Grassroots Economic Survival
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.
Go to the GEO front page
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.
Go to the GEO front page
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.
Go to the GEO front page
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.
Go to the GEO front page
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.
Go to the GEO front page
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.
Go to the GEO front page
The decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union have led socialists of many stripes not only to try to renew old principles and ideas, but to rethink the very foundations of socialism as it has historically developed. In particular, the state-centric model of what used to be called “actually existing socialism” has been widely questioned. Does true socialism require a centrally planned economy, hierarchically controlled and administered by the state? Or does it center on the empowerment of the “associated producers”? Is the immediate task of socialism to develop the forces of production, or the flourishing of human beings? Is there a place for markets in socialism? Is state property the only or highest form of socialist property? What about worker-owned and managed cooperatives?
The project to build a twenty-first century socialism has been most prominently associated with the late Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution, but fresh answers to these questions are also being sought in Cuba, the Zapatista areas of Mexico, and elsewhere. Though their circumstances vary widely, these contemporary socialist initiatives share certain values: the empowerment of civil society, democratic participation, decentralization, cooperation, and human development.
Go to the GEO front page