LIVING FOR CHANGE
Bonding Together in Tough Times
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Oct 13, 2009
The greatest human need facing the American people is to “stop shirking responsibility and to start assuming responsibility.” This is what Jimmy Boggs wrote in 1963 in The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Workers Notebook, which has just been reissued with a new introduction by me and commentaries by six other Detroit activists.
This human need was not so clear in 1963 because the issues then were not so urgent. Global warming was not threatening to extinguish all life on Planet Earth. Millions of people were not jobless because of the economic meltdown and increasing de-industrialization. In 1963 it still made some sense to look to Washington because politicians had not become so dependent on corporations for their election.
Fortunately there are growing signs that the American people are waking up to this reality. Last week I described some of the grassroots steps, like community gardens or neighbors joining to install solar panels, that Americans are taking to slow down global warming.
Since then I have learned from an article by Chuck Collins that Common Security Clubs (CSC) are forming around the country. As the economic crisis reminds us of our vulnerabilities, an increasing number of Americans recognize that we must take responsibility by building authentic security and demanding accountability.
“Participants,” he says, “have been able to reduce anxiety about our finances – and see the abundance that still exists in our communities. What we’ve discovered by coming together is that we can’t face the changing economy in isolation.”
CSCs bring together people from a variety of backgrounds: secular groups, such as community organizations, unions, and neighborhoods, and religious organizations and congregations.
A CSC provides:
- A common ground where people explore the challenges of personal security in a changing world,
- Information to learn the root causes of the ecological and economic challenges we face,
- Opportunities to explore ways to strengthen our economic and personal security through shared action and mutual aid.
- An opportunity to strengthen community by building solid relationships.
CSCs include three basic components. The first component focuses on learning and understanding the larger economic forces at work through popular education tools, shared readings, and videos. Mutual Aid and Local Action are explored through stories, a workbook, and web-based resources that allow participants to reflect on what makes them secure.
The Social Action component explores issues that require people to work together to engage in the democratic process to initiate state, national, and global transformations.
In the October 2 SOJOURNERS Collins reports on the success CSCs have had in congregations around the country. One pastor reflected that facilitating a club was “the most meaningful thing she had ever done” as a minister: “There is something powerful when people [feel] they are in charge and facing the economic and ecological future with open eyes.”
Six months into the process, existing clubs have identified concrete benefits , including overcoming isolation and shame through “Reality Support Groups.” Congregations have started small local actions with unemployment support groups, establishing bartering exchanges, and forging “get out of debt” pacts.
Ideally, these groups foster human relationships that provide the revolution of minds and hearts that Jimmy Boggs speaks of in The American Revolution. These critical connections provide the foundation necessary to begin the radical revolution of values or cultural revolution advocated by MLK.
CSCs provide the opportunity to revisit a forgotten idea, the idea that we can do for ourselves. In this post-industrial epoch, we must learn that doing for “ourselves” means transforming our conception of “ourselves” to mean, not the “me” of an exploitative capitalistic culture, but “ourselves” as defined by “us”, the “we” of our extended families, our community, our ‘hood. In doing so, we can begin the two-sided transformation necessary to evolve past the paranoia and fear of “losing our jobs” to the post-industrial transformative mindset of “sharing our work.”