The Worker’s Summit of the Americas

As often as I think about why we need to move toward Mutual Aid communities and know that Mutual Aid is far from a new idea, I haven’t spent much time learning about the many cultures and countries that live this way, that are not based on capitalism.

Even though there has been little mainstream media coverage in this country, the Summit of the Americas was a dismal failure because so many countries boycotted it when the Biden administration refused to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The alternative summit, the Summit of the Americas of the Working Men and Women Workers declares they will, “take concrete action to combat the labor and social violence applied to our peoples by the U.S. and Canadian governments.” I don’t yet know what the power of this group is.

More leaders of Latin American countries have announced they will not attend the Summit of the Americas, which is taking place in Los Angeles. The summit has been mired in controversy after the Biden administration refused to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. On Monday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced he would boycott the talks over Biden’s decision. The presidents of Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have also said they will not attend the summit.

Latin American Leaders Boycott Summit of the Americas, Democracy Now, June 8, 2022

Here is the final declaration of the alternative to the Summit of the Americas, the Summit of the Americas of the Working Men and Women Workers.

We, representatives of Trade Union, Peasant, Political and Social organizations, gathered in Tijuana – Mexico, June 10-12, 2022, on the occasion of the realization of the Summit of the Americas of the Working Men and Women Workers, in immediate response to the exclusion of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua imposed by the Government of the United States.

There is a systemic and structural crisis of capitalism in its imperialist phase. It is in itself a civilizational crisis. The capitalist economic model and its political arm neoliberalism, as well as its modern cultural foundation, have put the planet’s life in crisis. If not eliminated, imperialism’s necropolitics leads us to the planetary collective suicide, which is more lacerating in the sectors less favored by the current world system. Our position is a bet for life, and the empire offers us death: it is either life or death!

We are witnessing a process of recolonization over the people. This is expressed in the excessive growth of racism, poverty, unemployment, job insecurity, environmental deterioration of territories, criminalization of migration, and gender and cultural violence. For this reason, we call upon the programmatic unity of the American continent’s workers, peasants, and progressive and popular forces to reflect, debate, and take concrete action to combat the labor and social violence applied to our peoples by the U.S. and Canadian governments.

We consider that the working class of the 21st century will only be able to play an independent and central role if – in addition to fighting for the most heartfelt demands of the labor movement – it assumes the struggle against patriarchy together with the feminist movement, the struggle of the native peoples against climate change and the defense of the biosphere together with the youth and the broad spectrum of professionals and scientists.

We must build articulations and alliances in which we structure our common forces for a unique and global struggle. Globalize the struggles. Build new organic forms of the working class from the political-cultural to the socio-productive to overcome capitalism and build socialism.

A robust internationalism is needed to pay adequate and immediate attention to the dangers of extinction: extinction by nuclear war, climate catastrophe, and social collapse.

In this regard, we agree:

  • To promote active solidarity with the peoples and sovereign nations (Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela) and the other peoples of the world “sanctioned” and attacked by economic blockades and unilateral coercive measures imposed by the U.S. and its allies.
  • To hold an annual meeting in Tijuana, Mexico, with the workers and social movements of the Americas to express solidarity with the peoples of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua and their revolutions to repudiate unilateral coercive measures against sovereign governments.
  • To constitute a Committee for the organization of the Meetings to be held annually in the North and South of Mexico, integrated by: Unión del Barrio of the USA, Movimiento Social Por la Tierra de México (MST), Sindicato Mexicano Electricista (SME), Alianza por la Justicia Global of the USA, Central Bolivariana Socialista de Trabajadores de Venezuela, Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo de Nicaragua (ATC), Movimiento Magisterial Popular de Veracruz Mexico, Fire This Time of Canada, Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) of the USA, International Action Center (IAC) of the USA, Task Force on the Americas of the USA and the Plataforma de la Clase Obrera Antimperialista (PCOA).
  • Demand the immediate release of Alex Saab. He is a Venezuelan diplomat kidnapped by the U.S. and illegally detained in its territory since October 16, 2021. Saab’s arrest is an action that attacks diplomatic immunity, a right guaranteed by international law to any diplomatic official in the exercise of his duties.
  • Reaffirm the resolutions agreed upon at the Meeting of the Peoples of the Americas, held June 7-8, 2022, in Chiapas, Mexico.
  • To ratify our unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian and Saharawi peoples.
  • Demand that the U.S. Congress immediately cut off military aid funds to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, and Haiti.
  • Promote a campaign to hold an international day of action in solidarity with Cuba to be held when the U.N. General Assembly meets to condemn the blockade against the Caribbean island.
  • Expand the “Bridges of Love” program to other countries and international coordinate days on the last Sunday of each month in the form of caravans or other activities.
  • Demand the immediate release of comrades Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Iman Jamil Abdullah al-Amin and Julian Assange.
  • Demand the immediate release of the social fighter Simón Trinidad from Colombia, who is deprived of liberty in prison in the USA.
  • To promote the regional integration of the anti-imperialist working class of Our America and the participation in the strengthening of ALBA TCP, CELAC, and UNASUR. In this sense, the Bolivarian Socialist Workers Central of Venezuela will call a meeting for the 3rd quarter of 2022.
  • To promote a campaign against the U.S., NATO, and Colombia’s policies of interference and expansionism and to ratify the declaration of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace promoted by CELAC.
  • We reaffirm the Mexican Electricians Union workers’ demands for their reinstatement in the Federal Electricity Commission.
  • We stand in solidarity with the Puerto Rican people and their dignified struggle for independence and sovereignty.

ONLY THE WORKERS’ STRUGGLE WILL SAVE HUMANITY, NATURE, AND THE PLANET!!!!

FINAL DECLARATION OF THE WORKERS’ SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS By Fight Back News, June 16, 2022

Mutual Aid and money

The role money plays in Mutual Aid is what I had the most questions about, and the question most often asked of me when I talk about Mutual Aid.

The Mutual Aid project I’m involved with is the free food distribution, which has been in place pretty much continuously since the Black Panthers in Des Moines organized the Free Breakfast for School Children program. It was when this program looked like it might have to close several years ago that Des Moines Mutual Aid to over the program.

The first Survival Program was the Free Breakfast for Children Program, which began in January 1969 at one small Catholic church in the Fillmore district of San Francisco, and spread to many cities in America where there were Party chapters. Thousands of poor and hungry children were fed free breakfasts every day by the Party under this program. The Program became so popular that by the end of the year, the original Black Panther Party set up kitchens in cities across the nation, feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school.

Bobby Seale
All Power To All The People!
http://bobbyseale.com/
#blackpantherparty#blackpanthers#bobbyseale#blackhistory
 


Food from local farms, and dated food from local grocery stores is the source of our food to distribute to the community.


What Is Mutual Aid?

Mutual aid is collective coordination to meet each other’s needs, usually from an awareness that the systems we have in place are not going to meet them. Those systems, in fact, have often created the crisis, or are making things worse. We see examples of mutual aid in every single social movement, whether it’s people raising money for workers on strike, setting up a ride-sharing system during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, putting drinking water in the desert for migrants crossing the border, training each other in emergency medicine because ambulance response time in poor neighborhoods is too slow, raising money to pay for abortions for those who can’t afford them, or coordinating letter-writing to prisoners. These are mutual aid projects. They directly meet people’s survival needs, and are based on a shared understanding that the conditions in which we are made to live are unjust.

There is nothing new about mutual aid— people have worked together to survive for all of human history. But capitalism and colonialism created structures that have disrupted how people have historically connected with each other and shared everything they needed to survive. As people were forced into systems of wage labor and private property, and wealth became increasingly concentrated, our ways of caring for each other have become more and more tenuous.

In this context of social isolation and forced dependency on hostile systems, mutual aid— where we choose to help each other out, share things, and put time and resources into caring for the most vulnerable— is a radical act.

Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 104-120). Verso.


The key is when we think about money, we are thinking within the context of capitalism, which is the system we (Mutual Aid) are working to replace. Think how the communities of our grandparents depended so little on money. Where everyone knew everyone else. Where people just naturally helped when there was a need. Came together to harvest the crops, going from one farm to the next with the machines to do the harvesting.

Since then, increasingly, “people were forced into systems of wage labor and private property.”

The key is when we think about money, we are thinking within the context of capitalism, which is the system we (Mutual Aid) are working to replace

Handling Money

Handling money can be one of the most contentious issues for mutual aid groups. Because of this, it can be very useful for groups to consider whether this is something they want to do. Some groups can do their work without raising money at all. Some groups can do their work just raising money through grassroots fundraising in their communities, taking small donations from many people. That kind of fundraising can avoid the problem with grant-making foundations attaching strings to grant money and trying to control the direction of the work. Grassroots fundraising can help build a sense that the community controls the organizations rather than an elite funder and doing grassroots fundraising can be a way of spreading the ideas of the group and raising awareness about the problems the group works on. However, even if money is raised in this way, managing money still comes with pitfalls. Handling money brings logistical issues that can cause stress and take time, such as figuring out how to do it fairly and transparently and figuring out how to avoid a problem with the IRS or otherwise expose group members to legal problems. Because most people in our society have a tangled, painful relationship with money that includes feelings and behaviors of secrecy, shame, and desperation, a lot of otherwise awesome people will misbehave when money is around or get suspicious of others’ behavior.

Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 1199-1209). Verso.

Our Mutual Aid group appeals to the community for funds for a need in the moment.





Native Americans, Quakers and Mutual Aid

The Department of the Interior has released the first volume of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Report. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland first announced the creation of the Initiative last June, with a primary goal of investigating the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of these schools.

This report, and ongoing news of locating the remains of Native children on the grounds of numerous Indian residential schools has brought attention to Quakers’ role in these institutions in North America.

There are calls for Friends to respond in many ways. To educate ourselves about this history. To seek ways for healing and reparations. To research and publish our own meeting’s history.

But I’m concerned that Friends will follow a common pattern of only working within their meetings. When this is a time we need to reach out to Native peoples.

And I am concerned that many Quakers are not aware of attitudes we could be bringing to this work. In the same the way so many white Quakers have trouble understanding white supremacy and privilege related to racial justice, many are also unaware of how deeply we are immersed in this colonized society. Colonization and white supremacy are the foundation of forced assimilation of native children. And the ideas behind the land theft and genocide of native peoples.

We need to decolonize ourselves. If not, we risk doing more harm than good.

My spiritual vision is of Quakers building personal relationships with native peoples when we are invited to do so. I have been blessed to experience this for the past couple of years while working with my local Mutual Aid community. This diverse community includes a number of native people. It was a Spirit led opportunity that connected me with an Indigenous organizer who is involved in Mutual Aid. We got to know each other over several months of email exchanges (this during the COVID crisis). When I thought we knew each other well enough, I asked if it would be appropriate for me to join this Mutual Aid work, and he said yes. But it wasn’t until I’d been involved for several months that he said, “welcome to the community”. Although I had invited myself to join this work, I wasn’t really part of the community until that moment.

I was blessed to find this community was not only another way to build friendships with native people, but also taught me what a Mutual Aid community is. Based on these experiences, I believe Mutual Aid is a model for how Friends can be involved in work outside the meetinghouse. Mutual Aid is a way we can decolonize ourselves.

What I think is needed in this moment is to show up at events and causes being led by Indigenous peoples near us

Mutual Aid is all about replacing vertical hierarchies with a flat, or horizontal hierarchy. This removes the power structures among members of the community and nearly eliminates friction, in my experience.

An essential part of the truth and healing process should be doing this work together as a Mutual Aid community, with its emphasis on inclusivity and rejecting dominant relationships. It is important that attitudes and practices of superiority not be brought to the work of healing from policies that are based on dominance and colonization.

“We sought to show the power our communities possess when we come together unified under the belief and knowledge that what we do today is both work to heal past generations and lift the spirits of our future generations.”

Matt Remle on the efforts to pass the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution

Mutual Aid focuses on meeting community needs now, in the moment. The food project I’m involved with distributes food to those in need every week. Those working with the houseless camps take food and propane tanks there. It is the experience of meeting needs in the present that brings us joy and attracts new members. That also affects our interactions with those who come for the food. We realize it is the failure of capitalism that leaves them hungry. We all know we ourselves might need such help in the future.

There are many suggestions of things Quakers might do related to the Indian Boarding Schools.

What I think is needed in this moment is to show up at events and causes being led by Indigenous peoples near us. Most Quaker meetings and many individuals have such relationships to build upon.

It would be good to have a place to share such information. The following are a few examples that I’m aware of:

There are two general guidelines for interacting with communities.

  1. Don’t expect oppressed peoples to educate you. We shouldn’t add to their burden. I kept this in mind when I was getting to know the native person who was teaching me about Mutual Aid. But he encouraged me to learn from him. He was training me.
  2. The idea behind the two row wampum is two groups, such as Native people and white people, agree to travel together but separately. Neither interfering in the affairs of the other.

One interesting campaign of the Great Plains Action Society that specifically asks for our support is open letters. These letters express Indigenous people’s views on various topics and are meant to help supporters contact people who have the power to make decisions related to the topic. For example:

Recently, four Iowa Democrats have introduced a bill to phase out the use of Native American mascots in Iowa schools by 2024. Great Plains Action Society’s Director of Operations, Trisha Etringer, was quoted in an article in which she expressed her support for this proposed legislation, which reflects our organization as a whole. This letter is to celebrate this step in the right direction, and to provide more information about the issue at hand. With this Open Letter Campaign, we will be calling upon you to join us in communicating to the people in power that we need to be working toward a New Iowa. Unfortunately, that will often mean calling people out for failing to act, or for acting in harmful ways. Fortunately, in this case, it means asking you to send your support and encouragement to those that are fighting the difficult battles on behalf of our children.

https://www.greatplainsaction.org/single-post/open-letter-regarding-hf2224

There are many things Quakers should be doing in our own meetings related to the Indian Boarding Schools. But I think it is most important to support things native people are asking of us now.


Advocating for climate sanity

I recently discovered papers written by Zhiwa Woodbury, so I don’t yet know how much I will agree with him as I read more. But I agree with the following excerpt. This paragraph strikes a chord in me now, as I am trying to make sense of what is going on in the world today. I recently returned to the concept of sensemaking in Where are we now?

We have a stark choice between our own eventual extermination or a near term transformation. Such a transformation of human culture and the global economy will not come about without a simultaneous shift in collective consciousness. Trauma always raises questions of identity, whether considered at the scale of the individual, a culture, or now with the climate crisis, at the scale of an entire species. The choices we humans are making now – and will continue to make – in response to this spiritual emergency will determine whether we engender spiritual emergence, the messy rebirth of our species, or instead we repeat the kind of Great Dying that once wiped out 95% of all life on the planet, and took 10 million years for the biosphere to recover. My purpose in writing this book is to offer guidance and succor to all who those natural healers and existential professionals in the world, all those who hear the cries of the Earth, and all those advocating for climate sanity in every arena of life, so that we may attend Gaia’s bedside and serve as her spiritual midwives in planetary hospice. Whether Gaia is now dying, just ill, or about to give birth is largely dependent on how we, as a species, respond to her signals and attend to her needs

Climate Trauma, Reconciliation and Recovery by Zhiwa Woodbury

I do believe we are in a spiritual emergency and need a shift in collective consciousness. I often write about spiritual poverty. We spoke about this, too, last night during our weekly (Quaker) Spiritual Sharing Small Group.

We need to be advocating for climate sanity in every arena of life.

I always hesitate to bring this up, but I think we need to speak from our own experience. When I moved to Indianapolis in 1971, I was so horrified by the clouds of smog (before catalytic converters) I decided to live without a car. I know others have done so. But the point is, that was one way of advocating for climate sanity. It is heart wrenching to think of what a different world we would be living in today if fifty years ago we had decided to prioritize mass transit systems. And worked to build our cities and towns as walkable communities.

That was then. What do we do, advocate for, now? Our society clearly continues to refuse to think, let alone do anything about our deepening environmental catastrophe.

Rather than close coal burning plants, more are being built. Rather than stop further fossil fuel pipelines and other infrastructure, more is being built. Crazy schemes like carbon capture are being built. Some of what is captured is used to frack more oil from the ground.

Militaries are the worst polluters. The war in Ukraine and military operations globally need to be stopped immediately. The war in Ukraine is war against Mother Earth.

CLIMATEWIRE | Greenhouse gases trapped 49 percent more heat in 2021 than in 1990, as emissions continued to rise rapidly, according to NOAA.

“Our data show that global emissions continue to move in the wrong direction at a rapid pace,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad.

NOAA found that carbon dioxide, the most plentiful and long-lived gas, expanded at the most rapid rate over the last 10 years. But the most potent global warmer also broke records: methane increased more than it has since at least the early 1980s, when NOAA began its current measuring record. The methane emitted in 2021 was 15 percent greater than in the 1984-2006 period, and 162 percent greater than preindustrial levels, NOAA found.”

Record Methane Spike Boosts Heat Trapped by Greenhouse Gases. NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index finds that greenhouse gases trapped nearly 50 percent more head last year than they did in 1990 by John Fialka, Scientific American, June 1, 2022

We have a stark choice between our own eventual extermination or a near term transformation. Such a transformation of human culture and the global economy will not come about without a simultaneous shift in collective consciousness.”

We are continuing to make this choice now and it’s for our eventual extermination.

What will it take to make the other choice, for a near term transformation? What would this shift in collective consciousness to transform human culture and the global economy be?

This shift in collective consciousness requires a response to our spiritual emergency. Returning to Indigenous ways, the idea of LANDBACK, would be part of a response. For Quakers, fortifying our Spiritual awareness, and acting on what that reveals, could be part of a response. The radical reimagining of our lives, our culture by the concepts of Mutual Aid could also be part of a response.

I was a little surprised when I wrote:

The reason I have been led to experiences with Native people and my Mutual Aid community is because the stories, the value structures I find there are closer to my values than those of White people in general in this country.

And most radical is to change, or return to how we look for and interpret our stories. To embrace spirituality in ourselves and our communities.

Although we rarely speak of it, our shared spirituality is what I have found to be the deepest connection with my Native American and Mutual Aid friends.

Where are we now?


Where are we now?

Sometimes when it seems the whole world is collapsing, I try to step back, hoping a wider perspective might help me understand. Unfortunately, doing so today just reinforces the global extent of chaos. I picture the world in flames.

I often return to reflecting on the term sensemaking as described by James Allen.

…there remains the most existential risk of them all: our diminishing capacity for collective sensemaking. Sensemaking is the ability to generate an understanding of world around us so that we may decide how to respond effectively to it. When this breaks down within the individual, it creates an ineffective human at best and a dangerous one at worst. At the collective level, a loss of sensemaking erodes shared cultural and value structures and renders us incapable of generating the collective wisdom necessary to solve complex societal problems like those described above. When that happens the centre cannot hold.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019

I didn’t want to go over the list of disasters we are experiencing yet again. But a number of these are escalating. Recently India had experienced temperatures (124 degrees Fahrenheit) close to the point where humans simply cannot survive. We see the relentless march of severe weather across the land. Fierce wildfires. Water levels sinking below the point where water can be taken in at the Hoover Dam. Electricity cannot be produced, nor agricultural land irrigated.

A political party whose only goal is to gain power. An explosion of gun violence and mass shootings with no end in sight. A broken supply chain that can’t even supply baby formula.

Perhaps most concerning is the accelerating increase in gas prices.

As James Allen also writes in the article cited above, “the jumping-off point for this essay is a regrettable acceptance that a forthcoming energy descent combined with multiple ecological crises will force massive societal transformation this century. It’s hardly a leap to suggest that, with less abundant cheap energy and the collapse of the complex political and economic infrastructure that supports our present way of life, this transformation is likely to include the contraction and relocalisation of some (if not most) aspects our daily lives.”

“The contraction and relocalisation of some (if not most) aspects our daily lives” could be Mutual Aid.

I’ve met a great deal of resistance to the idea of replacing capitalism with Mutual Aid. When I asked a (Mutual Aid) friend why people had so much trouble recognizing the evils of capitalism, he said it was because they hadn’t experienced the failures of capitalism in their own lives, yet.

We are experiencing the failures of capitalism now.


The problems before us are emergent phenomena with a life of their own, and the causes requiring treatment are obscure. They are what systems scientists call wicked problems: problems that harbour so many complex non-linear interdependencies that they not only seem impossible to understand and solve, but tend to resist our attempts to do so. For such wicked problems, our conventional toolkits — advocacy, activism, conscientious consumerism, and ballot casting — are grossly inadequate and their primary utility may be the self-soothing effect it has on the well-meaning souls who use them.

If we are to find a new kind of good life amid the catastrophes these myths have spawned, then we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves. We need to dig deep into old stories and reveal their wisdom, as well as lovingly nurture the emergence of new stories into being.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019

What does it mean to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves? This is influenced by who “we” are, what our culture is. But Allen writes of “shared cultural and value structures.”

The reason I have been led to experiences with Native people and my Mutual Aid community is because the stories, the value structures I find there are closer to my values than those of White people in general in this country.

What does it mean to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves?

I believe that means to search beyond our comfort zone. To stop wasting time advocating for incremental changes in systems that are broken.

Radically rethinking involves searching for the truth of what happened in our history. The land theft, forced assimilation, and genocide of Native peoples. The many atrocities of the institution of slavery. White supremacy today.

And most radical is to change, or return to how we look for and interpret our stories. To embrace spirituality in ourselves and our communities.

Although we rarely speak of it, our shared spirituality is what I have found to be the deepest connection with my Native American and Mutual Aid friends.

This is where I am now.


Social and Economic Justice

One of the things that means the most to me as a Quaker is the practice of considering advices and queries. The queries are sets of questions meant to ask ourselves what we are doing in our own lives, and in the work of our Quaker meetings in the present moment.

This is an example of how Quaker faith is grounded in what is happening in our lives today. And our belief that God, or the Spirit, is present in every being today, human and nonhuman. Can guide us now. The practice in our meeting is for the advice and queries to be read aloud. Then we sit in silent reflection. When we feel we have been given a message to share, we speak.

This helps keep our faith active, rather than passive.

There are twelve sets of queries, each about some part of our lives. The usual practice is for Quaker meetings to reflect on one set, each month. Topics include education, environmental responsibility, outreach, peace and nonviolence. Today at my meeting we will be reflecting on social and economic justice.


Often, I reflect on these queries outside the Quaker meeting gathering. That is why I write so much. Writing is a Spiritual exercise for me. Writing helps me listen for what the Spirit is saying. And helps me organize my thoughts. This is similar to keeping a journal as I did in the 1970’s. It looks like handwriting was a challenge.

Social and economic justice is something I’ve been thinking and praying about a lot lately. Over the past two years I’ve been deeply involved in Des Moines Mutual Aid. I mean Mutual Aid is something I’ve been studying and thinking a lot about outside the actual time spent at our weekly food giveaway.

A recent summary is this blog post, Mutual Aid is the Quaker way of being in the world.

As the advice says below, “we are part of an economic system characterized by inequality and exploitation. Such a society is defended and perpetuated by entrenched power.”

That is exactly what Mutual Aid is about. The capitalist economic system we are living in is designed to be unequal. Those who are skillful, or ruthless enough, accumulate wealth. Fundamentally, everything and everyone is seen as a resource that can be harnessed to create wealth. The result is millions of people trying to survive on subsistent wages. The result is the rape of the resources of Mother Earth. Which has put us on the road to extinction.

The capitalist economic system is enforced by political and criminal justice systems. Systems built on vertical hierarchies of power.

Mutual Aid is just the opposite. We work to maintain a flat or horizontal hierarchy, where everyone is equal.

One query for today is “how are we beneficiaries of inequity and exploitation? How are we victims of inequity and exploitation? In what ways can we address these problems?” I believe the answer involves building Mutual Aid communities.

I’ve met a great deal of resistance to the idea of replacing capitalism with Mutual Aid. When I asked a (Mutual Aid) friend why people had so much trouble recognizing the evils of capitalism, he said it was because they hadn’t experienced the failures of capitalism in their own lives, yet.


I wrote my own queries about Mutual Aid

Queries related to Mutual Aid
Do we recognize that vertical hierarchies are about power, supremacy and privilege? What are Quaker hierarchies?
Do we work to prevent vertical hierarchies in our peace and justice work?
What are we doing to meet the survival needs of our wider community?
How are we preparing for disaster relief, both for our community, and for the influx of climate refugees?
Are we examples of a Beloved community? How can we invite our friends and neighbors to join our community?

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.

Des Moines Black Liberation

Des Moines Mutual Aid is a collective that does outreach for homeless folks in our community, houseless folks in our community. We also assist BLM with their rent relief fund, and most of the work we’ve done is running the bail fund for the protests over the summer. In the course of that work, we have witnessed firsthand the violence that is done upon people of color, Black people specifically, by the white supremacist forces of the state – in this state, in this city, in this county. There is absolutely a state of emergency for people of color and Black people in Iowa. The state of emergency has been a long time coming. We will support – DMMA will absolutely support any and all efforts of this community – BLM, and the people of color community more generally- to keep themselves safe. Power to the people.

Patrick Stahl, Des Moines Mutual Aid


SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE

Advice and Queries

“For when I was hungry you gave me food, when thirsty you gave me drink, when I was a stranger you took me into your home, when naked you clothed me, when in prison you visited me.”     Matthew 25:35‑36

ADVICE

We are part of an economic system characterized by inequality and exploitation. Such a society is defended and perpetuated by entrenched power.

Friends can help relieve social and economic oppression and injustice by first seeking spiritual guidance in our own lives. We envision a system of social and economic justice that ensures the right of every individual to be loved and cared for; to receive a sound education; to find useful employment; to receive appropriate health care; to secure adequate housing; to obtain redress through the legal system; and to live and die in dignity. Friends maintain historic concern for the fair and humane treatment of persons in penal and mental institutions.

Wide disparities in economic and social conditions exist among groups in our society and among nations of the world. While most of us are able to be responsible for our own economic circumstances, we must not overlook the effects of unequal opportunities among people. Friends’ belief in the Divine within everyone leads us to support institutions which meet human needs and to seek to change institutions which fail to meet human needs. We strengthen community when we work with others to help promote justice for all.

QUERY

  • How are we beneficiaries of inequity and exploitation? How are we victims of inequity and exploitation? In what ways can we address these problems?
  • What can we do to improve the conditions in our correctional institutions and to address the mental and social problems of those confined there?
  • How can we improve our understanding of those who are driven to violence by subjection to racial, economic, or political injustice? In what ways do we oppose prejudice and injustice based on gender, sexual orientation, class, race, age, and physical, mental, and emotional conditions? How would individuals benefit from a society that values everyone? How would society benefit?

Faith and Practice

Dearly Beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy, may be guided and so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the spirit, not the letter, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. Letter from the meeting of Elders at Balby, 1656

We are seekers but we are also the holders of a precious heritage of discoveries. We, like every generation, must find the Light and Life again for ourselves. Only what we have valued and truly made our own, not by assertion but by lives of faithful commitment, can we hand on to the future. Even then we must humbly acknowledge that our vision of truth will again and again be amended. Quaker Faith and Practice of Britain Yearly Meeting, 1994 page 17

Faith and Practice, The Book of Discipline of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative) is a statement of principles and beliefs by which our society endeavors to learn and express lessons in Christian living. It provides guidance for the conduct of daily life and for carrying on the business of the meeting. Faith and Practice suggests rather than commands, and raises questions or queries rather than giving specific answers. It places upon the individual and corporate conscience, rather than upon external authority, the responsibility for the discipline of the Spirit.

Faith and Practice is based on an earlier document called the Discipline of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). It is intended as a handbook and guide for those of the Religious Society of Friends who belong to Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative), also known as Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) or IYM(C). The first written disciplines among Friends appeared in Britain Yearly Meeting in manuscript form in 1718. At about the same period or a little later, in America, minutes of the yearly meetings were gathered in manuscript book form under captions alphabetically listed. The first printed Book of Discipline of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting appeared in 1797. The first Friends settling in Iowa lived under disciplines of Indiana Yearly Meeting and of Ohio Yearly Meeting.


ECONOMIC JUSTICE

May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions. John Woolman, A Word of Remembrance and Caution to the Rich published posthumously, 1793

I will never adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many and give luxuries to the few. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, [St Paul’s Episcopal Church] 1963

Friends’ historical testimony has included the message that all people are equal, and deserve to share equally in the blessings of creation. The world is far from this ideal, and most in Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) have benefited from global and local inequalities, however inadvertently. But we also suffer spiritually and otherwise because of the injustice in which we participate.

Friends believe that we should live in ways that do not “sow seeds of war.” Many are called to act in quiet or public ways to promote lifestyle choices, policies, laws, and treaties that will ensure the basic human rights of all people, including the rights to safe and healthy places to live and work. Historically, Friends have been able to help correct major injustices such as slavery, inhumane conditions for prisoners, and inequality in the treatment of women. The magnitude of current problems caused by economic injustice does not excuse Friends from the struggle against it, but makes obedience to God’s call all the more necessary.

Friends are reminded that there can be no peace without justice, and to live simply, so others may simply live. Many Friends find seeds of war and injustice in their lifestyles. Friends are challenged to participate constructively in the economy by supporting fair trade, choosing investments with attention to their social impact, and purchasing products produced under safe and healthy conditions. What each can do individually may not seem like much, but, guided by the Spirit and added to the efforts of others, it can make a difference.

The Book of Discipline of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative)
Religious Society of Friends

Quakers need to step out of their meeting

I’m grasping for anything I can do to reduce the chances of yet another atrocity of violence, another massacre of children. I feel anger and sorrow at the pitifully inadequate legislation being discussed in Washington, DC. Even those measures are unlikely to pass.

I’ve been part of a local Mutual Aid community for almost two years now. And I have experienced how powerful and effective Mutual Aid is in building community and addressing community needs immediately. It is by working in our local communities that we can address community safety, providing alternatives to guns and violence. It is the only way.

Des Moines Mutual Aid

My experiences with this type of community justice work strongly supports what José Santos Woss, Director for Justice Reform at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, says in this video, “Quaker Faith in Justice Reform” (below).

In particular, he says “there’s a need for Quakers to step out of their meeting.”

When I was in Indianapolis, North Meadow Circle of Friends were part of the pilot program of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) called Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM). The idea was to get Quakers out of the meetinghouse by finding a community near them that was experiencing injustice, and spend time being physically present with that group. Spending a lot of time there by consistently showing up.

QSCM brings a spiritual focus to Quaker justice work by having the Quakers involved reflect on the spirituality of the experiences they were having. QSCM also taught us how important it is to listen deeply to those in the community we were working with. To wait to be asked by the community to do something. To be students, not teachers.

This blog post summarizes what I learned with QSCM. Out of the meetinghouse.


Quakers are pretty white, and that comes with quite a bit of power and privilege. A Quaker in Omaha, Nebraska is going to have probably more weight in what they say to a legislator than a Black Lives Matter activist in Brooklyn, New York. I think there’s a need for Quakers to step out of their meeting and away from a lot of these phenomenal institutions that they’ve created and speak to individuals in an interfaith setting (from Black churches or Black Lives Matter) and have a cross-cultural understanding of what that experience is like because you’ll find that it’s very different, and I think the more we can do of that the more effective we’ll be in addressing these problems. These exchanges and fusion coalitions are what I think it’s going to take, not only for Friends to be effective in dismantling these systems of racism, classism, and white supremacy in American society, but also for all of us to better address these problems in our country.

José Santos Woss, Quaker Faith and Justice Reform, Quakerpeak video

https://youtu.be/aHtmwaCi2PI

White Quakers need to “speak to individuals in an interfaith setting (from Black churches or Black Lives Matter) and have a cross-cultural understanding of what that experience is like because you’ll find that it’s very different.”

That is what we did when North Meadow Friends engaged with the Kheprw Institute, a Black youth mentoring community in Indianapolis. We spent at least one Sunday afternoon a month there, participating in discussing books about justice issues.

When I said a sad goodbye, I told them I felt I had received a graduate degree from them. Alvin said “your diploma is in the mail.”

I began to receive a similar education when I walked and camped for eight days, for ninety four miles with a small group of native and nonnative people along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline.

And it is the education I’m receiving from my work with Des Moines Mutual Aid (as described above).

White Friends cannot receive this education without leaving the meetinghouse. Neither committee meetings, lectures or workshops can do this.

And those in oppressed communities will not listen to what you have to say until you have demonstrated you have experienced and learned these things.

These exchanges and fusion coalitions are what I think it’s going to take, not only for Friends to be effective in dismantling these systems of racism, classism, and white supremacy in American society, but also for all of us to better address these problems in our country.

José Santos Woss, FCNL

One thing we can do is work to promote community violence interruption. Mutual Aid communities are a framework for doing this.

“Trust, credibility, and relationships are core pillars of the Safe Streets Baltimore program and other programs around the country like it,” said Moix. “Local violence interrupters are able to respond quickly to potential incidents and de-escalate the situation, while building relationships and strengthening community resilience over time. These locally-led programs are impactful and cost-effective, and they deserve more federal support and funding from Congress.”

Growing Support for Investing in Community Violence Interruption, FCNL’s General Secretary Bridget Moix, May 23, 2022

Build Safer Communities: Invest in Violence Interrupters

Traditionally, cities have responded to community-level violence by increasing the presence of a militarized police force. This solution has repeatedly failed with sometimes fatal consequences. A new solution, one that comes from within the community itself, offers a new way forward: violence interrupters.

Violence interrupters work within their communities to deescalate violence before it happens, without police intervention. These evidence-based programs are tailored to the unique needs of the neighborhoods they serve and lay the groundwork for lasting communal change.

Urge Congress to make our communities safer by dedicating federal funding to violence interrupters programs.

Use this button to send this message to your Congressional representatives.


“It takes a monster to kill children. But to watch monsters kill children again and again and do nothing isn’t just insanity – it’s inhumanity.”

Amanda Gorman

The Light that Never Fails

I sense universal despair from the unbelievable tragedy of the deaths of elementary school children, yet again. Part of the hopelessness is that these things have happened in the past and we fear they will continue to happen. That there will be no changes for better community safety. We feel personally responsible for these failures. And we are, aren’t we, if we do nothing?

Many disparage the idea of “thoughts and prayers” which admittedly is usually an empty sentiment. But as people of faith, we do believe in prayer, don’t we?

Amanda Gorman recently wrote “It takes a monster to kill children. But to watch monsters kill children again and again and do nothing isn’t just insanity – it’s inhumanity.”


Many Quakers look for hope in statements and suggestions for action from our national political lobbying organization, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

The gun violence epidemic is both a public health crisis and a troubling reflection on our country’s spiritual state. As we seek policy solutions, we must also look critically at the culture that enables so many people to kill each other with guns.

Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

Information on the FCNL website today follows, including a link to send a message to your Congressional representatives to enact universal background checks.

When will it be enough?

The mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX is horrific and heartbreaking. We grieve for the children, the teachers, and the families. We grieve for America. And we will continue to demand that our lawmakers act to disrupt this cycle of violence and terror.

Tell Congress to Enact Universal Background Checks

Universal background checks legislation would save lives by implementing background checks for every firearm purchase or transfer. The House recently pass two such bills – the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 8) and  Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 1446).  

Urge your senators to support this common-sense measures and save lives!


Gun Violence Prevention Principles

Gun violence in the United States is so common that it rarely makes the news. As a nation, we have seemingly accepted that ordinary activities – going to a house of worship, a nightclub, a school – carry the risk of violent death.

But our current levels of gun violence are not inevitable. Policymakers’ failure to pass common sense, responsible legislation contributes to appalling rates of gun violence in the United States.

Lawmakers must take every available step to reduce harm and loss of life. Easy access to guns will continue to make it horrifyingly easy to escalate fear, hatred, and rage into slaughter.

We support efforts to reduce gun violence by limiting gun ownership, possession, and use. In particular, a comprehensive gun violence prevention strategy will:

  • Address the many forms of gun violence, including mass shootings, accidental shootings, police shootings, domestic and intimate partner violence, and suicide, through context-sensitive approaches
  • Advance evidence-based gun violence prevention
  • Preserve civil liberties and anti-discrimination protections
  • Prioritize systemic changes over individual punishment
  • Limit access to equipment that makes mass shootings deadlier
  • Implement safety checks for all gun buyers
  • Promote and strengthen community engagement by implementing community-based violence intervention and prevention programs

The gun violence epidemic is both a public health crisis and a troubling reflection on our country’s spiritual state. As we seek policy solutions, we must also look critically at the culture that enables so many people to kill each other with guns. As Quakers, we believe that there is that of God in every person and that all creation has worth and dignity. We call on Congress to act immediately to protect each sacred life.

Gun Violence Prevention Principles
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)


“The Light That Never Fails”
(from “Meru” soundtrack)

When the cold bites your bones
And gets in your heart
It can make you feel hopeless
And fear will come to steal your sun and make it dark
But don’t believe you’re lonely

We’ve all had that moment when our shoulders sink
And we sit back and think
We could just run

But we’re not born to chase the fading light
We’re not born to fall and lose the fight
Never letting go
Oh no oh
I’m askin’ you to lift me, lift me higher than I ever been
Hold your breath and say you’re gonna come with me
We were born to follow
The light that never fails

You’re scared to fight
You’re scared to climb
Afraid to die
But I can be your courage
And help you see you’ve already won this

We all have that moment when our head hangs low
We question if we should go
Or turn back and run

But we’re not born to chase the fading light
We’re not born to fall and lose the fight
Never letting go
Oh no oh
I’m askin’ you to lift me, lift me higher than I ever been
Hold your breath and say you’re gonna come with me
We were born to follow
The light that never fails

Come along
We’re settin’ sail
Never looking back again

We’re not born to chase the fading light
We’re not born to fall and lose the fight
Never letting go
Oh no oh
I’m askin’ you to lift me, lift me higher than I ever been
Hold your breath and say you’re gonna come with me
We were born to follow
The light that never fails
The light that never fails
We were born to follow
The light that never fails
Light that never fails
The light that never fails

Andra Day

juxtaposition 2

It’s difficult to write this morning. Writing is a spiritual practice for me. But my heart and Spirit are heavy from the news of yet another horrendous school shooting.

There are so many questions, and so few answers.

Just because something like the second amendment is interpreted to enshrine guns doesn’t mean that is the right thing to do. Why do those in power choose guns over the lives of children?

We should beat guns into plowshares.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah 2:4

Today’s juxtaposition is related to an online event about the trauma, and deaths that occurred in the Indian Boarding Schools in this country and Canada. The genocide. Trauma that has been passed from generation to generation. Trauma those living today experience.

That is in juxtaposition to the elementary school massacre in Texas yesterday.

Seeking Truth, Healing, and Right Relationship: Quakers and the Legacy of Indian Boarding Schools, MAY 25, 2022, 6:30 – 7:30 PM EDT 

FCNL and Friends advocate in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. Yet, historically, Quakers played a role in colonization and the cultural genocide of Native people through the operation of more than 30 Indian boarding schools. With legislation now before Congress to investigate the legacy of Indian boarding schools, how are Friends communities engaging to address Quaker complicity in these atrocities?

Join us on Weds. May 25 at 6:30 p.m. EDT to learn how FCNL and F/friends are reckoning with this history and advocating in solidarity with Native communities.

In conversation with Paula Palmer and Jerilyn DeCoteau, FCNL’s Congressional Advocate for Native American Advocacy Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock will discuss FCNL’s work to build support for the bipartisan Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444). Paula and Jerilyn will share from their expertise and experience co-directing Towards Right Relationship with Native Peoples with Friends Peace Teams. Director of Quaker Leadership Alicia McBride will moderate the conversation.

There is a Facebook group, Every Child Matters related to the atrocities of the Indian Boarding Schools. The number on the graphic tracks the number of remains of children found so far.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/125050373031500

A community to provide educational resources, generate awareness, share events and actions, and build community. Recognizing the legacy of colonization in all of Turtle Island, and working together as a community to create a world our 7 generations yet to come can feel proud to be a part of.

“Every person will do their work in their own way as we move forward.

Some will take direct action and take action. That is important. Some will write policy. That is important. Some will do ceremony. That is important. Some will share stories. That is important. Some will build relationships and understanding. That is important. Some will teach. That is important. If we all do what we know how to do, with what we know, it will be good.

Every one and every thing has purpose. Keep your ears and minds and hearts open. Try to listen to each other without forming an opinion. Listen to things as information. You don’t have to agree with it. But you can validate it as someone’s experiences, feelings and ways of healing.”


Following is a link to the poem every child, found on the Intrepid Muse Poetry blog.

https://intrepidmusepoetry.blogspot.com/2022/05/every-child-matters.html

juxtaposition is the title of an earlier blog post.

It is a juxtaposition to see the rapidly accelerating, multiple effects of environmental devastation and chaos versus the struggles of Indigenous peoples trying to protect their pristine lands and waters.
https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2022/05/23/juxtaposition/

the centre cannot hold

It is increasingly clear we can never return to life as we knew it several decades ago. It is difficult to know where we will go, where we can go from here. Difficult to make sense of what is happening.

After I had written this, I received the latest article from a thinker I follow, umair haque.

When I look at the world today, I see something chilling. Collapse is already here — and it’s spreading. And next to it is the curious juxtaposition of pretending that life will go on “normally.” I’ve warned for some time now that we’re entering an age of collapse, where our great systems will fail — and if you look around now, you can see it beginning to happen.

We’re going to talk about this in three forms — political, economic, and social systems — and on two levels, national and global systems. What’s alarming — oh no, am I an alarmist? — is that now our systems are visibly beginning to fail, and fail incredibly swiftly, in all of those ways.

Collapse Is Already Here — And It’s Spreading. I Don’t Know If You’ve Noticed — But Our Systems are Breaking Down by umair haque, Eudaimonia, May 19, 2022


sensemaking–the action or process of making sense of or giving meaning to something, especially new developments and experiences.

…there remains the most existential risk of them all: our diminishing capacity for collective sensemaking. Sensemaking is the ability to generate an understanding of world around us so that we may decide how to respond effectively to it. When this breaks down within the individual, it creates an ineffective human at best and a dangerous one at worst.

Threats to sensemaking are manifold. Among the most readily observable sources are the excesses of identity politics, the rapid polarisation of the long-running culture war, the steep and widespread decline in trust in mainstream media and other public institutions, and the rise of mass disinformation technologies, e.g. fake news working in tandem with social media algorithms designed to hijack our limbic systems and erode our cognitive capacities. If these things can confound and divide us both within and between cultures, then we have little hope of generating the coherent dialogue, let alone the collective resolve, that is required to overcome the formidable global-scale problems converging before us.

At the collective level, a loss of sensemaking erodes shared cultural and value structures and renders us incapable of generating the collective wisdom necessary to solve complex societal problems like those described above. When that happens, the centre cannot hold.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019

It seems we’ve reached the point where the centre cannot hold, is not holding.

  • Our government systems are being hijacked by those intent on dismantling democracy. And they are succeeding. We have lost our voice in governance.
  • Complex global supply systems and the economies dependent on them are breaking down.
  • Environmental chaos is rapidly escalating.
  • There is increasing denial of facts and science.
  • There is widespread spiritual poverty.
  • Almost everyone is paralyzed by the onslaught of these crises.

I pray and try to make sense of where we are now and how to get where we want to be. Where do we want to be?

The answer has always been, and will always be, we want to be members of a community, communities. So much of what is wrong today is rooted in the many things that isolate us from being in community.

Recognizing the decline of our communities is not much of an insight, but we sometimes lose sight of the broader picture when confronted by one crisis after another, or multiple crises simultaneously.

My questions these days are which communities are important to me, and what is the health of them now? As James Allen wrote above, “a loss of sensemaking erodes shared cultural and value structures and renders us incapable of generating the collective wisdom necessary to solve complex societal problems”.

This is why I’m so invested in my Mutual Aid community. And am trying to find ways to bring more people into mutual aid communities.
https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/

Something important happens when we gather in pursuit of a common goal. First we form rituals that help us relate to and negotiate each other, everything from a civic tradition that allows anyone with a voice to be respectfully heard, to sharing food and music in the local town hall every Friday night, to a labour system that fairly distributes the burden of work. Then, those rituals that stand the test of time become embedded in daily life. The ritual activities themselves and the good they produce help a community identity take root. As identity strengthens, so too does our sense of connectedness — our sense of affection, responsibility and obligation — to one another. When this happens, we then share a greater capacity for coherence and cooperation. And where we share greater capacity for coherence and cooperation there is also greater resilience: the ability to mobilise skills and resources to support the emergence of collective intelligence in response to crisis, enable rapid adaptation and ensure the continuity of the most important functions and structures of the community. This coherent togetherness and the collective intelligence that emerges out of it is the source of human strength and ingenuity. Within it lies our ability to transition from one evolutionary niche to another, even against the odds.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019

The other community important to me is my faith community. I’ll wait for another time to talk about that.


Let this darkness be a bell tower

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29. By Rainer Maria Rilke