Visionary Organizing Lab
March 31st, 2020
Loving your people and loving questions are, I believe, the two most important qualities that an individual needs today to help create the new kind of politics we need to bring about fundamental social change in our country. Even if the people of our respective communities or of our country are acting in ways that we believe are unworthy of human beings, we must still care enough for them so that their lives and ours, their questions and ours, become inseparable. At the same time we must love the questions themselves, first, because every time we act on our convictions, we create new contradictions or new questions; and secondly, because we have no models for revolutionary social change in a country as technologically advanced and politically backwards as ours.
Grace Lee Boggs, “I Must Love the Questions Themselves” 1985
Thinking for Ourselves
For the second time in less than two decades, the US economy has collapsed. Each time, the government and forces of finance have joined together to craft a “bailout.” This time it is several trillion dollars. This time, it took only a few weeks to reveal the shallow, brittle, and often brutal nature of an economic system based on extraction, high tech controls, violence, and constant, unnecessary consumption. The political leaders who told us we cannot afford universal health care, living wages, and the Green New Deal, all allocated the trillions to shore up this economy. Efforts to protect the lives and well-being of ordinary people were minimal, resisted by the most ardent of neo-liberal republicans. They continue to worry that government support for life will “erode” our will to work.
This moment has not only revealed the weaknesses of finance capital, globalization, and the lack of a productive base. It has also revealed the ugly ideological framework undergirding the economic decision-making that has prioritized making war over building peace, pursuing profits rather than protecting people, and measuring human life in monetary terms. From framing education as valuable only if it leads to jobs, to creating massive systems of profit by holding human beings in cages, to forging economies based on weapons and war, some among us have lost any sense of the value of human life, the joys we take in one another, and the sanctity of places that hold, nurture, and protect us.
For some, if human beings are not able to “produce,” they do not deserve to survive. This philosophy was displayed vividly last week as the Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick observed that if he were asked, “As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?” he would say: “If that’s the exchange, I’m all in.” The President has given voice to the same idea, as he threatens to “reopen the economy by Easter,” saying, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” In other words, saving “the “economy” not only costs public money, it costs lives. And that is a legitimate trade off.
So, we are faced the opportunity for a public conversation on what are human beings for? What makes life matter?
Some of us are answering this question with affirmations of connection, care, compassion, and creativity. Mutual aid societies have sprung up everywhere. People are connecting, sharing, and offering support to one other daily. Policies are being enacted to protect life, ensuring human rights to water, shelter, safety, and food. Music is flowing from front porches and over internet symphonies. Artistic visions are shared from images of sidewalk chalk to poetry slams.
This crisis will not be over quickly. We have choices to make about how we will reconstruct our lives. For many years, in cities, towns, and small communities across the country people have been evolving the values and practices of the living, local economies we all need to survive. Emphasizing local production for local needs, cultivating art and care, and forging connections over private profit. These are the places we need to learn from so that we can accelerate the values and practices that support life. We know that an economy built on care, stewardship, and the development and protection of people and the earth that sustains us is the only way we will survive and thrive.
Intentional Inclusion: Cultivating Circles of Support Webinar
Thursday, April 2nd
Who among us doesn’t have a tribe, or a village, or a network of friends and family that supports us? In good times and challenging ones, we use circles of support to help us out. The same goes for people with disabilities, only they are sometimes even more intentional in seeking out just the right people to be part of the Circle. Come hear from a parent (Janice) and sibling (Emma) about how they have used Circles of Support with their son and brother, and how it’s also a model that has been used in schools and communities around the country. Emma has also had great success using Circles of Support with her elementary school students.
Dear friends and colleagues,
I hope you are faring well in these strange and frightening times.
A decade ago most of you joined me in calling for clemency for David Gilbert, now 75, who has spent many decades in prison for his involvement in support of anti-war and Black liberation struggles in the 60’s,70s and 80s.
He is apart of our extended political family and we come to you once again to see if you will agree to sign a letter asking for David to be freed by the governor of New York on humanitarian grounds. We think there might be an opening and friends and comrades in NY state, along with Chesa Boudin(David’s son and the new progressive DA in San Francisco) are working hard to press Cuomo to reconsider. Read a recent article in the New Yorker on David’s case.
Here is the link to sign the letter. I have also attached the list of all those that signed last time. Please sign up asap before next Friday, April 3. Do not post this letter it is not public.
With love and in solidarity,
Barbara Ransby, Professor of History, University of Illinois at Chicago
© Brooke Duthie Photography
Democracy Now! produces a daily, global, independent news hour hosted by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan González. Our reporting includes breaking daily news headlines and in-depth interviews with people on the front lines of the world’s most pressing issues. On Democracy Now!, you’ll hear a diversity of voices speaking for themselves, providing a unique and sometimes provocative perspective on global events.
Democracy Now! is broadcast daily across the United States and Canada as well as in countries around the world. Our program is on Pacifica, NPR, community, college and satellite radio stations; on PBS, public, community and satellite TV; and viewed by millions of people online each day. Our headlines are broadcast in Spanish on radio stations across the U.S., Central and South America, and in Europe.
Democracy Now! launched in 1996, airing on nine radio stations. More than two decades later, we have grown to be one of the leading U.S.-based independent daily news broadcasts in the world.
“Technological man/woman developed because human beings had to discover how to keep warm, how to make fire, how to grow food, how to build dams, how to dig wells. Therefore human beings were compelled to manifest their humanity in their technological capacity, to discover the power within them to invent tools and techniques which would extend their material powers. We have concentrated our powers on making things to the point that we have intensified our greed for more things, and lost the understanding of why this productivity was originally pursued. The result is that the mind of man/woman is now totally out of balance, totally out of proportion. That is what production for the sake of production has done to modern man/woman. That is the basic contradiction confronting everyone who has lived and developed inside the United States. That is the contradiction which neither the U.S. government nor any social force in the United States up to now has been willing to face, because the underlying philosophy of this country, from top to bottom, remains the philosophy that economic development can and will resolve all political and social problems. “
Revolution and Evolution – CH 6 Dialectics and Revolution
March 24th, 2020
After This? Care
What will our world look like after this virus? This is the question we all need to be talking about now, even as we struggle with managing our new day to day reality. One of the most hopeful signs that we can come out of this crisis better than how we went into it is the emerging recognition of how interdependent we are on one another for our health and well- being. For example, this week in New York, facing the most severe outbreak of the escalating virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a version of what is becoming a commonly understood value. He said simply, “We need everyone to be safe. Otherwise no one can be safe.”
After decades of public policies that have encouraged individualism, selfishness, greed, dehumanization, and destruction, we are all facing the reality that our lives are indeed linked. None of us can be healthy or whole, as long as some of us are not.
Nowhere is this shifting of perspective clearer than in the struggle by people for clean, affordable water. For decades people have been advocating two basic ideas: water is a human right and a sacred trust. They have been offering sensible policies embodied in water affordability plans that base payment for water on household income, rather than usage. A key aspect of these plans is that they would stop the draconian water shut offs that in Detroit, for example, meant that between 2014 and 2018, 112,000 households went without water, some for months and years. In cities and towns throughout this land, people shut off from water because they could not pay high water bills cannot do the most basic first line of defense against this virus. They cannot wash their hands. They cannot protect themselves, their children or their neighbors.
Two weeks ago, less than 5 cities took the demand to provide clean, affordable water to everyone, regardless of ability to pay, seriously. Today more than 289 communities have stopped water shut offs. Nearly 128 million Americans who could not turn on the tap to wash their hands, clean their homes or prepare their food, can now do so. This is a major contribution to our collective health. This must become the new reality for us.
In Detroit, we are suffering the consequences of long term shut offs. This Friday a broad coalition of activists, community organizations, and faith-based groups held a press conference to demand that the mayor and governor take swift action to restore water to the more than 9000 homes currently shut off. In spite of the Governor’s order to turn the water back on, the city had been moving slowly. By Thursday they had only managed to turn back on 434 houses.
The coalition is calling on the governor and the mayor to provide residential water access through emergency potable water stations in the city. They also are asking for bulk water, sanitizing products, and disinfectants to be made immediately available to people. Organizers explained that much of the independent water deliveries that people have come to depend on are no longer possible. And the City is moving too slowly to provide water. Meanwhile, bottled water is in short supply as people throughout the metro area have purchased large quantities, emptying selves and limiting supplies.
Many communities around Michigan and around the country are facing the same problems as Detroit. Weeks, months and sometimes years of living without running water has resulted in crumbling systems, not quickly fixed. More and more people are recognizing that the notion of shutting people off from water was a mean spirited, self-defeating notion of government that harms our collective well-being. The Michigan congressional delegation is leading the way in creating new national policies and understandings about the values we need to come out of this crisis. Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, and Dan Kildee sent a letter to congressional leaders, asking congress to shield people from high water bills and water shutoffs.
After this crisis, we should all be thinking about our responsibilities to one another and to the earth on which we depend very differently. We are learning, slowly and painfully, that creating ways of living that emphasize care for all is our only way to survive.
On Being with Krista Tippett
The singular writer and thinker on how kindness and compassion can blossom in times of emergency.
(Gaia and Shekhina Speak: Earth, Water, Fire, Air © Arlene Goldbard 2020)
“What can console us in the face of the Great Unknown? I thought I understood that safety was always an illusion: any of us could be struck down at any moment. But having the illusion of safety erased, that’s uncertainty of another magnitude, so vastly out of proportion to the “normal,” default reality that words can’t do it justice.” KEEP READING
March 17th, 2020
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 affects more and more people, you might be wondering what to do.
Immune System Boosting Tools for Self and Community in the time of Coronavirus/COVID-19
Saturday, March 21, 2020,
Join us for sharing from a diversity of health practices on ways to approach respiratory illness and immune boosting for individuals and community.
We will have people sharing from the lens of: Chinese medicine, allopathic (MD) medicine, naturopathic medicine, and Iyengar Yoga philosophy and practice.
We will also share ideas for how to continue to maintain community connection, even in the face of possible isolation, so that our communal immune system remains strong.
For now, please save the date. More information on the panelists and registration coming soon.
“The Only Way to Survive Is by Taking Care of One Another.” – GLB
10 Years Later. Still So Relevent.
Thinking for Ourselves
Reconnection and Care
It has taken a global pandemic to stop water shut offs and restore it to homes in Detroit. Barely two weeks ago, the Governor and the Mayor denied the request of activist groups to stop water shut offs for public health concerns. While we are all grateful that the city and state are acknowledging the danger, water shut offs create for everyone, state officials need to do some serious reflection about how they have been thinking about our connections to each other and their public responsibilities.
Robert Gordon, the Michigan Health Director said at the beginning of March, that “there are significant challenges faced by residents whose water has been shut off” but “those challenges do not rise to the level of an imminent danger” because data don’t indicate a “causal association between water shutoffs and water-borne disease.” Seriously?
As Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Flint said, It’s a bit ridiculous to even have such a conversation,” she told Bridge. “Water is a medical and public health necessity. The fact that we have to wait to see the deleterious outcomes is backwards and antiprevention and anti-common sense and anti-science.” She concluded, “If Flint taught us anything, it’s the need to focus on prevention and not wait until we can prove harm.”
Now we are facing a crisis that denial cannot evade. And it is a crisis that is revealing the brutality embedded in the decisions made by our Mayor and his refusal to act to stop water shut offs for more than 5 years.
As many as 10,000 or more homes are now without running water. So far, the City has managed to turn the water on in 73 of them. This is unconscionable. When the city wanted to shut people off from water to do the bidding of wall street banks, trucks raced up streets, shutting off whole neighborhoods, without regard for the chaos and devastation left in their wake. The city shut off more than one in eight households in a matter of months. Now, with many homes facing problems caused by the water shut offs, we are being told the city needs to hire plumbers to be able to restore service.
Meanwhile the city has set up a system to reconnect people that simply doesn’t work. Requiring cash in hand before scheduling reconnection for people, setting up a single phone number that was quickly overwhelmed, and providing no sense of urgency, the restoration plan is collapsing under its own callous incompetency.
Mayor Duggan prides himself in his ability to solve problems. He is often considered obsessed with tearing down houses at a speed that he claims is the envy of other civic leaders around the country. He does not have that same obsession for the well-being of nearly 1/3 of Detroiters who have had their water shut off.
This crisis is defining who we are as people. It is showing us that unless we care for the well-being of everyone, no one is safe or secure. We are reaping the chaos of disconnection. We now need to reconnect the waters of everyone, as we restore our relationships with a sense of compassion and care.
Wash Your Hands
We are humans relearning to wash our hands.
Washing our hands is an act of love
Washing our hands is an act of care
Washing our hands is an act that puts the hypervigilant body at ease
Washing our hands helps us return to ourselves by washing away what does not serve.
Wash your hands
like you are washing the only teacup left that your great grandmother carried across the ocean, like you are washing the hair of a beloved who is dying, like you are washing the feet of Grace Lee Boggs, Beyonce, Jesus, your auntie, Audre Lorde, Mary Oliver- you get the picture.
Like this water is poured from a jug your best friend just carried for three miles from the spring they had to climb a mountain to reach.
Like water is a precious resource
made from time and miracle
Wash your hands and cough into your elbow, they say.
Rest more, stay home, drink water, have some soup, they say.
To which I would add: burn some plants your ancestors burned when there was fear in the air,
Boil some aromatic leaves in a pot on your stove until your windows steam up.
Open your windows
Eat a piece of garlic every day. Tie a clove around your neck.
My friends, it is always true, these things.
It has already been time.
It is always true that we should move with care and intention, asking
Do you want to bump elbows instead? with everyone we meet.
It is always true that people are living with one lung, with immune systems that don’t work so well, or perhaps work too hard, fighting against themselves. It is already true that people are hoarding the things that the most vulnerable need.
It is already time that we might want to fly on airplanes less and not go to work when we are sick.
It is already time that we might want to know who in our neighborhood has cancer, who has a new baby, who is old, with children in another state, who has extra water, who has a root cellar, who is a nurse, who has a garden full of elecampane and nettles.
It is already time that temporarily non-disabled people think about people living with chronic illness and disabled folks, that young people think about old people.
It is already time to stop using synthetic fragrances to not smell like bodies, to pretend like we’re all not dying. It is already time to remember that those scents make so many of us sick.
It is already time to not take it personally when someone doesn’t want to hug you.
It is already time to slow down and feel how scared we are.
We are already afraid, we are already living in the time of fires.
When fear arises,
and it will,
let it wash over your whole body instead of staying curled up tight in your shoulders.
If your heart tightens,
science says: compassion strengthens the immune system
We already know that, but capitalism gives us amnesia
and tricks us into thinking it’s the thing that protect us
but it’s the way we hold the thing.
The way we do the thing.
Those of us who have forgotten amuletic traditions,
we turn to hoarding hand sanitizer and masks.
we find someone to blame.
we think that will help.
want to blame something?
Blame capitalism. Blame patriarchy. Blame white supremacy.
It is already time to remember to hang garlic on our doors
to dip our handkerchiefs in thyme tea
to rub salt on our feet
to pray the rosary, kiss the mezuzah, cleanse with an egg.
In the middle of the night,
when you wake up with terror in your belly,
it is time to think about stardust and geological time
redwoods and dance parties and mushrooms remediating toxic soil.
it is time
to care for one another
to pray over water
to wash away fear
every time we wash our hands
Today in the U.S., a number of contemporary poets carry the torch of their work pushing for social change in their communities.