Grassroots Economic Survival
Inner Landscapes: Activists' Community-of-practice Part III.
Activist-Practitioners Share Practice Experiences
By Pamela Boyce Simms
“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”* Will activists stop digging before interlocking global crises cascade to the point where the planet is unlivable? Can we let go of our 17th century understanding of the world long enough to recognize that cutting edge science has finally caught up with the ancient sages, and apply the combined wisdom in time to throttle up and out of the nose dive we’re in? The Inner Landscapes Activists’ Community-of-Practice invites early adopters to stop digging, let go of outworn causal assumptions, and live into non-duality.
Ancient contemplative traditions, quantum mechanics, neuroscience and digital physics offer the tools we need to take the evolutionary next-step in consciousness in service to a planet in travail. Will the numbers of people willing and able to apply the tools reach the critical mass, the tipping point prior to climactic cataclysm? Activist-practitioners offer their thoughts:Rob Brown: "Our practices (within the community of practice) are showing me that potential for “a way out” of unresourceful experience can be right there in that very experience, especially when we connect that experience to broader, more resourceful experiences.
I’m beginning to more deeply question what it means to act in the first place. We limit ourselves when our definitions of action don’t include deeper reflection and conscious connection with the basis of our being.
Making an analogy to political thought: If people can only be exploited because of the power we already exercise (there’s something to exploit in the first place), then similarly we can only experience pain/ fear/ trauma because of the consciousness we already are. But just as you can’t denounce the exercise of power in order to end exploitation, you have to expand your consciousness in order to fruitfully move beyond unresourceful experiences.
The old reductionist mindsets are the ones that gave us the lies that we’re at “the end of history”, that “there is no alternative” to how things are. To really get beyond that, we can’t adopt the same methods/ worldviews and expect different outcomes." Read more. —Rob Brown, is a Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Editorial Collective Member.
Renee Descartes' mistaken declaration in 1637, "I think, therefore I am," powerfully aligned Western thought with the material, form-identified intellect and ego for the centuries that would follow. However we are fundamentally NOT the ego which is just an amalgam of meticulously maintained, habitual thoughts ruled by fear. Descartes didn’t delve deep enough. We are the awareness — the vast consciousness which is one with the field of universal intelligence behind the "avatar*-ego."
Yet most of 21st century activism and the socio-political analysis that underlies it is pervaded and driven by the sacred cow of 17th century rationalism. The radical polarization which is shredding our society epitomizes the dualistic thinking hatched in the Enlightenment Era yesteryear.
The gnat buzzing around the oligarchs’ ear impact of current socio-political activism is a function of movement builders’ clinging to an antiquated understanding of how evolutionary change occurs and how events and people relate ─i.e. unidirectional causality. All the while pervasive Cartesian rationalism bolstered by Newtonian physics has long been eclipsed by the double blind proven reality models of quantum mechanics and digital physics. The latter finally resonate with the findings of Siddhartha Gautama and Nagarjuna some 2,500 years ago, and the Vedas even earlier.
This past summer i spoke about movement-building at a retreat of progressive leftist academics and their students, all of whom were devotees of a specific school of intellectual thought. Prior to the panel on which i was to speak i listened to participant lamentations about how their well-crafted, intellectually sound organizing strategies consistently resulted in dissipation of effort, lack of meaningful penetration, burn out, or the crushing of movement initiatives. There was much consternation and gnashing of teeth over the inability to make significant inroads into increasingly abhorrent societal conditions.
Later in the program i suggested stilling the mind and steering away from habitual reductionist, analytic thought to clear a path for truly evolutionary activism. Why not hone the ability to listen deeply in order to gain emergent perspective on movement-building from a field of intelligence infinitely more vast than anything the human mind could ever muster? If, as the group had repeatedly stated, they had applied all of the tools in the wheelhouse of their school of thought to no avail, they might consider another approach. That would have required loosening their grip on their philosophical "hotline to absolute truth" and the egoic constructs that supported it.
Let it suffice to say that i struck a nerve in the core identity of the academics. Careers, lifetimes invested in idolizing the intellect renders the idea of stilling and silencing analytic thought, alien, and threatening. Professorial trajectories, tenure, publishing, and legacy were all rolled up into the fact that the message was too far outside of cherished belief systems to compute.
Bumping into walls in a maze of brittle intellectual analysis, unconscious of being unconscious is often preferable to fear of unknown interior spaces! Such a mind-prison makes for movement-building that is stunted by unconscious self-imposed limitations.
Grace Gershuny: "The Inner Landscapes Community of Practice message to the progressive left is that we need to change ‘divisive, us vs. them’ patterns of thought and the idea that our way of thinking is the ‘correct thinking.’ This is what holds back the left. Yet it’s hard for people to grasp the idea of non-duality, ‘all is one,’ because it seems anti-intellectual.
The community of practice message resonates with my own Buddhist practice which has been helpful professionally as it speaks to how we relate to the world — how we overcome our sense of inadequacy, not being good enough, being flawed, or not being listened to.
We need to work on our own inner understanding in order to experience these shifts of consciousness. As activists we need to understand that we don’t reach a point where we have ‘arrived’ and go out to righteously tell people how they should think. This has been the elitist arrogance of movements on the left." —Grace Gershuny, also known as the, Read more. The Organic Revolutionary is a widely know author, educator and organic consultant.
How, in these times of intertwined mega-crises can we step out of the drama and thrall of the existing condition long enough to foster evolutionary rather than bandaid-on-bullet-wound social change? Striking at the root causes of societal suffering requires excavating the root cause of our own personal suffering. They are one and the same at different scales.
That means venturing into what may be uncharted internal territory. It means taking a hard look at the amalgam of habitual thoughts that comprise the form-identified ego, the deified intellect and the unidirectional, separation-thinking that has sent the Earth careening toward climactic disaster. The chips are down now. Given the existential nature of societal challenges it behooves us to pick up the torch and get on with internal exploration on behalf of ourselves, society, and the planet.
We think approximately 70,000 thoughts per day. When we live unexamined lives, these thoughts ride roughshod over us and align us with the limited ego. Traumas large and small imprint on brain circuitry and left unchallenged, surface incessantly to derail our relationships and best laid plans.Self-awareness constricted by our internal baggage and limiting belief systems translates directly into bllunted or short-lived impact of the activism in which we engage.Ajowa Ifateyo: "I first became aware of the power of Pamela Boyce Simms’ work in 2016 at a Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) retreat where we were dealing with issues of race and class in our diverse volunteer group. GEO members agreed that we needed to look at ourselves before we critiqued the work and action in the worker cooperative/solidarity economy movement.
Pamela had each us recall an instance of an early experience with race and class. That in itself was a very personal and powerful moment when we told those painful stories. We went through a series of exercises involving those instances and talked about them and re-visioned them. We each talked about our incident and how to re-wire that experience from a place of power and connection with the Universe. I remember how much that resonated with me. And I was excited at the power and potential of others in the movement looking at our “personal” experiences (in the 1960s we learned that the personal is political) and how they may affect and impact our responses to similar incidents.
As a result of that retreat experience which I cherish, when Pamela made the Community of Practice work available to GEO, I jumped at the chance, despite being so “busy.” I know how important it is. I’ve found this work even more powerful as we learn to retrain our brain and/or our automatic responses. Pamela is so passionate, and confident that when she explains our connection with the power of the Universe, I instantly get charged up because the information resonates profoundly with me and with my experiences as well as because of the potential for the movement benefiting.
I believe that we are activists because of profound personal experiences — whether our own or someone else’s — hating injustice that we saw or experienced, having our dreams thwarted, or we see discrimination or hate. We want to change the world because we “feel” intensely how critical it is. We want to be our best because doing so will help us and others. This inner work allows us to take our positive experiences and use it to transmute our negatives, which makes us more powerful and confident beings. And more able to give to the movement in a profound way.
I think that this Community of Practice work has tremendous personal organizing power for anyone who suffers from internalized racism or from oppression in general. Through the work, we become aware of our unconscious responses to oppression and how that may affect us in other situations. I wish that every black person, in particular, could do this work. We have so much baggage from centuries of racist oppression. I wish that every woman, and anyone who has internalized the lies about ourselves, because we get an alternative way of handling our pain. Read More. —Ajowa Ifateyo, is a Cooperatives Activist and Co-Editor, with the Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Editorial Collective.
Most of us don't realized that the avatar mind-brain is a tool. Its job is to calibrate our larger consciousness to a constrained reality-frame which is subject to localized laws of physics so that it can navigate therein. We lose sight of the fact that the evolution of the consciousness that animiates the avatar is the name of the game. Instead, like Descartes, we deify the mind-brain and indulge its incessant fear-driven discursive thought. We thereby inadvertently cause ourselves and others a great deal of unnecessary suffering. The suffering stems from the way our minds have been conditioned to involuntarily focus on form, materiality, and separation. This to the exclusion of awareness of ourselves predominantly as consciousness.
The ego, itself the creation of fears, mistakenly sees itself as separate from others and its environment despite the reality of universal interconnectedness. Western philosophy and political-economy aid and abet this inaccuracy. The dissonance between interrelational reality and the West's hammering home hyper-individuality, competition, and polarization generates suffering.
We can choose to idolize the intellect with its limited frame of reference. Or we can: 1) be silent long enough to observe and master the architecture and functioning of our mind-brain —its circuitry, our thoughts, intellect, fears and ego. We can: 2) intentionally train and master the mind in order to serve our own growth, our activism, and the evolution of our society. We can: 3) choose to intentionally let go of materialist, unidirectional presuppositions about causality and learn how to experience interconnectedness.
Rob Brown has the last word on how the community of cooperative, and solidarity activists and in particular, the Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Editorial Collective within it, can function more holistically by exploring internal landscapes.
Rob Brown: "In the workers’ association I’m a part of, we’ve been doing more collective self-reflection on where we are, what we’ve achieved, where we would like to go, how we see ourselves as part of the broader community outside of the workplace. We’ve been moving toward centering relationship/ community building among ourselves in the work we do. By putting this first, we’re gradually building capacity, though building capacity isn’t necessarily the point. That’s something that I think can apply to GEO the more I think about it: in seeking sustainable funds, trying to get more original content, what will ultimately be key is to understand the community we’re already a part of, and then to expand and deepen that community.
If GEO can successfully take up this kind of practice as a collective, I don’t think practice would be a tool for, say, sharpened analysis, but rather practice puts us in touch with the kind of consciousness from which more holistic analysis, material that connects with people and movements, etc emerges from in the first place."
*Avatar Ths physical body, a temporary vehicle for non-localized individuated consciousness which is subject to the rules-set of phyics in its localized reality-frame.
Inner Landscapes: Activists' Community-of-Practice (CoP) Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also see: Activists Take the Mystery Out of Mystical for Movement-Building, Inner Landscapes: Activists' Community-of-practice Part I and, The Thing About Resistance: Inner Landscapes Activists' Community-of-practice Part II.
Institutions & Structures: Support OrganizationsPractices, Tools & Strategies: Networking & CollaborationEconomic Sectors: Organizational Support & Development
An excerpt from the recently published book Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi, a chronicle of one of the most dynamic but under-documented experiments in radical social transformation taking place in the United States.
The fundamental program and strategy of Cooperation Jackson is intended to accomplish four fundamental ends: 1) to place the ownership and control over the primary means of production directly in the hands of the Black working class of Jackson, 2) to build and advance the development of the ecologically regenerative forces of production in Jackson, Mississippi, 3) to democratically transform the political economy of the city of Jackson, the state of Mississippi, and the southeastern region, and 4) to advance the aims and objectives of the Jackson-Kush Plan, which are to attain self-determination for people of African descent and the radical, democratic transformation of the state of Mississippi (which we see as a prelude to the radical decolonization and transformation of the United States itself).
Controlling the Means of Production
We define the means of production as the physical, non-human inputs that enable humans to transform the natural world to provide sustenance for themselves. The inputs in question are arable land, access to water, natural resources (wood, metals, minerals, etc.), and the tools and facilities that enable the cultivation of food and the transformation of raw materials into consumable goods and services, and the production or capturing of energy to power the tools and facilities. We also add control over processes of material exchange and energy transfer to our definition to give it greater clarity and force of meaning in line with our commitment to sustainability and environmental justice. The processes we feel are therefore necessary to control are the processes of distribution, consumption, and recycling and/or reuse. Without assuming some responsibility for these processes, we merely perpetuate the dynamics of externalization, particularly the production of pollution and the stimulation of waste from overproduction that are inherent in the capitalist mode of production.
A population or people that does not have access to and control over these means and processes cannot be said to possess or exercise self-determination. The Black working class majority in Jackson does not have control or unquestionable ownership over any of these means or processes. Our mission is to aid the Black working class in Jackson, and the working class overall, attain them.
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Cooperatives are an international movement, yet as we looked around the U.S. food co-op sector, most of the people we saw were white. We asked ourselves a simple and powerful question: Why?
We decided that this was something we wanted to investigate. Why are food co-ops—which are guided by cooperative values such as equity and equality—so white? It’s a question that has been a long time coming. Many of our new wave food cooperatives have reached 40-year anniversaries. In business for more than a generation, why don’t these co-ops reflect greater diversity on their boards or within their membership?
We wondered: Is it because some of them are in racially segregated population areas? Is it because food co-ops aren’t valued by certain groups of people? Is it because of the products sold? Or is it because there is something preventing the participation of everyone who might benefit from food co-ops?
As a writing team of women, white and black, who are deeply influenced by both history and contemporary storytelling, we believed the answers to our questions could come from people who had experienced food co-ops at different points in time. We wanted to inquire of our elders and contemporaries, people of different racial backgrounds, who have made contributions to our movement.
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Canada’s Desjardins, the largest association of credit unions in North America, has decided to lift a moratorium on loans for energy and pipeline projects, noting that it will weigh its clients’ environmental, social and governance practices in all future lending decisions.
The Quebec-based financial institution, a backer of Kinder Morgan’s expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline, had been evaluating its pipeline-related policy for months. In July, it put such loans temporarily on hold, threatening the financing of high-profiles projects, including TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL and Energy East and Enbridge’s Line 3.
Currently, the Canadian lender is one of 24 financial institutions that is backing a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Canada (TSX:KML), majority owned by US-based Kinder Morgan.
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This piece involves a bit of an epiphany about myself. You know, like when you are surprised into seeing yourself a bit more as you really are. Some background is necessary to lead into how this unfolded.
Since Trump’s election I have become a democracy-freak. Writing a book about it in fact. And that is taking me on a new journey within myself and across our political spectrum. Here is the opening of my draft Introduction:
Donald Trump is as American as is our democracy. As is our “identity politics” as well, right and left. All are rooted in our culture. Deeply so. The question before us about our democracy is clear: allow it to diminish, muddle along, or grow it powerfully. This book embraces our third option with Whitmanesque enthusiasm and proposes a way to begin working on it.
There are two ways we can think of democracy: simply as a way of governing that belongs in the same category as monarchy, socialism, etc.; or, as both a way of living well and a way of governing. When looking at it as a way of living we are considering a process for people connecting with each other and sustaining those connections. In the least, finding ways to get along and finding ways to work out problems together; at the best, finding ways to come together with some passion for something they share and care about deeply. As such it needs to be cherished and nourished. Our Trumpean situation with all of its polarization from both left and right is a result of our having failed to do that.
Reading two different takes on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, argued last week before the Supreme Court, brought the tension between “as a way of life” and “as a way of governing” into sharp focus in a surprising way for me.
Like many of you, I could rift endlessly on how the Far Right is a mean polarizing force. But what’s the point. I would be preaching to the choir. Much better for us and for getting some insight into the demise of our democracy, if we look at how we contribute to it. Two recent pundit columns in the NY Times looked at the current case involving the Lakewood, Colorado baker who specializes in wedding cakes being sued by the gay couple because he would not make a wedding cake because, for him, homosexuality is a grave moral wrong.
Ria Tabacco Mar, a staff lawyer with the A.C.L.U. who represented the gay couple all the way to the Supreme Court, wrote a piece, The Colorado Cake Case Is as Easy as Pie, that from my viewpoint decimated the baker’s legal case, argument by argument. For example:
Mr. Phillips is free to express his dissent from Colorado’s equal-service rule, as he has done. He has communicated his views about marriage for same-sex couples far and wide, appearing on national television and in the pages of this newspaper. That’s exactly what the First Amendment protects. But when he opens a business that holds itself out as open to the public, he can’t use those beliefs to discriminate in violation of state law.
In his column How Not to Advance Gay Marriage David Brooks, a fervent supporter of gay rights and the use of the courts in such cases as Brown v. Board of Education, came to the same event from a very different perspective, one that reflected the “as a way of life” dimension of our democracy:
Craig and Mullins were understandably upset. As Mullins told Liptak, “We were mortified and just felt degraded.” Nobody likes to be refused service just because of who they essentially are. In a just society people are not discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
At this point, Craig and Mullins had two possible courses of action, the neighborly and the legal.
The neighborly course would have been to use this situation as a community-building moment. That means understanding the concrete circumstance they were in…The legal course, by contrast… is inherently adversarial. It takes what could be a conversation and turns it into a confrontation.
Brooks goes on in his column to lay out the polarizing disadvantages for the gay movement of taking this case to the legal mat: it is inherently adversarial, dehumanizing, using the state to coerce an outcome, and elitist. It was this last point that perked up my ears. How did he get to “elitist:”
It takes a situation that could be addressed concretely on the ground and throws it up, as this one now has been, to the Supreme Court, where it will be decided by a group of Harvard and Yale law grads.
And this was what really impacted me:
If you want to know why we have such a polarized, angry and bitter society, one reason is we take every disagreement that could be addressed in conversation and community and we turn it into a lawsuit. We take every morally supple situation and we hand it over to the legal priesthood, which by necessity is a system of technocratic rationalism, strained slippery-slope analogies and implied coercion.
It left this Grassroots Economic Organizing editor wondering about how deep his “grassroots” convictions really are. And how blurry his vision for seeing democracy as a way of living may be. Quite outflanked by a strongly conservative writer. So much for stereotyping. J
And there is one more important matter this bit of epiphany brought home to me. I recently read and reviewed a novel—The Therapy Journal—that gives a pretty sharp picture of how trauma becomes a pervasive thing in our lives while being very hidden. It has made me aware of how big a role trauma of all kinds play in our daily lives, particularly in how they shrink possibilities in the face of some kind of conflict.
Brooks speculates that Craig and Mullins had “two possible courses of action.” I can see how that could make sense objectively. But did they subjectively? One of them told a reporter, “We were mortified and just felt degraded.” If that was their personal experience, then how open could they actually be to understanding Phillips, the baker, and what he was struggling with? And then my new awareness of trauma led me into wondering how big of a role did past trauma come into play in the wedding cake conflict.
Further, I know of blacks, women, and gays who don’t tend to feel mortified or degraded when they encounter prejudice. Or at least they don’t just feel bad about it, and are often able to see more positive options along the lines Brooks suggests. If some victims of abuse have moved beyond their victimization to some significant degree, and in doing so have empowered themselves to manage—not repress—incidents of prejudice in the moment, what made that possible?
That seems something well worth exploring and understanding, personally and collectively, for the quality of our individual lives, the cohesion of our movements, and our democracy.Practices, Tools & Strategies: Democratic Dialog & DeliberationStrategies for ChangeRegions: United StatesRegular Contributors: Michael JohnsonMovements & Struggles: Feminism & Gender JusticePeace BuildingQueer & Trans LiberationRacial Justice
December 5, 2017 – This afternoon, the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union against Donald Trump and Michael Mulvaney. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan.
The lawsuit challenges President Trump’s recent, illegal takeover of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in which he installed his at-will White House employee, Michael Mulvaney, to be Acting Director of the CFPB. The CFPB protects millions of Americans from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices in the financial marketplace. Mr. Mulvaney has called the CFPB a “sad, sick joke.”
“We support the CFPB as a protector of our low income members’ financial rights, and fear that the appointment of an Acting Director beholden to the White House could result in upheaval and ultimate dissolution of this critical agency,” said Linda Levy, CEO of the Credit Union. “Having experienced the devastation that the 2008 mortgage crisis wreaked on our low income members, we need the CFPB to protect communities targeted by financial predators.”
“This is a naked, illegal power grab by Donald Trump to destroy an agency that helps and protects millions of ordinary Americans,” said Ilann M. Maazel, a partner at ECBA, and lead counsel for the Credit Union. “The law requires Leandra English to be CFPB’s Acting Director.”
“President Trump’s attempt to install a White House official as the acting head of what is supposed to be an independent agency is deeply disturbing and should concern everyone,” said Debra Greenberger, a partner at ECBA, and counsel for the Credit Union.
The Credit Union is a not-for-profit, federally-regulated financial cooperative owned by its approximately 8,500 members and dedicated to providing high-quality financial services and community development investments in low income, immigrant and other underserved communities.
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When calculating the likelihood of the current economic system protecting our bond with clean, accessible, and life-giving water, the situation seems impossible.
There is no money to be made protecting water as the source of life. Financing Great Lakes care today comes through either altruistic charity or legislated compensation. Water restoration costs are a fractional expense for a pollution-based economic system. Advocating for a friendlier version of the current system denies its core impulses and interests. Let’s be honest -- degrading the living earth makes obscene amounts of money and defines our current story about “progress”.
How can our collective and radical imaginations connect our desire for connecting money’s value with our values?
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Cooperatives should be the foundation for bringing high-speed Internet service to rural America. Internet service from satellite, dial-up, and DSL is too slow and unreliable for modern applications. Small towns and farming communities need high-speed Internet service to support their local economies, educate themselves, and generally improve their quality of life. Cooperatives have quietly proved that they can build Fiber-to-the-Home networks that are capable of speeds of more than 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps). As of December 2016 according to FCC data, 87 cooperatives offer residential gigabit service.
Small Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are also making investments in their rural communities, but large ISPs, such as AT&T and CenturyLink, have overlooked rural areas. This is where cooperatives can solve the problem.
This brief explores the impact that rural cooperatives have already made on Internet access. It concludes with action steps and policy recommendations for universal access to high-quality Internet service in America.
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The trailer to a feature-length documentary currently in development. A film exploring the transformative possibilities of the cooperative model of business.
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Now in it’s 3rd year, Platform Coop 2017 brought together  a diverse group of technologist, entrepreneurs and cooperative veterans to challenge the status quo around platforms.TL;DR
The current mode of economic organisation isn’t working. A world in which stakeholders are shareholders is possible. Platform coops are one of many alternatives to the domination of capital, helping to build a slightly fairer world within the shell of the old.
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The ballot for elections to the Phone Co-op has just opened and – as usual, since this is a co-operative which has traditionally had strong member democracy – the election is not a foregone conclusion. No shoo-in here: there are seven candidates for two places.
But despite the Phone Co-op’s traditional democratic traditions I think there are questions which this year the Phone Co-op’s members need to ask their board when the AGM takes place in early February.
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I’ve been thriving in the past half a decade in an organization with radical transparency. So I’m not only witnessing the tectonic shifts in this domain of the evolution of capitalistic companies, I’m also experiencing almost every ripple.
Transparency as a concept in the operations of an organization is actually very old. So old that people always try to reinvent the wheel when they integrate it. They think that it’s enough to just share some data and “voila!” now the organization can reap the benefits of being a high trust environment.
So in order to level up the transparency in a “digital tribe” I’ve formed a couple of axioms, statements so to speak.
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To be a pirate is to set yourself against society and its rules. To even the odds, pirates come together. They co-operate.
It might sound like an extreme claim, but there is a body of evidence of early mutuality and even democracy among some of the most successful seventeenth century Caribbean and Atlantic pirates.
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I just posted a book review, Oh, Trauma! How Little We know Ye. It's a good novel about sexual trauma, but I review it from the perspective of it being very relevant to social change. Both personal and social trauma play major roles in our lives and we have very little understanding of how that works. We get significant insights into it through the novel. The author, Steve Wineman, has been an activist and mental health worker for over 30 years. He was also a victim of childhood trauma and has written a major work on trauma, power, and social change.
Link to the review, http://www.geo.coop/story/oh-trauma-how-little-we-know-yePractices, Tools & Strategies: Strategies for ChangeRegular Contributors: Michael Johnson
Pamela Boyce Simms
Resistance mobilizes the troops and galvanizes the base. It gives warriors on the front lines a sense of purpose and the oppressed, glimmers of hope. It's an opportunity to put our best analysis of social ills and resistance movement models to the test. Economic and political liberation, social and eco-justice resistance struggles seem so essential, so vital, and are so seductive.
We instinctively resist conditions that we fear will cause or increase our pain. Yet it’s impossible to overcome outer conditions until we recognize that they are merely reflections and projections of unresolved aspects of our internal state of being.
Engaging in the "struggle—liberation" dynamic without ongoing examination of our own interior lives is myopic and dangerous. Movement strategy that's conditioned by lack of internal self-awareness (beyond the intellect) is inevitably limited, stop-gap, and short lived. Without innervision, resistance simply indulges fear and inadvertently precipitates more suffering ─often reemerging down the pike in a more egregious form.
Activists’ valiant and righteous resistance movements conceived and executed without a proportionate internal consciousness shift has resulted in:
- New restrictive voting laws which shred the 1965 Voting Rights Act, i.e.: reduction of early voting opportunities, voter ID laws, voting roll purges, and closing of polling stations.
- Citizen impotence: Researchers at Princeton and Northwestern Universities investigated how much political power ordinary American citizens have. They examined a 20 year period from 1982-2002 and found that:
- If large corporations and the wealthy wanted a law to pass, there was a 60% chance of that happening.
- If large corporations and the wealth didn’t want a law to pass, it did not pass.
- Issues that almost no ordinary citizen voters want to pass had a 30% chance of passing.
- Issues that almost every ordinary citizen voter want to pass also had a 30% chance or passing.
Researchers concluded that “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near zero, nonsignificant impact on public policy.”
- More black men currently behind bars or under the watch of the American criminal justice system than were enslaved in 1850.
- American schools are more segregated today than they were in the 1950's and 60's.
Resistance, whether to deeper self-knowledge or external circumstances keeps us focused on, stuck, and swirling around in the vortex of the existing condition. Focusing on the problem while mistakenly believing that it’s independent of ourselves, reinforces and anchors it.
Authentic liberation is synonymous with the clearest of clear vision —elimination of whatever obscures reality AS consciousness. From that expansive vantage point we're able to see that the —me-me-me— ego-driven drama of any given struggle is a futile, subjective vortex that does little more than perpetuate itself.
As we begin to experience separation as illusory and commit to living into non-duality, the inevitable pain of the human condition can then be equated with growth. And suffering, which is a mental predisposition, diminishes. The true task involved in creating change is to master our internal landscapes so that outer conditions reflect inner wholeness.
Viewed through the lenses of non-duality, suffering and misery — joy and bliss co-exist as two sides of the same coin. That which comes into our conscious awareness and pervades our experience is a function of where we choose to focus our attention. The choice is ours.
We can choose to identify primarily with our physical avatar* which lives in the realm of egoic, intellectual constructs; and which experiences itself as separate from everything in its environment. When activists adopt this frame of reference our resistance of external conditions is often a projection of internal unconscious resistance to looking at disturbing aspects of our own life experience.
We align our lives with deconstructing and raging against aberrant social conditions. We swim in scarcity and deprivation consciousness.
In this reality-frame we resist, resent, complain, protest and do battle with societal conditions. Our thoughts are about what has, or might be taken from us and what we do or don't possess. We feel compelled to fight hard for our wellbeing and that of others. Our action is fear-based. We fear losing control, not measuring up, not contributing enough, being incompetent or not good enough. We focus on status and maintaining it. The world is dark, and death is feared as something painful and finite.
Unhappiness is more the norm than not, and prolonged periods of joy are rare if they occur at all. We waste precious energy propping up the ego, trying to skirt our fears, uncertainty and lack of control. AND in the long run, all of that effort is futile. We unwittingly invoke more suffering and socio-political aberration.
Conversely we can choose to stand in the flow of the animating consciousness behind our avatars, —the more vast aspect of ourselves that is in alignment with the field of universal intelligence. The field, like the brilliance of the sun's light is always present whether we’re conscious of it or not. The light is accessible even as the apparent gloom of suffering hangs heavy beneath the cloud cover generated and maintained by the collective unconscious.
We're wise to let go of the sense of “the struggle,” NOT to become doormats, nor to indulge in perpetual navel-gazing, or to dilute our activism. We let go of the struggle-drug, the excruciating comfort zone, in order to liberate ourselves from being driven by limiting unconscious fears, patterns, and beliefs that keep us focused on deconstructing and analyzing the hellishness in front of us rather than generating its antidote.
With intentionality we have the capacity to progressively shed the heavy pall of limiting beliefs, false limitations, and the drama of the egoic self at will. With some discipline and a little help from our activists' community-of-practice friends we can learn how to remain in conscious communication with that field for longer and longer periods of time until this becomes the norm.
Movement-builders interested in taking activism to a place where they can serve as conduits for true evolutionary culture-building are invited to:
This week, I spent Monday evening to Wednesday evening at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield, England. It’s a stately home run by a worker-owned co-op and I was there with my We Are Open colleagues for the second annual Co-operative Technologists (CoTech) gathering. CoTech is a network of UK-based co-operatives who are focused on tech and digital...
I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I was delighted by the willingness of the 60+ people present to get straight into finding ways we can all work together. We made real progress over the couple of days I was there, and I was a little sad that other commitments meant I couldn’t stay until the bitter end on Thursday lunchtime.
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You are invited to participate in a research study conducted by Avery Edenfield, an assistant professor in the English Department at Utah State University. The purpose of this research is to better understand writing culture and practices in cooperatives. This form includes detailed information on the research to help you decide whether to participate in this project. Please read it carefully and ask any questions you have before you agree to participate. ProceduresYour participation will involve answering questions in an interview format. The interview will last about 45 minutes. You will be asked a series of questions about writing practices and research in your workplace. If we have collaborated previously, I may include notes on our prior meetings in my study. These notes will be anonymized and will remove any personal identifying information. Read the rest and participate in the survey Go to the GEO front page
The NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives (NYC NOWC), a trade association for worker-owned cooperatives in the metro New York area, is hiring a Operations Manager
About the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives
The NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives is dedicated to sharing and cultivating the educational, financial and technical resources of its members and supporting the growth of worker cooperatives for social and economic justice. We offer assistance to existing and new worker cooperatives in all communities within the New York City metropolitan area, with a focus on the development of cooperatives within marginalized communities.
We are a young nonprofit membership organization working to engage with and advocate for worker-cooperative businesses in NYC. Our programs include membership services (legal, marketing, business advising and technical assistance), education and advocacy supporting community-based, worker-led businesses as tools to reduce inequality and strengthen the economic and social fabric of NYC.
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Leland Stanford was one of the “Big Four” — the owners of the Central Pacific Railroad, and by mid-century he had amassed a fortune of many millions of dollars. When one spoke of a “Robber Baron” in the 1880s, Leland Stanford would be among the first names to come to mind. Yet during the final decade of his life, Leland Stanford had come to the conclusion that American society would in the future be better off if it did not create more tycoons such as himself; that the industries of American should instead come to be owned and managed cooperatively by their very workers, and the division between capitalist and laborer disappear. This, as Stanford saw it, would be a fulfillment of the dream of American democracy.
This idea did not originate with Leland Stanford. In the 1880s, the vision of a cooperative commonwealth—a system of worker-owned cooperatives—moved from the margins of politics to form the core of a mass political movement in the United States, the Populists, which was at its zenith. And Leland Stanford, citing his personal experience and applying his most forceful arguments, became a champion of the vision.
The Populists (involving millions of southern farmers and northern industrial workers) were the last mass movement in the United States to comprehensively challenge the growing domination of society by burgeoning corporations. From today’s vantage point, we may identify the labor movement as the home for such political aspirations. This, however, is a misconception; the “labor movement” emerged after the defeat of the Populists in the 1890s, and was far more narrowly conceived than the Populists’ambitions: it accepted a social contract that gave corporations the role of initiator and controller of employment, production, services, and capital. The labor union movement, in contrast to the Populists, sought merely to give workers better contracts within this structure of control. In American history since the defeat of the Populists, the idea of worker ownership of corporations has been relegated to the margins of political debate and creativity, a niche so marginal that from our vantage point of the 1990s, the idea sounds socialistic, utopian, or simply quaint.In 1885, however, when Leland Stanford became a United States Senator and founded Stanford University, worker ownership of industry seemed neither utopian nor quaint. It was a widely discussed idea for averting the escalating crises between corporations and workers that appeared at that time to be headed toward an ominous denouement. Worker ownership of industry was seen as a good idea which needed to be tried, and America was seen as a society free enough that it could be tried. The Populists hoped therefore that the steady replacement of corporations by worker cooperatives could be achieved. The goal of the “seizure of State power” advocated by the communists in Europe was alien to this movement. Cooperatives were seen not as an end to free-enterprise, but as a freeing of enterprise for common people from domination by the “plutocracy” of wealthy industrialists.
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