements by changing the role of the state. Unfortunately, the grassroots movements had two competing visions for what they wanted: communism verses democratic socialism. Among other factors at play, the competing visions gave Roosevelt maneuvering room to build the credibility of the state by making reforms — thereby restraining capitalism enough to save it.</p> <p><strong>Barack Obama and the Rooseveltian moment.</strong></p> <p>2008 was a year when people were staring over a cliff. Even Republicans were ready for “socialism,” as mass media noted. While campaigning, Sen. Obama said the United States should do what the Swedes did when their banks failed them in the early ‘90s: seize them and run them for the public good. He also acknowledged that, if elected, he wouldn’t be able to do that because the United States didn’t have that kind of “political culture.” In other words, unlike the Swedish social movements, we wouldn’t demand it with direct action.</p> <p>He was right. And even though he kept saying people would need to step up and pressure for change, most liberals sat back and expected him to do the heavy lifting — and then criticized him when he didn’t do it by himself. But Obama did, through many acts of leadership, maintain the legitimacy of the presidency, offsetting his Democratic colleagues in Congress who couldn’t even pass a climate bill despite being in the majority.</p> <p>The failure of Obama’s supporters to form social movements that would demand the changes he himself wanted and that we all needed, was the key difference from the 1930s. Even the health reform effort was supine and Obama was forced — given the vacuum — to call out Big Pharma and the health insurance companies himself.</p> <p>On his own, he was powerless to stop the overall Democratic abandonment of the working class, Main Street, family farmers and black people as they lost their homes.</p> <p>However, people’s heads continued to change during those eight years of Obama, judging from the polls and subsequent events. The elements of a democratic socialist vision emerged, even strongly enough to support a self-proclaimed democratic socialist presidential candidate who came from obscurity in 2015. Pollsters found that a couple years after the Republicans had gathered working class and small business people into the Tea Party, most Tea Party members were still furious with Wall Street.</p> <p>To oversimplify: In the 1930s, we had plenty of direct action by mass movements, but we also had the downside of two visions for major change competing for majority support. In the late 2000s, we had an emerging vision that was growing, but a paucity of mass movements waging sustained direct action. (Even Occupy failed to morph into multiple campaigns, win available victories and generate an economic justice direct action movement.)</p> <p><strong>Let’s not miss the boat this time.</strong></p> <p>The easiest thing to predict these days is crisis. The Florida teens showed the grown-ups in the gun control lobby how to use a crisis: mount a direct action campaign that compels (in the case of Florida) a response from politicians. Since we know crises are coming, why not prepare?</p> <p>As it happens, there’s a way to prepare that builds our skills, supports our mental health and gives us the jump on the historical moments of crisis. It’s called creating direct action campaigns. Choose a demand that is winnable and a target that can yield the demand, gather a group of people eager to win and willing to focus their attention, and begin.</p> <p>In the&nbsp;<a href="">Global Nonviolent Action Database</a>, we find successful campaigns both small and large. High school students in Flour Bluff, Texas,&nbsp;<a href="">won the right to have a gay-straight alliance</a>. Waterfront residents and Green Justice Philly&nbsp;<a href="">stopped construction of an oil export terminal</a>. Iranians nonviolently&nbsp;<a href="">brought down the Shah of Iran</a>, even though the dictator was supported by a modern army, torture chambers and the U.S. government.</p> <p>Those who doubt that direct action campaigns can take on the economic elite of the United States need to take another look at what the civil rights campaigns of the 1950s and ‘60s were up against. Southern black people faced the largest American terrorist organization in history, the Ku Klux Klan. Local law enforcement was on the side of the Klan. State law enforcement was directed by the White Citizens Councils. The federal government declined to enforce its own laws. The FBI actively worked to undermine the freedom movement. Neither national political party wanted to stand up for the rights of black people. Yet, 10 years after the mass phase of the movement began, President Lyndon B. Johnson was forced to intervene, following the Selma direct action campaign in 1965. His fervent hope was that the campaign would disappear.</p> <p>For a decade that was the lop-sidedness of the U.S. power equation: local terrorism and state repression with a federal government wanting to avoid the whole thing on one side, and the power of nonviolent direct action mobilized through campaigns on the other.</p> <p><strong>But how is the power best applied?</strong></p> <p>Even if direct action campaigns can develop the power to function unprotected in Klan country and bring down military dictatorships, how can that power be tapped for this political moment?</p> <p>This is where the drawings at the beginning of this story come into play. Strategists in each of the earlier-mentioned campaigns were able to think clearly enough to map out campaigns that won. We need to step up and use our strategy heads to do the same — especially since the declining legitimacy of government reveals more and more people who feel their disenfranchisement and are open to alternative ways to stand up for themselves.</p> <p>We may need to use Yotam’s wisdom at the strategy retreat. First, feel our range of feelings and reach for each other. Then, in community, clear our heads and do the thinking required. You can learn your strategy skills in a campaign where you live. And there’s no need to try to do it alone.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/navigating-white-water-of-these-turbulent-times">Navigating the white water of these turbulent times</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Activism Thu, 11 Oct 2018 21:28:03 +0000 George Lakey 120032 at Navigating the white water of these turbulent times <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The struggle for liberation has never been about safety; justice is gained by confronting reality, however dangerous it may be.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article first appeared on <a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">White water rafting, Rangitata Valley, NZ. Credit: <a href=",_Rangitata_Valley,_NZ.jpg">Flickr/Rob Chandler via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The latest lurch in global statecraft—Trump’s dissing NATO allies then playing footsie with Vladimir Putin—leaves many scrambling to maintain some balance. Republicans for whom the enemy status of Russia is an article of faith are beside themselves. Democrats are running out of adjectives to describe Trump’s behavior. And activists who have been around for longer than the last election are wondering how to steer a steady course in the midst of extremities.</p> <p>It reminds me of whitewater rafting on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia, the kind where people aren’t supposed to even get into the raft unless they’ve had prior experience. I never paddled so hard in my life. At one point, even our guide was tossed out of the raft; thankfully a nearby kayaker grabbed him and returned him to us.</p> <p>When the activist and lesbian feminist writer Barbara Deming encountered Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth,” she praised his raising the question of balance. Fanon, involved with with the Algerian war of independence from the French empire, was writing about armed struggle for liberation. He said a major challenge for revolutionaries at a time of accelerating turbulence is how to avoid vertigo, the dizziness that accompanies highly emotional events happening around us.</p> <p>Deming’s personal experience in the 1960s civil rights movement brought that kind of challenge, she said in her reflection “<a href="">On Revolution and Equilibrium</a>.” Deming found in the midst of turbulence that her commitment to nonviolence was steadying for her and others. Locked up in jail in Albany, Georgia, as one of a group of pacifists arrested for breaking the segregation laws, Deming undertook a fast that—when I saw her in the courtroom—left her hardly able to walk. The group won their struggle with the infamous Sheriff Laurie Pritchett.</p> <p>When I read her essay, I saw that her nonviolent commitment had a steadying ability to lead her more deeply into her center—where, as organizer and trainer Starhawk teaches, one source of power lies.</p> <p><strong>What does the white water mean for strategizing?</strong></p> <p>Whichever practices we choose for self- and group-centering, there is still the question of strategy. When paddling to keep up with the river, it matters whether you avoid the biggest rocks and how you handle the waterfall that lies just ahead. Black historian Vincent Harding&nbsp;<a href="">likened the history of his people to a river</a>, sometimes so placid that the current was hardly noticeable, and other times racing at a furious pace. His metaphor helped me to see that in black history the ability of people to make the most of the rapids was linked to the group capacity they’d built in the quieter times.</p> <p>Community organizers know this, nurturing leadership skills and supporting group solidarity—so that when the white water comes, the team will paddle together. But what do we do now that we’ve already entered the white water?</p> <p><strong>Use opportunities efficiently.</strong></p> <p>We need to choose tactics that achieve strategic goals. Venting is not enough reason to have a demonstration. For a hundred years we can express ourselves through one-off actions and not make a difference. Corporate executives and politicians know that we can gather a hundred thousand or a million people together and that we’ll go home the next day. From their point of view, no problem.</p> <p>A politician running for office knows that winning requires more than holding a rally and then counting the votes. To win, they need a campaign. That’s exactly the case for activists: direct action campaigns give us a chance to win. A campaign has a demand, a target (the decider who can yield the demand), and a series of escalating actions that reflect campaign growth and increased campaign militancy.</p> <p><strong>Expect attitude change.</strong></p> <p>In the accelerating 1960s, a number of white segregationists began to accept the need for integration. In the turbulent 1930s, stoutly racist white auto workers in Michigan&nbsp;<a href="">began to see the value of an integrated United Auto Workers</a>. I’ve watched patriots supporting the Vietnam War start to oppose it and family members contemptuous toward LGBT people embrace us. A century ago, while war and industrialization accelerated change, male chauvinists became willing to give the vote to women.</p> <p>As the river runs faster, the big problem becomes rigidity among activists who grew accustomed to excluding those who weren’t “in the know.” Judgment becomes more important than effectiveness, when activists would rather be right than learn how to unite to win.</p> <p>I’m told that increasing numbers of young people are now realizing that “the calling out culture” was a toxic trap, creating activist groups on campuses and elsewhere that marginalized themselves.</p> <p>As a gay man brought up working class, I am in touch with the fear that leads me to judging, to differentiating myself from people who I expect through long experience will keep the micro-aggressions coming. These days I rage and cry, at home, about the professional middle-class activists whose description of Trump supporters is riddled with prejudice against my class.</p> <p>It helps me to know that the struggle for liberation has never been about safety, about protecting myself inside a bubble apart from the reality that is out there. Justice is gained through campaigns confronting the reality and changing it. Ironically, the greatest availability for change is in those political moments when the ugly reality is most apparent, when the bigots yelled “fag” at me and my people as we campaigned for equality.</p> <p>In the midst of turbulence humans tend to “gird ourselves for defense” instead of continually scanning for the changes in attitude that happen around us. Then we miss opportunities to support the changes. It helps to watch revealing films like John Singleton’s “Higher Learning,”<em>&nbsp;</em>or listen to reformed white nationalist&nbsp;<a href="">Christian Picciolini tell his story</a>.</p> <p><strong>Support growing interest in alternatives.</strong></p> <p>Most people experience political turbulence as stressful, since it comes on top of what can be challenging personal lives. Some respond with nostalgia for the “good old days,” but others open their minds to an alternative vision.</p> <p>The 1850s in the United States was a period of whitewater. In the turbulence surrounding the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision, black abolitionist Martin R. Delany published a utopian novel “Blake.” Feminists and ecological writers famously published visions in the 1970s. We see the theme now again in the hit movie “Black Panther.”</p> <p>Alternative visions help in vital ways. They express hope, especially needed now by those distracted by the negativity of Trump. Visions help to create platforms for uniting a movement of movements, an essential if we want a living revolution. They also add significance to the new economy institutions that are being built in our midst, the start-ups for what needs to happen after a power shift opens the way to the new society.</p> <p>In her book “No Is Not Enough,” Naomi Klein shares the process Canadian civil society groups went through to come up with&nbsp;<a href="">their vision of a just Canada: The LEAP Manifesto</a>. They intentionally called it a “leap” to distinguish from the step-by-step incrementalism that held many Canadian progressives in its soggy embrace.</p> <p>In short, acceleration of the pace of change opens opportunities that activists need in order to launch mass movements. After the failure of Occupy, we’ve been in a period of what I’ve called “low-grade depression,” a dogged determination accompanied by a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.</p> <p>Symptoms include plodding through tactical rituals (marches and rallies) and indulgence in blaming and guilting. The choppy white water of the river we’re traveling on invites a different orientation: to devise creative tactics as part of ongoing campaigns that can produce wins, to invite everyone to join whether or not they’re hip or use our favorite language, and to plant alternatives while taking seriously the need for a vision to replace the imploding status quo.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/reaching-trump-supporters-with-promise-of-vision">Reaching Trump supporters with the promise of vision</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 09 Aug 2018 18:26:17 +0000 George Lakey 119084 at How to build a progressive movement in a divided country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Since we can expect more polarization ahead, how can we use its heat and volatility to create something useful?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published in&nbsp;<a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Two supporters of Donald Trump in&nbsp;Prescott, Arizona. Credit: Wikimedia/Twins of Sedona. CC0.</p> <p>Whether it’s assault rifles, racial justice, immigration or fossil fuels, the US is rocked by conflicting narratives and rising passions. In a&nbsp;<a href=";usg=AOvVaw2I5FCxXmJPFFn4FNc-1yVj">recent national poll</a>, 70 percent of Americans say the political divide is at least as big as during the Vietnam War.</p> <p>In December, I completed a year-and-a-half book tour in over 80 towns and cities in United States. From Arizona to Alaska to North Dakota to Georgia, I heard a worry in common from people active in struggles for justice. They talk about the political polarization they see around them.</p> <p>Many assume that polarization is a barrier to making change. They observe more shouting and less listening, more drama and less reflection, and an escalation at the extremes. They note that mass media journalists have less time to cover the range of activist initiatives, which are therefore drowned out by the shouting. From coast to coast activists asked me: Does this condition leave us stuck?</p> <p>My answer included both good news and bad news. Most people wanted the latter first.</p> <p><strong>The bad news about divisiveness.</strong></p> <p>We are not dealing with a passing fad or temporary trend. The research of a trio of political scientists found that political polarization follows the curve of economic inequality. For decades after World War II, white male inequality in the United States was relatively low and governance was largely bi-partisan in spirit. But, as income inequality began to polarize, so too did our politics. Not surprisingly, perhaps, by 2015, income inequality was greater than at any other point in U.S. history, according to economists Jeffrey Gale Williamson and Peter Lindert. The tax bill passed in January will add even more fuel to the fire.</p> <p>Progressives need to breathe deeply and make our peace with the reality. Division expresses an economic arrangement, and it’s not something we can fix through urging more civil discourse. Even though we’ll want to use our&nbsp;<a href="">conflict resolution skills</a>&nbsp;in order to cope, we can also expect more drama at the extreme ends of our polarizations, and more&nbsp;<a href="">ugliness and violence</a>.</p> <p>Even some of the people who carry progressive values like anti-oppression can be expected to become harsher and more dogmatic, as if inspired by the witch-hunting Massachusetts Puritans of yore. </p> <p>The dynamic of polarization is contagious—it doesn’t confine itself to tweeting public officials, radio talk shows and political junkies. I believe there’s little point in blaming our progressive movement comrades who pick up the infection around us. Instead, it helps to remember that this trend is much, much bigger than we are. We might as well forgive ourselves and each other, and focus on the positive openings that are given to us in this period.</p> <p><strong>The good news about polarization.</strong></p> <p>In the 1920s and ‘30s, the United States and European countries polarized dramatically. In Italy and Germany, fascists were marching and communists were organizing for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Even on Europe’s northwest periphery, Sweden and Norway faced the most extreme polarization they’d ever had, complete with Nazis marching in the streets.</p> <p>The outcomes of polarization for those four countries were, however, very different. In Germany and Italy, Hitler and Mussolini came to power. In Sweden and Norway democratic socialist movements&nbsp;<a href="">pushed their economic elites</a>&nbsp;off their pedestals and invented the egalitarian Nordic economic model.&nbsp;<a href="">Saying goodbye</a>&nbsp;to their old class-ridden days of poverty, Swedes and Norwegians generated historically new levels of equality, individual freedom and shared abundance.</p> <p>The contrasting outcomes could not be more dramatic. All four countries experienced extreme polarization in the 1920s and ‘30s. Two fell into disaster, and two climbed out of poverty and oppression to the top tier of progressive national achievement. From these examples we can see that polarization may guarantee a big political fight, but it doesn’t determine whether the outcome will be dictatorship or democracy.</p> <p>U.S. history also shows that polarization does not determine outcomes. In the United States in 1920s and ‘30s, the Ku Klux Klan was riding high as well as a growing Nazi movement. On the radical left, movements grew as well. The outcome was not fascist dictatorship, but instead Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” Out of that polarization came the most progressive decade of the first half of the 20th century in the United States.</p> <p>Fast forward to the divided 1960s, which boiled over into the ‘70s, when environmentalists, feminists and LGBT people joined the ferment initiated by the civil rights and other movements of the ‘60s. Once again the Nazis grew along with the Ku Klux Klan, while on the left we remember the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Nevertheless, in the midst of strong polarization, the United States made its greatest progress in the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p><strong>Letting the heat work for progress.</strong></p> <p>While book touring in England, I stayed with a metal sculptor who showed me his blacksmith’s hearth, essential for creating the beautiful designs that filled his studio. I saw a useful metaphor: Progressives need polarization like blacksmiths and artists need heat to make cold hard metal flexible enough to change its shape.</p> <p>Heat creates volatility, in metal and in society. It breaks up crystalized patterns. It makes possible something new to replace the rigid oppressive structures that express themselves through sexual and racist violence, endemic poverty alongside extreme wealth, environmental destruction, political corruption and militarism.</p> <p>Since we can expect more polarization ahead, how can we use its heat and volatility to create something as serviceable as a horseshoe, or even a sculpture of beauty? We can give ourselves a head start by learning what worked in previous periods of polarization and strengthening them for our context.</p> <p>Because planning is an empowering practice, I’ve organized what’s worked for others into a kind of roadmap, consisting of five stages. There is some reason to the sequence, but not enough to be rigid about it.</p> <p><strong>A roadmap to transformation.</strong></p> <p><em>1. Tell people you meet that we are creating a plan.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>Acquaintances may believe you are simply ‘a protester’ or like to hang out with your activist friend—they may not know it’s even possible to create a plan to work together to get ourselves out of this mess. According to the American Psychological Association, 63 percent of Americans say that concerns about the nation’s future are a major source of stress in their lives.</p> <p>Planning is on the side of positivity, capability and empowerment. Tell people how those are showing up in your life by participating in the plan.</p> <p><em>2. Build the infrastructure of the new society.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>Governmental dysfunction in the United States is becoming ever more obvious. Tourists come back with tales of wonder from Scandinavia, while people stateside see inept responses to disasters like lead poisoning and Hurricane Katrina. The Pew Research Center found that only 19 percent of Americans trust the government to do the right thing.</p> <p>A century ago the Nordics also had low trust. Organizers supported them to work together through cultural groups and co-ops, empowering themselves to meet each others’ needs. Americans may be ready for this: The same&nbsp;<a href="">Pew study</a>&nbsp;found that 55 percent believe ordinary Americans would “do a better job of solving problems” than elected officials.</p> <p>Make the most of this opportunity to&nbsp;<a href="">reach “beyond the choir,”</a>&nbsp;building groups and institutions with people who didn’t previously know each other. Increasing your range of connection may be easier if people know you are thoughtful about everyone.</p> <p><em>3. Build movements through bold nonviolent direct action campaigns.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>Teenagers in Florida instinctively knew what most adults in the gun control lobby refused to accept—<a href="">it takes bold direct action to open doors</a>. To keep the doors open, the teens will learn,&nbsp;<a href="">it takes direct action campaigning</a>. In the process they may turn the lobby into a movement.</p> <p>Most Swedes and Norwegians came to realize that the economic elite ruled their countries and that their parliaments were pretend democracies. Loving efficiency, they preferred to skip the middlemen and go straight to the top, by focusing their campaigns on the owners rather than the politicians. Making this shift in the United States will help each movement to become sharper and clearer, more visionary, and—by refusing to be co-opted by a political party—more ready to align with others to build a movement of movements. They may also, as did the Nordics, stay close to the alternative infrastructure being built on a local level.</p> <p><em>4. Gain unity among movements around a broad vision of what will replace dysfunctional and unjust institutions.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many Nordics understood that politicians’ promises of small reform steps were inadequate, even insulting—something incrementalist Hillary Clinton discovered in the 2016 U.S. election. The large majority of Americans who tell pollsters that the country is “headed in the wrong direction” increasingly match their words with their deeds and stay away from the polls.</p> <p>The Nordic democratic socialists succeeded because their vision was radical, showed deep respect for the people and made sense at the same time. One example was promising universal services instead of programs for the poor.</p> <p>Few people want to go with you if they don’t know where you’re going. Nordic movements grew partly because organizers explained the destination. By sharing the vision, organizers showed they respected people more than manipulative politicians. Fortunately, in the United States, the Movement for Black Lives has already&nbsp;<a href="">offered a vision</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="">more</a>&nbsp;are&nbsp;<a href="">emerging</a>. When there is vision, stronger movements may grow out of nonviolent direct action campaigns.</p> <p><em>5. Build a movement of movements powerful enough to dislodge the 1 percent from dominance.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>That’s what the Swedes and Norwegians did. Movements worked together to raise the level of nonviolent struggle to that point, even though their opponents tried to repress them with violence. Movements cooperated because they saw that their individual goals were opposed by the same force—the economic elite.</p> <p>This is just as true in the United States, where the aspirations of both white and black workers, women and sexual minorities, immigrants and activists for climate justice, students and gun reform activists are all frustrated by the 1 percent. Cooperation for deep struggle becomes more likely when we create a vision in common that speaks to diverse interests.</p> <p>So, where are we with this roadmap? The good news is that people are hard at work on the second and third steps already. As we gain confidence, we’ll tackle the fourth as well, which will increase our credibility and invite the gain in numbers that makes the fifth possible.</p> <p><strong>What about polarization?</strong></p> <p>I lived in Norway 25 years after the struggle that resulted in a power shift. I observed a remarkably peaceful society with a high degree of consensus. The whole political spectrum had shifted significantly to the left—the politics of the Norwegian right-wing was to the left of America’s Democratic Party. The overall direction of the economy was decided by the people as a whole. They enjoyed lively debates about the issues of the day, confident that the majority’s decisions would be carried out without corruption. And they hoped some day, without spending much money on it, to&nbsp;<a href="">win a lot of Olympic medals</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/reaching-trump-supporters-with-promise-of-vision">Reaching Trump supporters with the promise of vision</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/why-are-danes-so-happy-because-their-economy-makes-sense">Why are the Danes so happy? Because their economy makes sense</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">Scorn wars: rural white people and us</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Political polarization George Lakey Trans-partisan politics Activism Thu, 05 Apr 2018 19:33:26 +0000 George Lakey 116800 at Why are the Danes so happy? Because their economy makes sense <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Nordic economic model is the most successful yet invented for the common good. How did they do it?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><img src="// Lakey5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><span class="image-caption">Waterfront district in Copenhagen. Credit: <a href="">By GuoJunjun - Own work</a>, <a href="">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>.</span>&nbsp;</p> <p>The World Happiness Report puts Danes consistently in the top tier. Twice in the past four years Denmark came in first. Danes also report more satisfaction with their health care than anyone else in Europe, which makes sense, since happiness is related to a sense of security and others being there for you. A fine health care system makes that real.</p> <p>The Danish approach is especially interesting to Americans because of the U.S. suspicion of centralization. Danes prefer to administer their health care locally. On the other hand, they’ve found that the fairest and most efficient way of paying for their system is through income tax, most of which is routed through Copenhagen.</p> <p>The system delivers quality healthcare to all and costs Denmark only two-thirds what the United States spends. I’d like to hear Democratic U.S. senators, who mostly reject single-payer health care (except for themselves), try to sell Obamacare to the Danes.</p> <p>“What?” I imagine the Danes exclaiming. “You want us to spend one-third more of our national wealth on health care, and still leave many Danes without coverage? And end up with inferior health outcomes?”</p> <p>The continuing attempt by most Democratic leaders to sell health care as a market-based commodity would strike Danes as both unethical (more people die from preventable causes) and a waste of money. What sense would that make?</p> <p><strong>How did the Danes force their own economy to make sense?</strong></p> <p>Denmark wasn’t always like this. A century ago its economic system was deeply irrational and poverty was endemic. Despite having a parliament and free elections, a growing number of Danes came to realize that they had a sham democracy. The major decisions were actually made by their economic elite. Many Danes were so discouraged that they left for North America, hoping for something better.</p> <p>People left behind in Denmark decided to turn their country around, which meant organizing movements to override the will of their contented 1 percent. The people pulled off what might be called a nonviolent revolution.</p> <p>In the 19th century, their struggle focused on the first two stages that I describe in “<a href="">Toward a Living Revolution</a>:” cultural preparation and organization-building. A lot of leadership came from N.F.S. Grundtvig, a writer and bishop. He invented the Danish folk schools, which taught adults whose agricultural rhythm gave them some free time during the winter. At folk schools they learned some of the basics of literacy and participatory democracy.</p> <p>Grundtvig used his religious influence to restore people’s confidence in themselves—he saw spirituality as empowerment rather than “the opium of the people.” He also supported the growth of coops, a form of socialism that rebelled against the merchant class’ deification of the private market. The agricultural coops provided a way to retain the wealth that farmers and agricultural workers sweated for.</p> <p>Other creative Danes found ways to show that, even in a small Northern European country with few natural resources and frequent gloom-inducing weather, the people could find abundant meaning by developing their collective life, their Danishness.</p> <p>The intensity of this cultural preparation paid off later in the&nbsp;<a href="">Danish resistance to Nazi German occupation</a>, when by collective effort the Resistance saved nearly all the Danish Jews from the Holocaust. Rallying around Danishness, however, can have its down side, showing up recently as reluctance to integrate immigrants to Denmark, who now total over 8 percent of the population.</p> <p>As Danes industrialized, they continued their cultural preparation and organization-building through worker study groups and unions. The industrial workers tested their strength through a wave of strikes in 1899 that forced the employers association to bargain with them on a national level.</p> <p>The workers movement organized itself into three parts: unions to deal with wages and workplace issues, consumer coops to retain wealth that otherwise would go to the capitalists, and a political party to represent them in parliament—the Social Democrats. Unlike the U.S. unions’ choice largely to support the Democratic Party, the Danish unions decided to create a party that would be would be strictly accountable to the movement. Their choice paid off.</p> <p><strong>The class struggle intensifies.</strong></p> <p>After World War I Danish workers grew more radical and escalated. Syndicalists sometimes led the strikes. The Danish economic elite’s worries were compounded by looking across the border and seeing radicalized German workers mounting large-scale revolutionary insurgencies.</p> <p>The combination of disruption inside Denmark and radicalism outside the country eroded the elite’s opposition to change, much as the United States experienced in the 1960s and ‘70s. During the civil rights and other movements, the United States took to nonviolent direct action internally while the empire was experiencing uproar in Southeast Asia and Latin America. The American 1 percent felt compelled to make concessions as a result.</p> <p>For Danish workers, farmworkers and middle-class allies, the post-World War I struggle won two major victories. Industrial workers gained a nationwide guarantee that wages would increase along with inflation. This is huge, as contemporary U.S. workers who have lost so much ground in the past few decades can tell us.</p> <p>The second victory favored the other large group of poor and near-poor people, the farmworkers in Denmark’s large agricultural sector. Major landowners were forced to give up a substantial part of their land, which were then re-distributed to the farmworkers. The landowners were also forced to pay a substantial new tax on their remaining land. This win took away the last remaining privilege of Denmark’s old landed aristocracy.</p> <p>The movement’s nonviolent struggle won over the Danish majority, enabling the Social Democrats to begin in 1924 a stretch of governing that ran almost continuously through the 20th century. Because direct action had reduced the elite’s power, the Danes could take leadership in co-creating what economists would later call “the Nordic model.”</p> <p><strong>Sweden and Norway work to catch up.</strong></p> <p>The Viking cousins in Sweden and Norway imported folk high schools. They developed their own coops and vision-developing study groups. Their goal was to push the 1 percent out of dominance. In my new book “Viking Economics,” I tell the dramatic story of&nbsp;<a href="">mounting nonviolent confrontations with their economic elites</a>.</p> <p>In 1931, in Sweden, the struggle came to a head. The elite called out the army to suppress the workers. Troops killed unarmed strikers. Retaliating, the movement&nbsp;<a href="">staged a widespread general strike</a>. The government fell.</p> <p>In the years following that victory, the Norwegians escalated the number of their strikes and were joined in nonviolent militancy by the farmers and the movement’s student allies. Norwegians&nbsp;<a href="">succeeded in making their country ungovernable</a>&nbsp;by the economic elite. The 1 percent was forced to the bargaining table in 1936, where they gave up their dominance of the country’s direction.</p> <p>While the revolutionary struggles in Sweden and Norway each came to a single breakthrough point in the 1930s, the Danish movement did a two-step. The first breakthrough moment came early, in the years following 1918. The second came in the 1930s.</p> <p><strong>Disaster hits in the 1930s, and vision saves Denmark.</strong></p> <p>The real measure of a movement is how much it is able to turn crisis into opportunity. Author&nbsp;<a href="">Naomi Klein</a>&nbsp;writes about this dynamic in a different way, showing how private contractors profit from the global climate change crisis. But when movements seize opportunities, we all flourish—rather than just the power elites. Will movement people today focus on using the opportunity, as the Danes did in the 1930s?</p> <p>As the Depression deepened existing inequality, Danes polarized. Fascism grew, inspired by Hitler in next door Germany. The attractiveness of communism also increased. The majority, however, was hungry for a solution that would heighten democracy and individual freedom and be in alignment with “Danishness.”</p> <p>The Danish economic elite were eager to regain their firm hegemonic rule that was shaken by the post-war class struggle. They were tired of being pushed around by the Social Democrats who had been governing since 1924. To stage a comeback, however, the 1 percent needed a solution to the Depression, a breakdown of capitalism. With Denmark’s largely agricultural economy unable to sell its produce to foreign markets, half the population was left with no purchasing power at all.</p> <p>The 1 percent decided to hold out for market-based solutions: reliance on the private insurance approach to ill-health, for example. They proposed governmental austerity, which under the circumstances was laughable.</p> <p>Successful movements generate a positive vision of what they want, rather than simply relying on protests about what’s wrong.</p> <p>The Social Democrats came up with a vision adopting Keynesian stimulation for the macro-economy. The vision flatly rejected austerity. It also rejected insurance and philanthropy as the solutions to misfortune and poverty. The Social Democrats turned decisively toward universal services financed by the government through progressive taxation.</p> <p>Using the crisis as an opportunity, the Social Democrats secured the foundation of the Nordic model, the most successful economic national model yet invented for the common good. The Danish majority loved it, and the unions and family farmers retained political control of the country for the rest of the century. The model became so hegemonic that all the parties were forced to embrace it to remain relevant at all, even the new “right-wing” party that hates immigration while still promoting a robust version of the Nordic model.</p> <p>What shall we call that model? Describing Denmark as a “welfare state” is, I think, seriously misleading. The Nordic design isn’t welfare for the needy—that’s the old approach that has not worked for any nation in the world, ever. Instead, the Nordic model provides universal services given to all, whatever their income, as a matter or right, supported by progressive taxation that re-distributes income and wealth.</p> <p>If you like poverty, continue to think “welfare,” because welfare is mainly about poverty. If you like equality, think “universal services,” because the universal approach has been shown by the Nordics to promote the abolition of poverty.</p> <p>For the Danes, fully implementing the promise of the Nordic model took a while. The country’s economy improved in the 1930s, but the Nazi occupation set them back. By the late 1950s, the Social Democrats were moving rapidly toward the shared abundance that shows up in their happiness ratings.</p> <p><strong>Shall we call the change process a nonviolent revolution?</strong></p> <p>The Danish people did not produce utopia, nor are they first in every measure. Norway has more social ownership of the means of production than Denmark does, and Sweden generates more innovation as measured by patents. The Danes did not end the push-back from the economic elite. Class struggle remains a reality in Denmark, as it does everywhere.</p> <p>The Danes did, however, end centuries of domination by their 1 percent and empowered the democratic majority to make decisions about the future direction of the economy. They designed a different economy, one that centers labor instead of capital, correctly understanding this shift to be the pre-condition for the abolition of poverty. They also&nbsp;<a href="">turn to nonviolent direct action</a>&nbsp;to do the heavy lifting when they see it is needed, rather than putting all their eggs in the parliamentary basket.</p> <p>However we debate definitions, the Danish story of struggle offers valuable lessons for the rest of us—especially those of us who want to be happy.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/to-succeed-movements-must-overcome-tension-between-rationality-and-emoti">To succeed, movements must overcome the tension between rationality and emotion</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/christine-berry/wellbeing-is-more-than-sideshow-to-neoliberal-economics">Well-being is more than a side-show to neoliberal economics</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Economics Thu, 31 Aug 2017 21:59:18 +0000 George Lakey 112562 at Reaching Trump supporters with the promise of vision <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In ordinary times, progressives might get away with casual images of their political opponents, but these are not ordinary times.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published on <a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</p><p class="wp-caption-text"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Supporter of Donald Trump at a rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. Credit: Wikimedia/ Gage Skidmore.</p> <p>If these were ordinary times, progressives might get away with casual images of our political opponents. Those who disagree “lack information,” or “remain prejudiced,” or are “gripped by an emotion like hate.” Reassured, we can return to informational outreach or protests or confrontations and hope that makes a difference.</p> <p>These, however, are not ordinary times. I further expect more instability and turbulence to come in the United States, a situation that invites more strategizing. And having a good strategy requires more accurate images of the other players in the arena.</p> <p>Arlie Russell Hochschild’s new book “<a href="">Strangers in Their Own Land</a>” has arrived just in time. Her writing gives us an in-depth picture of middle- and working-class members of the Tea Party, the foot soldiers of the Republican right. In particular, she reports on Southern Louisiana, chosen for its right-wing politics combined with the devastating impact of capitalism. Louisiana is at or near the bottom of the states in education, health and other measures of general well-being. Its people endure an environment highly degraded by the petrochemical industry.</p> <p>Hochschild immerses herself in participation in social activities as well as home interviews. She doesn’t hide her teaching job at Berkeley and left politics, but by networking her way through trusted intermediaries and using her people skills she learns how locals see the world and themselves in it. A gifted writer, she invites us into that world, and surprises us with the diversity of their self-perceptions.</p> <p><strong>‘You have to take the bad with the good.’</strong></p> <p>Hochschild interviews people whose health, livelihood, and families have been hurt by irresponsible corporate behavior and the refusals to help by bought-off elected officials. Nevertheless, those same people defend capitalism and advocate for Republicans who oppose environmental and safety regulations. She finds four subgroups of Tea Party supporters, each subgroup having what Hochschild calls a “deep story” that makes meaning of their politics and distinguishes them from the people who have the same demographics but support liberal Democrats.</p> <p>Just this chance to go beyond stereotypes we may have about Trump supporters is reason enough to read the book. (Class stereotypes are not really better than stereotypes based on race or sexuality.) In addition, I learned much that suggests how to strengthen our work.</p> <p>Among the subgroups – Team Player, Worshipper, Cowboy, and Rebel – there is a recurrent bit of folk wisdom that I first heard from my dad: “You have to take the bad with the good.” If, for example, you believe that the only route to an abundance of jobs is to accept the downside of fracking, then it only makes sense in a job-hungry state to encourage the fracking industry to settle in Louisiana and to fight the threat posed by the federal environmental fanatics in the EPA.</p> <p>The habitual left activist approach to disagreement, say about fracking, is to add more reasons against it. Hochschild helps us to understand why that approach is so often frustrating. She shows us how the “deep story” of each subgroup, reinforced by personal, lived experience, proves more compelling to its members than the pro’s and con’s of a particular issue. The piling up of reasons why fracking is bad is of very limited value. Hochschild’s description matches my own experience: Their frame of reference already allows for fracking’s down side. “We just need to take the bad with the good.”</p> <p>In other words, right-wingers don’t really come to a new issue freshly, to judge “on the merits.” (Most of us don’t, either.) They start with a frame of reference that strongly pre-judges the outcome. Their starting point makes them distant from us on the “<a href="">spectrum of allies</a>,” a tool increasingly used for campaign strategizing.</p> <p>In ordinary times, liberals might not care about the lower middle- and working-class part of the right wing. Why meet them on the level of frame of reference—of “big picture”—when Clintonian incrementalism has been working just fine? Hammer out compromises on particular points of policy, as was done with Obamacare, and over time we’ll see our country move ahead.</p> <p>These, however, are not ordinary times, and even liberals might go beyond old habits and learn to play a bigger game. The bigger game means engaging with a larger part of America than before, including workers with Democratic roots who get written off as “misled.” It means meeting them not only by arguing single issues, but by going to their frame of reference itself.</p> <p><strong>What kind of big picture does the job?</strong></p> <p>The kind of big picture progressives love is&nbsp;<em>analysis</em>. We like to conceptualize the causes of, systemic faults with, structures of pollution, money in politics, war, poverty, misogyny, racism, class domination, etc. It’s clear, however—as Hochschild shows through political discussions and dialogues among Tea Party people—that they already have a big picture analysis that satisfies them.</p> <p>What they lack, however, is a big picture&nbsp;<em>vision</em>. Their substitute is to look to the past, the good old days of community, mutual support, a sense of place and continuity. They feel angry and grieve, knowing the past is rapidly fading, but have no alternative vision to reach toward. Ayn Rand’s vision is not theirs, however popular it may be among rich right-wingers.</p> <p>Hochschild hints at a possible vision for lower middle- and working-class people on the right. She points out that Norway has about the same population as Louisiana, and it is also an oil state. Without tying either place to oil in the long term, she uses Norway to illustrate a systematically different approach that affords Norwegians a healthy environment, more individual freedom than most people in Louisiana enjoy, and far more security and shared prosperity.</p> <p>For Tea Party adherents who can easily bat away progressives’ arguments for this or that individual policy, an alternative vision that delivers more of their values than free market capitalism is a different discussion altogether. They see themselves as immensely practical—far more than “hippy idealists” found in enclaves such as Berkeley. What, then, to make of the practicality of a Norwegian system that has outperformed Louisiana (and the United States) on economic well-being for over 60 years?</p> <p>And for job-hungry states, please note that—even before the oil began to flow—Norwegians maintained full employment. Hochschild found that her middle- and working-class Tea Party friends reverence work. Norway has a higher percentage of its population in the labor force than does the United States.</p> <p><strong>Norway is not a ‘welfare state —the misnomer that prevents dialogue.</strong></p> <p>In the United States, there is a linguistic trap with terrible political consequences, and not only in Louisiana. Americans commonly believe that the Nordic “welfare states” have the U.S. welfare system on steroids. Administering such a system must be outrageously expensive. To pay for all those “free-loaders,” Nordic workers must be paying oppressively high taxes. The truth is very different.</p> <p>The Nordics gave up U.S.-style, means-tested welfare very long ago. They realized that “programs for the poor are poor programs.” They therefore substituted universal services: health care, child care, paid family leave, long paid vacations, elder pensions and home care, job training, university and professional and technical school education.</p> <p>These universal programs are paid for by taxes. A two-term Norwegian prime minister boasted to the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;that he was elected twice on the pledge not to cut taxes. Norwegians know that cutting taxes means cutting services everyone uses. They know (Americans do, too) that, to get quality goods and services, we need to pay a lot.</p> <p>Arlie Hochschild shows in her book the enormous political damage that has been done by the United States’ choice to stick with welfare instead of going for universal services. A central grievance of hard-working Tea Party members is the belief that other people are getting a softer path through “welfare.” When interviewing in Scandinavia for my book “Viking Economics,” I was told over and over that the consensus for universal services that includes the populist rightist parties would disappear immediately if converted to the U.S. approach. Virtually everyone presently supports the system because it is applied to everyone. Furthermore, it is less expensive than market-based health care. The Nordic countries pay per capita one-half to two-thirds what the United States pays. Single-payer is more efficient—a plus for Tea Party people, as it is for the rest of us.</p> <p>By comparing systems—the Nordics’ vs. that of the United States—a fresh dialogue can replace the shouted exchange of epithets that we have today. “Strangers in Their Own Land” suggests to me that the dialogue could reach farther into the political right than we saw in 2016 among those who were attracted to both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.</p> <p>The challenge for progressives is to pay attention to the promise of vision.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/violence-brought-us-trump-but-it-s-not-how-we-will-stop-him">Violence brought us Trump, but it’s not how we will stop him</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kieran-ford/don-t-mourn-organize-three-ways-millennials-can-build-better-post-trump-f">Don’t mourn, organize! Three ways millennials can build a better post-Trump future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Activism Fri, 13 Jan 2017 01:00:00 +0000 George Lakey 108073 at Without empathy for Trump voters, movements can’t succeed <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The white working class reading of recent American history may be more accurate than that of many progressive activists.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in&nbsp;<a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</p><p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Donald Trump in Reno, Nevada, January 10 2016. Credit: <a href="">Flickr/Darron Birgenheier</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>This was a highly emotional election, and we need time to feel our feelings and sort out what it means for us and for the country. Donald Trump is a con man; his game is to manipulate emotions and activists can be as vulnerable as anyone else. Knowing that, we can give ourselves some space to breathe rather than hype each other’s fear. We can also begin to ask, what does his victory mean for social activists on the left?</p> <p>First, and most obviously, Bernie Sanders was not Trump’s opponent. Many Trump voters liked Sanders for the same reason they supported Trump: He was an outlier who was an alternative to the establishment that has for decades been implementing what billionaire Warren Buffett calls the economic elite’s “class war.”</p> <p>We activists on the left, even with some disagreements with Sanders, could reasonably regard him as a standard-bearer for us, but that’s not the choice voters made this November. I voted for Hillary without believing for a minute that she was putting forth my politics—or that my politics even got attention in the general election.</p> <p>What we learn from the vote against Hillary is that many people who are losing the class war don’t like losing, and took it out on a pillar of the establishment. In 2008 and 2012, many white working-class people in the North gave their support to Barack Obama because he was the most credible hope for change, running in each election against a pillar of the establishment. By wide margins they didn’t let the color of his skin prevent them from voting for the chance of a pause in the battering they’d been getting.</p> <p>For people interested in learning how to make major change in the United States, the electoral arena is only a tiny peephole covered with gauze. Voter participation is low in the United States compared with, say, Scandinavia, and that was true this year, too. Because the election only involves part of the citizenry and is mostly about money, celebrity and manipulation, it tells us little and invites us to make up stories laced with our own fears.</p> <p>Nevertheless, combing the electoral data can tell us something. Exit polls, for example, tell us that one in five voters who pulled the lever for Trump do not believe he is qualified to be president.</p> <p>Why vote for someone so unqualified? One answer is because that voter feels certain they know what a second Clinton presidency would bring: unjust policies that further degrade the lives of the oppressed. Here’s the chance for activist empathy, crucial for our having any chance of success in the future: When people so desire change that they will vote for someone they believe unqualified, they are desperate. Activists are used to calling people who are rendered desperate by unjust polices “the oppressed.” If using that name helps us stop othering working-class Trump voters, let’s use that name.</p> <p>The white working class reading of recent American history may be more accurate than that of many activists. Bill Clinton betrayed the Democratic Party’s traditional working-class base through the North American Free Trade Agreement, destruction of “welfare as we know it,” and subsidizing corporations’ moving industrial jobs overseas. Even when the presidency and both houses of Congress were in the hands of the Democrats, a union movement that worked night and day to get Democratic politicians elected could not get its priorities enacted.</p> <p>Many in a social class that once believed the Democratic Party was its ally were bound to notice, sooner or later, that the party’s allegiance is elsewhere. I’ve often heard middle-class liberals complain about working-class people voting against their interests, but I’m not hearing them complain that tens of millions of middle-class people vote against their interests—something they do routinely, and did so again by voting for Trump. In fact, the middle class reportedly provided Trump’s most reliable funding during the primary season.</p> <p><strong>How the Democrats became losers.</strong></p> <p>In 2008, Main Street rose in outrage against Wall Street’s irresponsibility, forcing a defeat in Congress of the first stimulus package. It was a fantastic opportunity for left-of-center organizing, and I looked in vain for signs from organized labor or other Democratic Party players that had the needed organizing capacity.</p> <p>Later I asked a Washington insider friend who knows what goes on inside the party, “Did you hear of anyone in the Democratic Party even making the suggestion that this was an opportunity to win back the blue collar workers who feel frustrated by Democratic distance?” He did not. We both knew the Republicans did jump right on the opportunity, gathering anti-Wall Street energy into the Tea Party movement. Years went by: widespread unemployment, replacement jobs at half the wages, people continuing to be thrown out of their homes. Not until 2011 did Occupy happen, and it proved largely uninterested in ongoing organizing, or carrying out campaigns that could engender hope.</p> <p>Pollsters found years later among Tea Party-identified people a continuing strong anger against Wall Street. The Trump campaign used this effectively, linking (accurately) Hillary Clinton to top financiers. Despite Bernie Sanders’ rallying of significant white working-class support in the primary, Clinton failed to build on that momentum. How could she? Back in the 1990s she and her husband solidified Wall Street’s ownership of the Democratic Party, moving it to the right.</p> <p><strong>What this means for activists in the next two years.</strong></p> <p>The alienated white working-class people who cast their protest vote for Trump remain without a home, since neither party intends to meet their needs. The Republicans will at least talk to them, inviting them to vent their frustration at scapegoats (“the Mexicans”). We can offer something better. It’s time for a crash program by activists to design hard-hitting direct action campaigns that cast our issues in terms that address their needs for economic security and self-respect.</p> <p>Peace activists can do this; the Jobs with Peace Campaigns of the 1980s reached beyond the choir and involved working-class people through neighborhood associations and unions. School reformers can do this; campaigners already involve working-class parents and demand well-funded schools that are seven-day-a-week community centers building skills, solidarity and self-respect. Climate justice advocates need to make jobs central to their campaigns, as does Earth Quaker Action Team with its Power Local Green Jobs demand in Philadelphia, targeting a fossil fuel-dependent electrical utility.</p> <p>At this point, activist campaigns aren’t massive enough to shift macro-economic decision-making. For one thing, we give away too much energy to the co-opting welcome of the Democrats. However, we can build the scale of our movements by frankly admitting that alienated white working-class people are right: both major parties are together destroying the country on behalf of the 1 percent. It may be hard for college educated activists to admit that the cynical working-class view is more accurate than the belief of graduates of political science courses. However, the sooner the humility arrives, the better. With humility comes the chance to scale up our campaigning and take the next step in the living revolution.</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/kieran-ford/don-t-mourn-organize-three-ways-millennials-can-build-better-post-trump-f">Don’t mourn, organize! Three ways millennials can build a better post-Trump future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/to-succeed-movements-must-overcome-tension-between-rationality-and-emoti">To succeed, movements must overcome the tension between rationality and emotion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 15 Nov 2016 00:15:00 +0000 George Lakey 106705 at What role were you born to play in social change? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Successful social movements include advocates, helpers, organizers and rebels in equal measure.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published by <a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</p><p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href=""></a>/<a href="">Arthimedes</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Bill Moyer was a streetwise, working class white boy from row-house Philadelphia, who — in the turbulence of the 1960s — went to Chicago to work for an anti-racist housing campaign. He wound up joining Martin Luther King Jr.’s national staff as an organizer. </p> <p>I played tag football more than once with Moyer, catching his grin as he mercilessly overwhelmed his opponents through daring and smarts. He might have been the most joyfully aggressive Quaker I’ve known. By the time he died in 2002, Moyer had given significant leadership on multiple political issues, including the national anti-nuclear movement.</p> <p>In California, Moyer went to graduate school to study social movement theory and indulge his love of analytical thinking. He became best known for identifying eight stages of successful social movements, which he named the&nbsp;<a href="">Movement Action Plan</a>, or MAP. I found activists using MAP as far away as Taiwan, where they had already read it in translation before I got there.</p> <p><span>Moyer also invented a powerful tool that clarifies how we work for change on two levels: individually and organizationally.&nbsp;</span><a href="">Four Roles of Social Activism</a><span>, he called it, and right now the tool is helping environmentalist organizations in the Philadelphia area clarify their relationships to the&nbsp;</span><a href="">new campaign Power Local Green Jobs</a><span>. The tool also empowers individuals to become more effective. In this column I’ll describe the four roles so you can notice their resonance personally for you and also for your group.</span></p> <p><span>With Moyer’s permission, I tweaked the names of three of the four roles, making the differences sharper; you’ll get both names here.&nbsp; I call the roles advocate, helper, organizer, and rebel.</span></p> <p><strong>The advocate role</strong></p> <p><span>The advocate focuses on communication with what Moyer called “the powerholders,” who can change a policy or practice. Think of the civil liberties lawyer suing the city for stop-and-frisk that profiles people of color, or the lobby group urging city council to change that policy. Moyer calls this role the “reformer,” while acknowledging that an advocate might urge changes that are radical in content.</span></p> <p>In workshops, I invite people to scan their childhoods to recall whether they usually turned to an authority to correct what they felt was an injustice or problem. Maybe they went to the teacher after class to report bullying on the playground, or told a parent that little sister was upset. I’ve found that many adults who prefer to play the advocate role in social movements expressed that preference early, often developing some skill and confidence.</p> <p><strong>The helper role</strong></p> <p><span>The helper is drawn to direct service, personally doing what they can to remedy the situation. They address gender and racial discrimination in jobs by teaching how to write resumes or initiating job training. They attack carbon pollution by weatherizing houses or starting solar installation co-ops. Because much of mainstream community life is marked by service, Moyer’s name for this role is “citizen.”</span></p> <p>When adults known for playing helper roles look back on their childhood they sometimes remember their own intervention to stop the bully, or their being the first one to bring a band-aid when little brother falls off the bike.</p> <p><strong>The organizer role</strong></p> <p><span>While the advocate and helper who want to make a bigger difference may themselves need to organize — by starting a nonprofit, for example — the organizing part is not the most satisfying for them. The advocate is happiest when convincing the judge that equal marriage is constitutional. The helper loves to witness the graduating class that includes more people of color.</span></p> <p>The organizer, on the other hand, experiences joy from collecting people who may not even know each other and turning them into a well-oiled team, or tripling the attendance at the union local’s monthly meetings. Organizers often believe that the sheer power of numbers will make change because powerholders are afraid of alternative sources of power and may concede something to head off further growth.</p> <p>When organizers were children they may have been the ones who revived the celebration of Martin Luther King Day at school, or boosted the flagging morale of the drill team. Moyer calls them “change agents,” and he himself was certainly that.</p> <p><strong>The rebel role</strong></p> <p><span>The rebel who sees a problem or injustice prefers to make a commotion of some kind to force powerholders to make a change. Martin Luther King Jr. explained that a campaign must create a crisis. Gandhi made so much trouble that he made India ungovernable by the British. True, some famous rebels needed organizing skills to scale up their commotion to the crisis point.</span></p> <p><span>But rebels look at numbers not for their own sake but to determine “how many people will it take to create what degree of crisis?” Alice Paul left the mass movement for woman suffrage in order to lead a smaller band of rebels willing to make the&nbsp;</span><a href="">nonviolent trouble that forced U.S. President Woodrow Wilson</a><span>&nbsp;to give in to justice.</span></p> <p><strong>Roles can be played positively or negatively</strong></p> <p><span>While some activists dismiss one or more of these roles as uncool — “the nonprofit-industrial complex” or “sellout lobbyists” or “infantile protesters” — Moyer found the record clear: Successful social movements include all four roles.</span></p> <p>He acknowledged, though, that any of these roles can either assist or undermine a movement, depending on how people play the role. Advocates, for example, can — through communication with powerholders — find ways of framing demands that make it more likely that the movement will take a large step forward. On the other hand, they can get co-opted by the powerholders and undermine a campaign’s clarity so it settles for less.</p> <p>Rebels can either generate drama that motivates the undecided to take the issue more seriously and to side with the movement, or it can choose tactics that are so self-marginalizing that the undecided lend their support to the powerholders.</p> <p>Helpers can empower people who are feeling helpless by giving them skills and assisting them to see that they can only get what they really want through solidarity with others. Or the helpers can adopt the false belief that society changes through individuals enhancing their lives one-by-one.</p> <p>In his book “Doing Democracy,” Moyer describes a number of positive and negative ways each role can be played. Looking fearlessly at his analysis helps our learning curve.</p> <p><strong>How do you play your role?</strong></p> <p><span>I’ve personally performed a lot of voluntary service, started and led new organizations, and lobbied elected officials. In my heart of hearts, though, I’m a rebel. To avoid burnout, I need to remember that. I’m healthiest, most creative and productive when I’m in touch with my rebel self and find a group that’s OK with that.</span></p> <p>Becoming self-aware is also helpful for organizations. They do best when they clarify their mission, even when that means saying “No” to lots of otherwise good ideas that are offered but aren’t really aligned with the essence of their role. Earth Quaker Action Team, my primary affiliation, claims its rebel role in the larger struggle for environmental, economic and racial justice. In our new campaign Power Local Green Jobs, other groups we talk with expect that we will join with them as they advocate, or organize, or do job training. We get to explain over and over the advantages of a division of labor: “Do what you’re best at and we’ll root for you while we do our rebel thing.”</p> <p>A group that embraces its particular role in the movement can also have a diversity of roles within its membership. Within EQAT we have people who as individuals shine as organizers, helpers and advocates and contribute quite a lot to the group’s internal life. Within any group there is room for all as long as they support the clear, overall mission.</p> <p>Of course a membership that includes multiple role identities will also experience conflicts, and that’s a good thing — especially when hard choices must be made. An organizer may object that a rebel’s tactical proposal is premature because the group doesn’t yet have the resources to deal with the consequences. </p> <p>A helper may say that more solar installation training needs to be in place before the utility yields and funds extensive rooftop programs, or else the poor and people of color will be overlooked when workers start lining up for jobs. An advocate may note that the opponent is for the first time engaged in serious consideration of the demand, and argue that this is the wrong time for militant action.</p> <p>People who face strategic hard choices are more likely to come up with creative and wise next moves when the four roles fight it out — fighting fairly while acknowledging differences. The research is clear: Over time, diversity actually does produce the best outcomes. Or at least diversity works when everyone agrees on the bottom line: The role the group plays in the larger movement.</p> <p>This illustration from Earth Quaker Action Team can be repeated for organizations taking a different role: advocacy, say, or helping or organizing. The combination of diversity of membership and unity of purpose is a winning combination.</p> <p>Bill Moyer’s Four Roles is about effectiveness. Instead of one organization trying to do many things and risking scatter, his vision was that of a proliferation of groups, each maximizing strength through focus while networking and supporting a broader sense of unity. That’s what a powerful movement looks like.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/to-succeed-movements-must-overcome-tension-between-rationality-and-emoti">To succeed, movements must overcome the tension between rationality and emotion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/james-k-rowe/zen-and-art-of-social-movement-maintenance">Zen and the art of social movement maintenance</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 Social Movements George Lakey Transformative nonviolence Activism Wed, 09 Mar 2016 10:30:00 +0000 George Lakey 100439 at George Lakey <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> George Lakey </div> </div> </div> <p>George Lakey&nbsp;has been active in direct action campaigns for six decades. Among many other books and articles he is author of “Strategizing for a Living Revolution” in David Solnit’s book Globalize Liberation (City Lights, 2004). His 2016 book is "Viking Economics," and in December 2018 Melville House will release "How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning."</p> George Lakey Thu, 10 Sep 2015 16:56:23 +0000 George Lakey 95849 at To succeed, movements must overcome the tension between rationality and emotion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Avoiding conflict disempowers those who suffer oppression. We have to develop the muscles to fight for our own liberation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;<img width="460" alt="" src="//" /></p> <p><span class="image-caption">Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Getty Images. All rights reserved</span>.</p> <p>When <span>it comes to action, we are pulled by two tendencies that seem compatible but in practice are often in tension. We want our movements to be rational—that is, to strategize well, use resources efficiently, and stay nimble. Yet, on the other hand, we may also want the products of emotion: to experience solidarity, to let empathy connect us with those who haven’t joined us, and to tap the righteous anger that goes with caring about injustice.</span></p><p>In my lifetime social movements have increasingly turned to trainers to increase their learning curve and make actions more effective. However, a movement’s wish to draw on the power of both rationality and emotion poses a challenge for trainers, who are influenced by middle-class bias and traditional education. Class and the academy push trainers to privilege rationality and ignore the wellspring of emotion.</p><p>Fortunately, action reasserts the need for both, and training is learning to respond. The movement story in the United States shows this tension, and begins with the civil rights movement of the 1960s.</p><p><strong>The civil rights movement didn’t solve this for everyone</strong></p><p>The civil rights movement made more breakthroughs than today’s activists have yet caught up with, but that movement’s practice is not a complete answer for today. I was a trainer in the civil rights movement and saw brilliant use of role play and other experiential tools for preparing to take on white segregationists and brutal police. The tools were helpful in bringing emotions like fear and anger to the surface and, by normalizing them, making them easier to manage.</p><p>The fullest positive use of emotion, however, was in the South where black church culture was strongest. Black preachers sought to be charismatic and many were expert in surfacing emotion, mobilizing what they called soul force for the nonviolent struggle. We see this in the film “Selma.”</p><p>Some civil rights activists at the time saw the charismatic leadership model as problematic, and in any case the black preacher tradition is not available for most of today’s movements. A practical organizational alternative for mobilizing emotion, however, was unclear. After the civil rights movement faded a few of its members joined others to form in 1971 the <a href="">Movement for a New Society</a>, or MNS.</p><p>In the early days we in MNS discovered “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” a breakthrough book by the best-known initiator of popular education, Brazilian educator <a href="">Paulo Freire</a>. Popular education takes sides in the class struggle and honors the wisdom of oppressed people, assisting them through dialogue to name their experience, connect the dots and encourage each other to take action. The tools reassure people who have been told they can’t think well, partly through the facilitator asking questions and showing respect, and partly through the experience of thinking out loud and noticing that others in the group are paying attention.</p><p>Our trainers enthusiastically used Freire’s approach, finding that it did elicit more fully the rationality of a group. When MNS combined popular education with the action training born in the civil rights movement, our trainers became in demand around the United States and elsewhere. MNS helped the nonviolent anti-nuclear power movement win its remarkable victory in the late 1970s.</p><p>However, a curious phenomenon began popping up in MNS workshops: emotional revolts of participants that most often were expressed at the facilitator team, but also at each other. The workshops’ empowerment tools focused on the rational dimension of the participants. In these mini-revolutions, the group’s emotional life was demanding more attention.</p><p><strong>A group in Starhawk’s attic yearns for solidarity</strong></p><p>The 1999 Battle of Seattle over corporate-led globalization led to a series of mass confrontations with power holders in the United States and elsewhere. Nonviolent trainers went from city to city, facilitating workshops at each convergence. After a few years, leading activist <a href="">Starhawk</a> and I called trainers together to take stock of how we were doing. We met in her attic in San Francisco.</p><p>Trainers reported multiple successes at working in the midst of chaos, as well as limitations. They also raised strategic questions about the value of mass confrontations that had no concrete or achievable goals.</p><p>We turned to skill-sharing, which was fun, and comparisons of analytical frameworks. Suddenly the amicable bunch of trainers turned crabby. We found fault with each others’ comments, but especially distrusted the person who happened, by rotation, to be occupying the facilitator’s chair at the time. Participants urged solutions to our unhappiness: “Let’s go into pairs.” “We need a break.” “We should never have left that earlier point of disagreement.” “Maybe a group song would help.”</p><p>Nothing worked. I was as lost as anyone while a storm raged within the group. The facilitator looked flattened. One of the participants lost it, dramatically. Then a respected group member expressed vulnerability. Suddenly, the sun came out, we hugged whoever was near us, laughed and paused for tea.</p><p>Only then did I realize we’d experienced an emotional process that sometimes shows up in groups. We started with our “honeymoon” period when everyone was making nice, then began the raw conflict when people showed more of themselves while peacemakers tried the impossible: to find rational solutions to our pain. Finally, we experienced the breakthrough into community and became, to use organizational development jargon, a “high-performance team.”</p><p>I remembered that a group generates a storm when its members want to experience acceptance for the deeper layers of themselves, including differences that, up until then, they’ve been keeping under wraps. In short, they want closeness, because human beings happen to be social animals.</p><p>The rational model suggests that group members could state differences and negotiate common ground in order to gain the solidarity needed for action. True enough, for low-risk, low-stakes action. However, movements often have high stakes that require members to endure fatigue and high stress, execute detailed teamwork, take big risks and draw deep support from their comrades. Nearly everyone has seen this in movies, including sports and war movies, in which a team or platoon that includes members who could never get along back home have together gained a win.</p><p>Movements often have goals that require this level of struggle to achieve, and so attract participants who expect to find the support to “go there”—but do not find it. Middle-class control trumps effectiveness in these movements, having only rationality to offer. In Starhawk’s attic those present would not have asked, in so many words, for that bonding—it would have seemed corny or naïve. Instead, we created it emotionally, by storming.</p><p>The good news is that facilitators can be trained to recognize the early signs of a storm brewing and techniques for supporting the storm when it comes. The bad news is that facilitators rarely seek that training, or the other techniques required for assisting groups to access their unconscious resources. As with traditional education, popular education did not go there.</p><p><strong>Trainers invent direct education to support solidarity-based action</strong></p><p>The group of activists who founded <a href="">Training for Change</a> in the 1990s developed a training practice over time that could make the most of what happened in Starhawk’s attic, and harnessed other group dynamics that support empowered action. Training for Change trainers knew the tools of the civil rights movement and the popular education used by MNS, so we started there. </p><p>However, we also turned to the resource of emotion, incorporating insights on group dynamics reflected in, among other places, Starhawk’s book “<a href="">Dreaming the Dark</a>,”<em> </em>and psychologist <a href="">Arnold Mindell’s book “Sitting in the Fire</a>.”<em> </em>My book “<a href="">Facilitating Group Learning</a>” summarizes a decade of discoveries about both the rational and emotional life of the group, and shares methods that work best across many cultural boundaries. Significantly, this was the action training approach that attracted the widest range of groups, from religious organizations to anarchists to nonprofits to labor unions.</p><p>Direct education gets push-back from those who limit learning to the conscious, rational realm, including those who believe that social change happens through wielding abstract academic language like “code-switching” or “intersectionality.”</p><p>Our experience is that, when groups bring forth real-world conflicts in the training room, participants get the chance to go to a deeper place and experience the behaviors that abstract words were invented to represent. Supporting conflict in the moment even helps some participants to un-hook from the class-formed attachment to words and become more present to what’s really happening. Actions that flow from such a process are more likely to have an impact on the real world of injustice, because those actions come from experience rather than words.</p><p><strong>But what about ‘triggers?’</strong></p><p>Conflict-friendly pedagogy contradicts a current assumption in anti-oppression circles that the goal, for example, in achieving racial justice is protection<em>. </em>That assumption gives the facilitator the job of outlining rules to prevent conflict. In some classrooms professors are asked to give “trigger alerts” when material is coming that might in some way be experienced as oppressive.</p><p>I believe this trend is anti-liberation. It further empowers power holders, asking authorities (in this case, teachers) to take even more responsibility to monitor and control. It disempowers those who have suffered oppression, by assuming they can’t stand up for themselves when an insult appears. It excuses facilitators from the task of supporting participants to develop the muscles to fight for their own liberation.</p><p>The vision implicit in the current trend is to produce hot-house plants who can bloom only with shelter called a “safe place.” That vision leaves me indignant: my gay and working-class self has grown in personal power in the real world where micro-aggressions abound. In fact, living in the real world helps motivate me to fight for broader change rather than retreat into yet another version of privilege where I will be insulated from the real world.</p><p>This well-meaning vision is, because of its classist roots, a version of the gated community.</p><p>Trauma survivors need and deserve support. Checking with the facilitator ahead of time might devise options that empower. Depending on the person’s own degree of healing, a particular workshop may or may not work for them. That may especially be true of train-the-trainer workshops, because new trainers need to unlearn reactivity and stay present with aggression that surfaces in a learning group.</p><p>The origin of direct education, with its roots in the civil rights movement and its use among oppressed groups that do stand up, insists on a distinction between safety and comfort. In a workshop the facilitator assists members of a group to be both safe <em>and </em>uncomfortable, because discomfort is where the greatest learning and growth are.&nbsp;<span>Needless to say, today’s movements need the steepest learning curve that they can generate.</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/clare-mohan/problem-with-safer-spaces">The problem with safer spaces</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/james-k-rowe/zen-and-art-of-social-movement-maintenance">Zen and the art of social movement maintenance</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> Transformation Transformation Social Movements George Lakey Transformative nonviolence Intersectionality Activism Thu, 10 Sep 2015 16:52:17 +0000 George Lakey 95848 at