Well here we are, all doing our best in hard times. A good challenge for me is to find something every day that is fun, or that gives me joy. Grandchildren help. Yesterday it was the adventure of grafting a bit of our big old apple tree onto some new root stock in the community garden. Catching glimpses of the moon always makes me smile--and now there are the crocuses. My offering this month is also something that has given me joy.
If you'd like to catch up with my life in more detail, let me know and I'll be glad to send a copy of the family letter we write every Valentine's Day.
As always, I send my very best.
Finding Steady Ground
I doubt that I’ve been alone recently in wondering how best to respond to a rapidly changing and very troubling political situation. The needs and possibilities seem endless! I found myself wishing that somebody would look me in the eye and say, “Pamela, I know you. I know your life situation and I know your strengths. Here is a piece of work that needs doing that is just the right match.”
Well I mentioned this to my friend Daniel as we were catching up earlier this month, and he said, “I have something for you.” His attention had been very much on the many activists he knew who were struggling mightily to keep it together in these hard times. He pulled out a draft of a project he was working on, an idea for helping to keep such people grounded. When he said he could use some help with the writing and follow-up, I knew I had my answer.
We get so many messages these days with a common urgent tone: “The situation is dire; if you don’t act now, all will be lost!” The groups that send them out have mastered the art of playing on our fears. They dangle small acts of resistance or solidarity in front of us, building their mailing lists on our response but doing little to nourish our sense of agency or well-being. Daniel wanted to offer an alternative, a handful of regular sane practices that would help folks stay both grounded and in motion: Think about where and how you get your news. Have face-to-face contact with others who care. Reflect on your love for people who are vulnerable. Take in stories of courage and resistance. Stay creative. Limit your screen time. Share what you learn. What if tens of thousands of people got invitations like that instead?
So I helped Daniel write the invitation and the seven commitments to weekly grounded practice, and he launched a Finding Steady Ground FB page and website. As we worked our networks, the views and likes started growing. Clearly this approach had hit a nerve. Then, what a thrill to open one of those mass e-mail messages, this one from 350.org, and read about Finding Steady Ground! (The fact that Daniel is on their international staff helped, but he was equally thrilled that they agreed to do it.)
By this time, 90,000 people had taken a look, with thousands signing up to get on-going encouragement. We decided to start with the first commitment, about limiting over-consumption of “news”. What could we say that would be useful to all these people looking for help? I just wasn’t sure. Then one morning I had an idea about addiction, and how consuming bad news was kind of like consuming junk food--with that continuous pull to take one more bite. So I wrote a draft, Daniel created a larger frame for the message, I edited, and he worked the technical end. Then when responses to that follow-up message started coming in, he gathered, I winnowed, and he set the time-line for the next step. And so it goes.
He runs the project and sets the pace, countering the tendency toward reactive and frantic urgency with a relaxed intention that it be good for us as well. I follow his lead, offering my skills, and companionship on the journey. He has given a great gift to me as, I have come to realize, I am giving to him. I am reminded of how essential these simple acts of friendship and solidarity are as we work together on mending the world.
A bird calls out—two clear whistling notes
I whistle back, trying to match those tones
as clear and pure and strong as I know how.
A pause, he calls again, I whistle back
Three more times we call those two clear notes
first from above and then from far below.
Coincidence perhaps, or maybe not.
I choose the miracle—astonished joy.
That tiny heart and mine alive as one.
Imagine: A New Economy is Possible!
Washington, D.C. has passed one of the country’s most generous paid leave policies, guaranteeing eight weeks of paid time off for new parents, six weeks for those caring for sick family members, and two weeks of personal sick time.
The D.C. law will use a “social insurance model” funded through a 0.62 percent payroll tax on all private sector employers. This tax will amount to just $186 per year for an employee making $30,000.
The formula for employee reimbursement is designed to help reduce racial and economic disparities in the District: the lower an employee’s weekly pay, the higher proportion of that pay he or she will receive.
Some things that have made me hopeful recently:
Seattle City Council recently voted unanimously to terminate a valuable city contract with Wells Fargo because of the bank's investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline. The city will consider “socially responsible banking and fair business practices” as a factor in its decision on selecting a new bank. http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/seattle-just-divested-billions-from-wells-fargo-over-dakota-access-pipeline-20170207
After thousands of Polish women went on strike in October over a proposed ban on abortion, effectively shutting down government offices, universities and schools in 60 cities across the country, with an estimated six million people across Europe joining their protest, members of the Polish government stated that they will not pursue legislation further restricting abortion access in Poland.
The many, many examples of people standing up against atrocities and for vulnerable people in our country.
The massive demonstrations in Korea last fall that brought down President Park Geun Hye.
Toward a Right Relationship with Finance
Check out this new book that I co-authored on Debt, Interest, Growth and Security.
The growth economy is failing to provide equitable well-being for humanity and a life-sustaining future for Earth. However our institutional endowments and individual retirement are dependent on that same growth economy. This book:
• offers background on our current economic system--how it is based on unearned income on the one hand and debt on the other, with a built-in momentum toward economy inequality and ecological overshoot;
• frames the conversation within the context of our deepest values and beliefs;
• suggests plausible and historically grounded alternatives to the current system, particularly with regard to financing retirement; and
• invites everyone to imagine new forms of durable economic and social security, and to help create the relationships and institutions that will make them a reality.
With many people now counting as never before on the performance of Wall Street for retirement security, how can this system be challenged with integrity and effectiveness? Can we break with our dependence on financial speculation and build up new structures of security in a transformed, life-centered economy?
To order the book, or read it on line, go to http://www.quakerinstitute.org/?page_id=5 and scroll down.
Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide. http://www.danielhunter.org/books/building-movement-end-new-jim-crow-organizing-guide
Recent posts on other web/blog sites:
In http://www.classism.org/gifts-american-dream/, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.
Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years: https://www.trainingforchange.org/publications/muscle-building-peace-and-justice-nonviolent-workout-routine-21st-century (or just google the title)
faitheconomyecology.wordpress.com, a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives)
www.ourchildrenourselves.com, a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years. NOTE THE NEW URL.
www.startguide.org. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.
For earlier columns, go to www.pamelascolumn.blogspot.com. I'm currently posting at pamelalivinginthisworld.blogspot.com.
To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.