Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What is Our "Wall of Wood"?

I am getting the really powerful feeling, right now, that we have been given our "Wall of Wood," but I don't yet know what it is.  I am trying to figure this out.

For those who do not know the reference, it comes from the stories of the second Persian invasion of Greece, as recorded by Herodotus.  It is, I think, difficult to realize what these battles looked like.  Suffice it to say that all of the Star Wars franchise and others owe a tremendous debt to this history.

The Persians had sent a comparatively small (for them) number of troops into Greece/Hellas and were repelled at Marathon over odds that look like a Jr. High football team defeating the winners of the Superbowl.  They went back, regrouped, and launched a second attack.

When the Persians were in the process of sending their second invasion, Athens sent a delegation to Delphi to ask Apollon what they should do.  The response was unequivocal and terrifying.

" “Why sit you, doomed ones? Fly to the world’s end, leaving
Home and the heights your city circles like a wheel.
The head shall not remain in its place, nor the body,
Nor the feet beneath, nor the hands, nor the parts between;
But all is ruined, for fire and the headlong God of War
Speeding in a Syrian chariot shall bring you low.
Many a tower shall he destroy, not yours alone,
And give to pitiless fire many shrines of gods,
Which even now stand sweating, with fear quivering.
While over the roof-tops black blood runs streaming.
In prophecy of woe that needs must come.  But rise,
Haste from the sanctuary and bow your hearts to grief.” (Herodotus, VII, 140, trans., Selincourt)

This is not ambiguous.  Athens was going to be utterly destroyed.  So, the Athenians deliberated and did a lot of sacrifices and went back as suppliants for a second reading to see if they could get anything more from Apollon that would help them.  After all, they were the city devoted to Athena and Apollon, Himself, had both given them their first courts, assisted in the development of democracy (the rule of the people) and their constitution, and was the divine ancestor of the people.  Both Athena and Apollon have a strong relationship with Democracy.

The Athenian delegates were granted a second reading.

 “Not wholly can Pallas win the heart of Olympian Zeus,
Though she prays him with many prayers and all her subtlety;
Yet will I speak to you this other word, firm as adamant:
Though all else shall be taken within the bound of Cecrops
And the fastness of the holy mountain of Cithaeron,
Yet Zeus the all-seeing grants to Athena’s prayer
That the wooden wall only shall not fall, but help you and your children.
But await not the host of horse and foot coming from Asia,
Nor be still, but turn your back and withdraw from the foe.
Truly a day will come when you will meet him face to face.
Divine Salamis, you will bring death to women’s sons
When the corn is scattered, or the harvest gathered in.” (Herodotus, VII, 141, trans Selincourt).

The delegation went back to Athens and there was a debate in the ekklesia.  The debate centered upon what is the "wall of wood?"  Themistocles held the day by saying that clearly the physical city of Athens would be destroyed, but the wooden wall was referring to the triremes, the ships, and that the second prophecy gave both the location (the straits of Salamis) and the time (two options) of a stand, but that they should evacuate the city and run.  The ekkesia agreed and decided to make their stands in ships against a vastly superior navy in the straits of Salamis.  The Athenians won over odds that make Star Wars look realistic.

However, acting correctly on Apollon's prophecy involved a massive shift in thinking for the Athenians.  The argument was that it was the people and Athena Herself that constituted Athens, not a particular location.  They abandoned the city (which was utterly destroyed by the Persians), but they took the holy xoanon statue of Athena from the old temple and took the people.  Wherever they were, together, that was Athens. Then the citizens went onto the ships, where they had more maneuverability and had an advantage from knowing the straits and being great fishers.  And they won against impossible odds.

The question I feel compelled to ask right now is, what is our wall of wood?  I do think we are given one.  According to Apollon, it was Athena (and, honestly, Him), using their power to sway things on the inner planes and move probability as best as possible.  It doesn't mean that there is not destruction...awful, horrifying destruction...but Athens was victorious in the end from using power in ways that their enemy never dreamed about.  I think this is also a possibility for us, here, in one of the incarnations of Athens.  I feel it.  We have to figure out, what is our wall of wood?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Our Democracy has been Stolen and We Need to Take it Back!

If there is one thing for which I can be thankful out of this debacle we are currently facing in the United States it is that it has been a tremendous wake-up call to many parts of our populace...including me.  It is time for us to acknowledge that we have been asleep at the wheel.  For Democracy, the "Rule of the People" to work, it requires tremendous vigilance and engagement from its citizens at all levels.

So, what happened?  Many of us woke up on 11/9/2016 to find our Democracy had been stolen from us...but, truthfully, this is the result of a many-year game plan by a bunch of bad actors in the GOP.  It is far more than the Trump Presidency.  We need to step back and look at the bigger picture.

I need to make clear, right now, that when I say it is the work of a bunch of bad actors in the GOP, I DO NOT mean that it is every single Republican politician.  And I certainly DO NOT mean that it is every single person who is a Republican or who voted Republican.  There are many of the Republican base who at some point are going to be in for as rude an awakening as the rest of us when they finally start feeling the effects of what they voted for.

The bad actors are definitely the GOP leadership, many of whom began this work during the Clinton administration if not back further...people like Newt Gingrich.  They have been seriously playing the long-game.

So, when I am making a claim that our Democracy was STOLEN from us, I am talking about the system itself being corrupted to take power from the Demos, the people, and consolidate it into the hands of the GOP who have set things up so that they can win and hold all of the power as a minority.  There is a whole other analysis about who the GOP actually serve, but right now I want to focus on the ways that they have corrupted the system so that it is a minority who can rule over a majority without their consent.

Let that sink in.  We have a situation in which a minority can rule over a majority WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.


1.  Gerrymandering
2.  A lack of reasonable controls on campaign finance, especially in the overwhelming influence of "dark" money where there is no transparency.
3.  Weaponizing the state investigatory apparatus for political purposes
4.  The destruction of fact-based discourse as a norm in politics and the media
5.  Voter suppression
6.  The corruption of the original purpose of the Electoral College
7.  Stacking the courts

In addition, there are three structural problems that have been fully exploited by the GOP that have to do with the history of our nation and need to be changed if we are not going to be under the tyranny of the minority.

1.  The historical way in which our states were created and how the Senate is composed
2.  The Electoral College
3.  The rights of colonies and territories, especially the District of Columbia

So, let's talk about this.  I'm going to take them a little out of order.

Weaponizing the state investigatory apparatus for political purposes
For those of us old enough to remember the Clinton administration, this is where I first, personally, saw this used to extraordinary effect.  Of course, if I were older, I might remember McCarthy and we shouldn't forget that Roy Cohn...Trump's mentor...was McCarthy's main attack dog.  So, we seriously need to watch this shit and make sure we are not back into things being investigated as "Unamerican."

But I remember very well the way in which the GOP used Ken Starr to basically keep a made-up innuendo shit-show front and center in the nation's consciousness for years.  It began, if you will remember, as an investigation into a real estate deal and wrong-doing.  But Starr kept expanding and expanding in ways that, frankly, if it had been a "real" investigation in which you have to show probable cause...there was NOTHING.  There was nothing but incessant innuendo and the "appearance" of wrong-doing without anything that was know...wrongdoing.  Until they finally impeached Bill Clinton on....getting a consensual blow-job from an adult and lying about it.  But through this, the impression that was being created in the mind of the public was that the Clintons, and more broadly the Democrats, were somehow untrustworthy and corrupt...with NO evidence.  But they manipulated the press that even then was struggling with trying to keep themselves financially afloat and kept it front and center because people will tune in and watch a fucking circus.

Then we see this again in the Benghazi hearings.  No evidence of wrong-doing and, in fact, far more people had died in embassies under W. Bush - and that had never been investigated.  During the course of that, they took a page from Starr and expanded into this email investigation...not because there was any evidence of wrong-doing, but because they were keeping this manufactured "scandal" front and center in order to discredit Hillary and to give the impression of untrustworthiness.  Never mind that there were many, many more emails that had gone missing under W's administration...emails that might have been investigated to determine whether or not he and his administration know...LIED about the weapons of mass destruction to get us into a war that we are still dealing with.  Real questions.  But that is never investigated.  Because this isn't and never was about truth or anything but manufacturing scandals to distract the public and attack political opponents.

And then the HEAD OF OUR FEDERAL POLICE throws a bomb into the election 11 days ahead of time to provide more baseless innuendo about Hillary Clinton's emails...when he keeps oddly silent about the investigations going on about the Trump campaign's connections to THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT and its influence on our elections...the kind of thing that is APPROPRIATE to investigate.  That is the heavy hand on the scale and should be investigated as a violation of the Hatch Act if ever there was one.

What all of this does is to get people to inherently distrust the Clintons but more broadly the Democrats based on NOTHING while simultaneously serving as excellent misdirection (you know...what stage magicians use) for all of the actual corruption that the GOP leadership is engaged in spreading throughout the country.

And, I believe that it directly leads to:

The Destruction of Fact-Based Discourse in Politics and the Media

For years the parts of the "inner workings" of government that are given incessant coverage by the broadcast media, especially, in their 24-hour news cycle, is a non-fact based circus of shouting people with nothing but innuendo, accusation and drama.  And people tune in.  In fact, politics has just been reduced to...REALITY TV.

Except Reality Television is NOT reality and this has real effects.  So, what is learned from this is that things that generate passion and upset and drama...they get people to watch...and anyone who watches reality TV is an expert in reality TV.  And it does not matter one whit if what is said is true or not.  It is all about their "perception."  And there is a whole spin-off industry that was already there but gets steam, of angry "reality tv" type stars screaming more made-up bullshit.  When the comedians on the left (Stewart and Colbert, especially, now Jon Oliver, Samantha Bee etc.) do more truth-telling than most of the mainstream broadcast media...we are in serious fucking trouble.

Add to that social media and the fact that only a few of the old hardcore journalistic outlets even have investigative reporters AND that they do not have a viable business model to stay in business...we have a very, very serious problem.

So, we have a real crisis where people in power say things in order to provoke particular reactions and have no commitment to truth-telling and two-generations of a population whose main exposure to politics has been through the televised circus that is indistinguishable from "reality television" in which made-up bullshit drama is accepted and swallowed...and then they are basically told that they can choose their own adventure through voting.  They watch their own news outlets, which for many in the GOP is outlets that directly, repeatedly and intentionally lie to their viewers because they have accepted the axiom that all truth claims are really rationalization of power.

The trouble (and hopefully the salvation), of course, is that there is such a thing as reality.  It will bite us in the ass.  The coal miners who thought they are getting their jobs back...their jobs aren't fucking coming back.  They just aren't.  The messaging from the GOP leadership and their segment of the media will, of course, be that somehow it will be the fault of the Democrats...but their jobs aren't coming back any more than being a stable-boy or chimney sweep will be common and viable forms of employment.

But the point of this is that in a post-fact situation, we have unscrupulous actors who are intentionally manipulating the populace through misdirection, lying, and innuendo and that they are overwhelmingly members of or aligned to the GOP.

All of the above serves as giant misdirection
while the GOP advances several major pieces of agenda that steal our Democracy.  I will need to go into these in more detail at some point but they have very systematically:

1.  Corrupted Campaign Finance...well...the conservative justices through things like Citizen's United...but it enables dark money to be used in order to influence campaigns.  What is most important to know is that Dark Money is especially used in LOCAL campaigns....especially in state legislative races and so forth.  Why?  Both to influence policies that are created on a local level...and we often forget how much power is given to states as a result of federalism...but also, to enable:

2.  Gerrymandering!  Urban areas are the economic centers, the population centers, and tend to be overwhelmingly politically progressive.  This is where most of us live and because we are the economic centers, we are the main tax base.  Now, there are some urban people who are Republicans and vote for tax laws that directly benefit them...especially if they are part of the 1% because the GOP has been taxing in ways to increase the share of the wealth that the 1% has at the expense of everyone else since Reagan, but in general, urban areas go blue.  So, thanks to unscrupulous gerrymandering at state levels, in states where the GOP has systematically managed to get control over state legislatures...often through dark money and attack campaigns that use the innuendo, lies, etc. discussed above...urban centers and areas that typically tend to have a strong progressive presence tend to be carved up, often in totally insane ways, so that it is ridiculously difficult if not impossible for a Democrat to get elected.  So, you can have a county that will vote blue in every presidential and Senate election that is ALWAYS going to have GOP reps in the House and state legislature.  As far as I am concerned, this should be utterly illegal and we should go to a system in which computer algorithms determine district boundaries based on nothing but population compression.  Technologically, this could be done.  Now, to be fair, Democrats have definitely used gerrymandering also...Maryland is a notorious example...but the vast majority of this is GOP.

3.  Voter Suppression:  Once the GOP began getting control of the state legislatures, then they started instituting both laws and practices that are specifically targeted at suppressing voters who tend to vote Democrat.  These include voter ID laws that disproportionately affect poor people of color who almost all vote blue; closing polling stations so that lines are incredibly long in areas that have higher proportions of registered Democrats; stripping the voter roles for people who haven't voted in the some number of elections using criteria that they test-model first to ensure that it will disproportionately affect Democrats (which requires re-registering and they often don't inform people who have been stripped that they are no longer registered...until they show up and aren't listed); closing down early voting; denying citizens who have previous incarceration the right to vote...which when you consider the disproportionate impact of policing/conviction/incarceration on poor people of color, especially African-American men, this permanent disenfranchisement is deeply morally problematic.  All of these measures are statistically modeled first with an intention of disproportionately suppressing voters who tend to vote Democrat.  Most of this was made possible by gutting the Voting Rights Act, a key piece of Civil Rights legislation that is CLEARLY still needed.

4.  Corruption of the Original Purpose of the Electoral College:  The Electoral College was originally designed, as described by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers to keep the populace from electing a demagogue.  Well...if ever there were a test case...we are facing a true demagogue.  But at the same time, most states have passed laws that aim to restrict the so-called "faithless electors," those who vote against the decision of the popular vote in their state.  So, one of two things really should happen here.  EITHER the electoral college should be a carefully selected group of people with high-powered critical thinking skills, a dedication to doing what is right for the country, and they should be fully empowered to vote their conscience OR we should abolish the Electoral College and go straight with the popular vote.  What we have now is a situation in which if our electors voted their conscience, in many states they would be breaking the law AND the understanding of their role is so misunderstood that there is a decent chance it would mean armed insurrection.  That being the case, I would advocate for abolishing the Electoral College.  What we have now allows for the tyranny of the minority in selecting a President.  Because of the way in which the electoral college is created, it structurally benefits rural I will discuss in a minute.  But these state-level laws making it an offense for delegates to the Electoral College to perform their constitutionally appointed role of protecting us from the threat of a demagogue, while still maintaining the Electoral College - this is systemic corruption of our system.

5.    Stacking the Courts:  This, to me, is one of the most egregious and, I believe ILLEGAL forms of corruption in which the GOP has systematically engaged.  It is the duty of the President of the United States to appoint federal judges...not just to the Supreme Court, but to the federal appellate courts and federal district courts, with advice from the Senate - which is obligated to hold conformation hearings.  Under the "leadership" of Mitch McConnell, the Senate has just refused to hold hearings for hundreds of nominees put forward by Obama...they have just refused to do it and kept the positions vacant until they could recapture the White House.  Let me repeat that...THE GOP HEAD OF THE SENATE HAS SYSTEMATICALLY REFUSED TO PERFORM HIS CONSTITUTIONALLY MANDATED DUTY FOR YEARS IN ORDER TO CORRUPT THE BALANCE OF POWER BY ONLY ALLOWING NOMINEES FROM HIS PARTY TO APPOINT JUDGES.  McConnell is going to go down in history as one of the great destroyers of the great American experiment.

So, THE GOP HAS SYSTEMATICALLY DISMANTLED AND DESTROYED THE CHECKS AND BALANCES that form the foundation of our Democracy.  They have stolen it.  They broke the rules about the courts.  They have used dark money to break the rules about how we are supposed to have representation in Congress through shameless abuse of gerrymandering, the protective purposes of the Electoral College are undermined.

There are also, as I mentioned, some deeply problematic structural problems that have to do with history.

1.  The historical way states were created
The admission of states into the Union was subject to various reasoning at the time.  We have had some shifts, though, in the way in which our country is structured that render this problematic.  So, each state gets two senators.  The Senate, of course, was never intended to be a proportionately representative body.  However, when the Constitution was created, it was 13 colonies, not 50 states, and the proportions were more reasonable.  At this point, we have 50 states and an overwhelming portion of the citizens live in cities, especially cities situated on the two coasts.  So, historically, there may be reasons why there are so many states in the middle even though they all have low populations.

If you were to combine and make a single state out of the following

  • Wyoming
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Montana
  • Idaho
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Kansas
  • Utah
It is STILL almost a million people smaller than New York.  It is many millions smaller than California.  

So, New York gets two votes in the Senate.  The states listed above that represent fewer people get 18 votes.  There are some small states that tend to vote Democrat also, but there is a massive population disproportion that has to do more with historical circumstances concerned with governing territory in an era that predates modern transportation.  If we were dividing up the states now, many of these low-population states in the middle would be combined and would not give them THIS level of extraordinarily disproportionate power.

2.  The Electoral College
Looking at the above combined with the fact that the Electoral College does NOT function the way initially intended, not only do small, low-population states have overwhelmingly disproportionate influence in the Senate, the electoral college combines the numbers of House and Senate representatives, structurally diminishing the power of states with large populations.  For example, one vote in Wyoming is worth about 4 Californians.  Additionally, most states are winner take all.  This is especially problematic since the population has moved into big cities often on the coasts.  We are now in a situation in which we have a President who lost the popular vote by an extraordinarily large margin and is about to be sworn in based on this structural problem in which the majority has no power because of the inequality of the worth of votes.  One possible solution would be to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College - especially since the original purpose of the EC has been undermined.  A reinstitution of the principle of one voice, one vote.  However, since the GOP has corrupted the system so that it can remain in power in the legislature, it is unlikely that they will do such a thing...thereby seizing the power of electing the Presidency away from the majority.  Again...our Democracy has been stolen.

3.  Colonies, including the District of Columbia
There are a number of colonies, but the two that especially should be made into states are the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  DC is a particularly problematic case since we pay federal taxes and have no voting legislators and don't really have home rule.  We don't because we vote 96% Democrat.  We have more population than Wyoming or Vermont.  The ONLY reason that we are being denied statehood is not the original reason set forth by the framers when they believed that no one would actually live here...we are now like London, Paris, or Athens.  It is interesting, also, to note that those who live and work around the capital and who, frankly, are the MOST informed about how the federal government actually works are overwhelmingly in favor of the Democratic party...which is why we are systematically disenfranchised.  Puerto Rico has a population of 3,480,000, which makes them more populous than 20 states.  They, at least, do not pay federal income taxes right now, but they have no representation.  But the reason that we are not given the full rights of citizenship is all about the GOP suppressing the power of the Democrats.


So, all of these things, again, when taken together have created a situation in which a minority can rule over the majority without their consent.  I understand that the GOP is exultant and drunk on their power, but they might want to seriously remember that there are REASONS why our founders created checks and balances because what they are doing is not the way to govern in a sustainable manner.  The only way to govern is through the consent of the governed...if you don't have that, you have tyranny and the appropriate response to tyranny, according to our own founders, is to overthrow it.  

I believe in the great American experiment.  It was an attempt to create a stable system that did not create the conditions that lead to tyranny and from thence to revolution.  I hope that our leaders and, specifically, the leaders of the GOP, take a good look at what they are doing and reconsider whether or not "winning" is really worth the cost.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

In the Resistance: What is your work?

For those of us engaged in the Resistance, what is going to have to happen relatively quickly is that we will need to take a two-pronged approach.

1.  There is our main work, which is a single focus.  This is the area in which we need to build subject-matter expertise, spend our time organizing and actually doing the work. This is also where we summarize and explain for others and advocate for assistance.  And part of this will be creating the calls for broader action that are constructed in enough detail that people know EXACTLY what they are being asked to do.  (For example, here is the script and here are the specific numbers to call on X day).

and then

2.  We need to be hooked into our networks so that when the call goes out, we are quickly mobilized and dedicated to act on a much broader range of issues through shows of numbers and force.   This can be showing up at protests/marches, making phone calls, writing letters, possible civil disobedience, boycotts, etc.

So, for example, it may be someone's work to dedicate themselves to trying to ban gay conversion therapy.  They may be working to get a city or state-wide ban on the practice.  They may be the person writing the call script and attaching numbers and then getting it out through networks in a campaign of calling.  They may be the one calling the local churches to talk to the pastors or church groups and go in armed with the data about the practice and the harm it does.  Any number of things. They may be doing this locally in their community, working with others, or they may be hooked into a larger organization and volunteering through them.  In their circles, they would be the "go-to" person for information about gay conversion therapy.

But then that person would also need to be hooked into a broader network and when they find out that there is movement on the Muslim Registry and a call for protest, they show up at the protest.  Or make the phone calls.  Or write the letters.  We will need to be broadly conversant on a large number of topics and willing to step in through coalitions and so forth and fight for each other.  But we can't be experts in everything or our effect will be dissipated.

And there will be some people for whom it is their work to build and sustain those information networks.

So how can we figure out what our primary work is?
Take a look at three different categories and then look for where they intersect.  A lot of this is still emergent and that is okay.  But keep an eye out for the intersections.

1.  What are the needs?
2.  What are my real skills, expertise, and areas where I am situationally well-placed to make a difference?
3.  What are my true passions?  (This part is very important because this is a marathon, not a sprint)

My emerging example
I am still trying to figure out how to be most useful.  BUT, here is where I am in my analysis.

1.  The needs are vast and too numerous for me to put them down right here before I go to work.
2.  I am really good at pulling groups of people together and facilitating group process and creative problem solving.  Really, really good at it when I get the chance.  I am very good at creating and driving towards hard-core "out of the box" solutions and thinking and then moving them towards implementation.  I'm really, really good at stepping back and having very big picture vision.  I am good at project management.  I am situated in an academic environment and I chair the steering committee of a consortium of 9 university libraries.  This gives me at least some access to academics in 9 institutions immediately in my region.  I am an excellent researcher and have access to proprietary information on virtually any topic available.
3.  I LOVE my city and I love cosmopolitan living.  I love the great cities of the United States.  I love our diversity and our cosmopolitan culture/s.  I love walking our streets.  And I love our planet and nature.  I am passionate about trying to figure out how to address the climate crisis.  I am also mad as hell that we city-folk seem to have so little political power and that forces from outside keep fucking with us.  As a resident of the District of Columbia, in particular, it feels like we are under attack from other parts of the country all the time.  I'm sick to fucking death of it.

So, where this is going for me is that I want our beautiful, wonderful cosmopolitan cities to be self-sustaining, resilient and be able to have more independence on how we live our lives and govern ourselves.  In order to to that, I see two areas that we really need to work on:  Sustainable energy independence and food security.  If we can get those two things in place, then we can move forward with the next phases...but those are two really, really important things.  That will give us power in our cities...AND, if we can do it right, could also weaken some of the power-base of the individuals and corporations that are destroying our democracy.

I think that if I broaden my networks to people who know people I know, we have SO much expertise available.  I want to pull them together and start thinking outside the box.

That is where I think my main work is going to be...but I will totally be sharing information, showing up at protests, making phone calls, writing letters, engaging in whatever is needed to be supportive of other actions.  Someone else will just have to tell me what they need me to do in enough detail that I can just follow along and do it.

Parting thoughts
We each have our work.  But again, we have to build our capacity in ourselves and in our communities.  We need to be spending face-time with each other, resting, doing things that feed our joy.  And we absolutely cannot give in to despair.  We just can't.

There are major strategies that are out there.  For those who maybe cannot do as much active work, giving to organizations who will be doing the fight and keep abreast of the calls for action are important.  No small part of the major strategies are going to be focused on legal battles.  On one of the pages of this blog, I've linked a bunch of organizations that could use donations.  Are they busy stacking the courts...yes.  But legal battles often take years and that gives us some time to try to organize and recapture some of the seats.

Remember, less than 25% of the country voted for Trump.  We have the popular vote AND there are a ton of people who did not vote, many of whom were intentionally disenfranchised as part of the GOP strategy.  We have to do a better job at getting rights restored and getting the vote out....which will be hard, but far from impossible.  We can do this.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

NOTES: Saul D. Alinsky's Rules for Radicals

These are Gwendolyn's notes summarizing the following book:

Alinsky, Saul D. Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals.  New York: Random House, 1971.

  •       Accept reality as it is…not how you would have it be.  Be guided by your aspirations, but work with the world as it is.
  •  Communication is the most important thing in community.  Eliminate unnecessary barriers to communication.
  •  Ideological purity is a trap.
  •  Effective organization is thwarted by a desire for instant or dramatic change.
  • Encouraging revolution without reformation…where people have a change in values… is the fast road to tyranny.
  • We must always demonstrate high morals and restraint or it will be used to invoke “law and order” and we will have retrogression into tyranny.
  • Organize on a common topic….he uses pollution as the example, but it could be human rights.
  • Voting is important, but insufficient.  We have to keep pressure on the representatives.  “No politician can sit on a hot issue if you make it hot enough.”
  • When too many citizens are denied the ability to participate meaningfully, there is a sickness that descends on the society.  NOTE:  I think this is where we are.  Through superPACS, Citizens United, lobbyist run amok, the lack of voting rights, gerrymandering, and the electoral college…to many people have no way to meaningfully participate in the process and our society is sick.  We need to attack these aspects of the way the system is corrupted itself.  I think we should use the language of “rigged.”

  •       For the “have nots” to take power away and give it to the people.
  • Massive cultural changes are always from revolution.
  • Evolution is just looking from the outside at particular stages of revolution.
  • ·      Dogma and ideological purity if a trap that will destroy the revolution every time.
  • ·      The only dogma should be “for the general welfare.”
  • ·      Change is the only constant – understand the dynamics of change.
  • ·      “Radicals must be resilient, adaptable to shifting political circumstances, and sensitive enough to the process of action and reaction to avoid being trapped by their own tactics and forced to travel a road not of their choosing.  In short, radicals must have a degree of control over the flow of events.” 6-7.
  • ·      READ Thoreau’s essay “The Duty of Civil Disobedience”
  • ·      The “haves” will always declare any threat to the status quo as unpatriotic…whereas we must remember the ideals of our nation’s revolution and understand our own patriotism.
  • ·      “Political realists see the world as it is: an arena of power politics moved primarily by perceived immediate self-interests, where morality is rhetorical rationale  for expedient action and self-interest.” 12-13
  • ·      “Reconciliation” typically means when one side gets the power and then the other is reconciled to it.
  • ·       Whitehead: “In formal logic, a contradiction is the signal of a defeat; but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress towards a victory.” 16
  • ·      All Light has within it the Dark and vice versa.  Everything good is capable of being corrupted.  [NB – this is a need for spiritual alchemy]
  • ·      Accept the inevitability of the counter-revolution and plan to mitigate it.
  • ·      Haves, Have Nots, Have a Little but Want More.  The Have a Littles is the middle class.  Most of the revolutionary leaders come from here, but there is also a strong propensity to fall into “do nothings” and a tendency to say that they share the VALUES but not the tactics of revolution…becoming a wet blanket.  They become Do-Nothings.  They may appear as “good” people, calling for restraint…but all that is required for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.
  • ·      Self-indulgence combined with personal materialistic concern is the major menace to the USA and has been noted as such since Tocqueville
  • ·      Must destroy the illusion that man’s individual welfare can be separated from all others.  It does a disservice to elevate this to altruism.  There is self-interest in helping each other and if we are too stupid to see it, then we are in trouble.  A man who has a loaf of bread next to a man who is starving and will not share is going to get knifed.

Of Means and Ends
  • ·      The man of action considers discussions of means and ends pragmatically and strategically.
  • ·      Does this particular means justify this particular ends?
  • ·      Ends: are they achievable and worth the cost? Means: will they work?
  • ·      The real arena is corrupt and bloody…get over it.
  • ·      Goethe: “conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action.” 
  • ·      “In action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind.  The choice must always be for the latter.  Action is for mass salvation and not the individual’s personal salvation.” P 25
  • ·      Jacques Maritain: “The fear of soiling ourselves by entering the context of history is not virtue but a way of escaping virtue.” 25-26
  • ·      “The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means.” 26
  • ·      One’s concerns with means and ends is inversely related to how personally involved one is and the distance from the conflict.  [in other words – a White majority person sitting in a red enclave will judge the means and ends of a POC protesting in a far away neighborhood against police brutality, whereas the means and ends for the POC in that situation is less importat.]
  • ·      Judgments about ends and means depend on whether your are in alignment with the ends. 
  • ·      In times of war, almost all means get justified.
  • ·      Judgment about means and ends must be made from within the context it exists, not in reference to any other chronological time.
  • ·      Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.
  • ·      The less important the situation, the more one can debate about its morality.
  • ·      Success or failure is a strong determinant of ethics.  There is no such thing as a successful traitor…that person becomes a founding father.
  • ·      An important ethical determinant is whether the means is employed in the moment of imminent defeat or imminent victory.
  • ·      Any effective means will automatically be judged by the opposition as unethical, no matter what.
  • ·      You do what you can with what you have and then cloth it with morality.
  • ·      “All effective actions require the passport of morality”
  • ·      “The goal once named cannot be countermanded.”  Whitman.  Be careful how you name the goal.  Make sure it is your vision.  “Liberty” “For the Common Good” “Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”

A Word About Words
  • ·      Power = ability (physical, mental or moral) to act
  • ·      The real quote was “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton
  • ·      The corruption is not in power but in ourselves.
  • ·      Self-interest is a real motivator and also needs to be cultivated, even if it is framed as a higher motive.     Don’t underestimate it.
  • ·      There is tremendous shame in admitting that we are affected by self-interest, so we shift and try to rationalize our self-interest using other language.  (This is what a LOT of White people are doing right now).
  • ·      Compromise: For an organizer, this is a key and beautiful concept.
  • ·      Ego – also self-confidence.  MUST have it.  It is NOT egotism.  The organizer is driven by a desire to create.  Egotism comes from inadequacy. 
  • ·      Conflict – necessary and empowering.  The music of democracy is the harmony of dissonance.

The Education of an Organizer
  • ·      “The education of an organizer requires frequent long conferences on organizational problems, analysis of power patterns, communication, conflict tactics, the education and development of community leaders, and the methods of introduction of new issues.” 64
  • ·      Strength of an organizer is her/his experiences.  “Happenings become experiences when they are digested, when they are reflected on, related to general patterns ,and synthesized.” 69
  • ·      Must use the local language and idioms, but be yourself.
  • ·      Essential characterstics of an organizer:

o   Curiosity
o   Irreverence for dogma combined with deep reverence for all humanity
o   Imagination – have to be able to identify with those who are unlike you…INCLUDING the opposition so that you can forecast their response.
o   A sense of humor
o   A blurred vision of a better world
o   An organized personality
o   A well-integrated political schizoid – To act, you must believe that you are 100% right…that is what you have to be in the ring and when rallying people…but then when you get to the point of negotiation, you have to be able to see what is able to be compromised and what cannot be…which means being able to back of the 100%.
o   Ego:  Not egotism, but “Ego is unreserved confidence in one’s ability to do what he believes must be done.  An organizer must accept, without fear or worry, that the odds are always against him.  Having this kind of ego, he is a doer and does.”
o   A free and open mind, and political relativity.  – requirements for flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity, the acceptance of uncertainity.  These keep the organizer from falling into cynicism and disillusionment.
o   Joy that comes from creation.
  • ·      It is futile to worry about whether someone did the right things for the wrong reasons.  That is often the case.  The point is to get them to do the right thing.
  • ·      Have to build multiple issues to get solidarity
  • ·      Each person and each bloc has a hierarchy of priorities

  • ·      This is the single most important skill of an organizer.  One can succeed without some of the other skills, but even having all of the others, but lacking this one, you will fail.
  • ·      “Communication with others takes place when they understand what you’re trying to get across to them. “ 81
  • ·      “People only understand things in terms of their experience, which means you must get within their experience.” 81
  • ·      Two way process – if only speaking and not listening, not communicating.
  • ·      If you can’t find a way into their experience, then you have to create an experience.
  • ·      You can’t communicate with people purely on the basis of ethics or rational facts.  It is only when someone is concerned or feels threatened that most people will act.
  • ·      You have to keep your cool, figure out what someone’s prime value is, and go there.
  • ·      You can’t tell a community what to do.  But organizers usually see what a community needs to do.  The point is to persuade them, maneuver them, make suggestions. Etc.
  • ·      The organizer has to wean leaders from dependency on his/her.
  • ·      If the organizer starts issuing orders and getting too much into explaining – it builds up subconscious resentment
  • ·      One of the ways the left fails is when campus organizers try to go to the poor and tell them about the bankruptcy of their values.
  • ·      "A classic example of a failure to communicate because the organizer has gone completely outside the experience of the people, is the attempt by campus activists to indicate to the poor the bankruptcy of their prevailing values." p 94-95.
  • ·      We have to absolutely personalize the impact.  “LGBT people” are threatened is not as compelling as “Greg and Alan are threatened.”  People can’t process statistics in an emotionally meaningful way.
  • ·      Issues have to be communicated, but in ways that also have specificity.  It is not “gay rights” it is “not allowing children to be electrocuted because they are gay.” 
  • ·      The issue has to be simple enough that people can grasp the rallying or battle cry.
  • ·      You have to grasp the general issue, then the specifics that people can relate to, and then help them link it back to the general issue again.

In the Beginning
  • ·      You have to build your credibility with the community
  • ·      Three pieces of credibility:

o   That you are on their side
o   That you have ideas and know how to change things
o   That you are a winner
  • ·      They have to believe in your courage and your competence
  • ·      Instill a determination that together you will be victorious
  • ·      The have-nots tend to look to the haves and be submissive towards them believing they have “something special.”
  • ·      As a radical, getting denounced by the mainstream institution gives credibility (NB: Trump used this to cast himself as an outside…even though he is an insider’s insider as far as having bribed the system mercilessly for years went).
  • ·      You have to be invited by some sector before you begin organizing
  • ·      A huge part of the problem in the beginning is that the “masses” often do not know what they want. 
  • ·      “One of the great problems in the beginning of an organization is, often, that the people do not know what they want.  Discovering this stirs up, in the organizer, that inner doubt shared by so many, whether the masses of people are competent to make decisions for a democractic society.  It is the schizophrenia of a free society that we outwardly espouse faith I the people but inwardly have strong doubts whether the people can be trusted.  These reservations can destroy the effectiveness of the most creative and talented organizer.” P. 104
  • ·      “The issue that is not clear to organizers, missionaries, educators, or any outsider, is simply that if people feel they don’t have the power to change a bad situation, then they do not think about it.” 105
  • ·      Uses the Socratic method a lot.  Asking leading questions.  That is a skill that I need to work on more. ***  I love it but I’m rusty.
  • ·      The first thing that has to happen is that they have to begin to have confidence that they can change things for the better, and then they will start thinking.  That is where you see that the faith is not misplaced. 
  • ·      The resolution of one problem will bring on another problem.  The organizer knows this, but doesn’t necessarily speak it.  It is important not to allow people to fall into feelings of futility.
  • ·       “In the early days the organizer moves out front in any situation of risk where the power of the establishment can get someone’s job, call in an overdue payment, or any other form of retaliation, partly because these dangers would cause many local people to back of from conflict.  Here the organizer serves as a protective shield: if anything goes wrong it is all his fault, he has the responsibility.  If they are successful all credit goes to the local people.” 107
  • ·      As the organization matures, more people step out front and take risks.
  • ·      One of the main shadows that has to be faced is fear of the new.  So…draping new ideas in the vestiges or language of past ideas can make it less frightening.
  • ·      Must understand group rationalizations that get in the way…and break through them.  “Learn to search out the rationalizations, treat them as rationalizations, and break through. Do not make the mistake of locking yourself up in conflict with them as though they were the issues or problems with which you are trying to engage the local people.” 112
  • ·      FIRST STEPS are all about building the power base.  You do not confront anything until you have built the power base.  The entire goal at that point is to build the numbers.  So, if small victories will build numbers…that’s what you go for.  If small losses will increase the numbers, then you lose.  Everything is about building numbers and consolidating the power base.
  • ·      Functions of an organizer: analyzes, attacks, disrupts the prevailing power pattern
  • ·      “All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new.” 116
  • ·      “No one can negotiate without the power to compel negotiations.”
  • ·      In the beginning, the organizer’s job is to define the problems.  Need to take the “bad scene” and break it up into the issues that can be addressed.
  • ·      “The organization is born out of the issues and the issues are born out of the organization.” 120
  • ·      “community” = community interests not physical community
  • ·      Posits that “the dignity of the individual” should be the guidestar.  NB: I need to think about that.
  • ·       Education is not propaganda.  “Real education is the means by which the membership will begin to make sense out of their relationship as individuals to the organization and to the world they live in, so that they can make informed and intelligent judgments.” 124

  • ·      Tactics = doing what you can with what you have
  • ·      If you have enough people, then make yourselves visible.  If you do not have as many, then don’t let them see your actual numbers, but make enough noise that they will infer more people.  Too few than that?  Stink up the place.
  • ·      Power is not only what you have, but what your opponent thinks you have. P. 127
  • ·      Don’t go outside the experience of your people
  • ·      Try to go outside the experience of your enemy
  • ·      Power is derived from two main sources – people and money
  • ·      Make your enemy live up to their own book of rules (NB: so for fundamentalists - call them on the way in which they are breaking their own rules..make their hypocrisy visible)
  • ·      Ridicule is a very potent weapon
  • ·      Tactics must be enjoyable to the people doing them
  • ·      Tactics that drag on to long become a drag
  • ·      Keep the pressure on with different tactics and actions
  • ·      The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself
  • ·      The  major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
  • ·      Unceasing pressure that causes reactions from the opponents that wins the campaign
  • ·      If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counter-side
  • ·      The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative (in other words…BE ready for exactly what you want if they cave).
  • ·      Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it (don’t let the buck get passed…you’ve got to lock it down)
  • ·      Choosing and ACTING is what is essential
  • ·      Laughing at the enemy is pretty well guaranteed to get a reaction
  • ·      Threatening a tactic is the same as any other situation of deterrence…you must have both the capability and the credibility. 
  • ·      Any attack on the status quo must use the strength of the enemy against itself
  • ·      Being jailed as a leader: shakes up the status quo; strengthens leaders by giving them an air of martyrdom; deepens identification since the leader has shown the have-nots that they are willing to go to prison for them; needs to be for something that will only have jail time of overnight to two months; use the time to reflect on vision and philosophy
  • ·      Again…conflicts that drag on too long become challenging.
  • ·      Interesting tactic about banks.  Get a ton of people to descend on a bank and open an account with virtually no money in it.  Return a week later and close the account.  All of that ties up their employees and their paperwork.
  • ·      But the point is that once the tactics are deployed a couple of times…they figure out how to do countertactics. 

The Genesis of Tactic Proxy
  • ·      Tactic comes out of the free flow of action and reaction more than reasoned analysis
  • ·      Basically when you realize that something that you are planning has potential symbolic meaning.  Such as, for example, when he set up a public action on July 14th because it was the day he could get the permits and then realized it was Bastille Day and claimed it so that it suddenly looked like that was part of the plan.
  • ·      You often choose the tactics as they come up, but then you create your reasons around them.
  • ·      Originally it actually was about asking people to assign their proxy votes as shareholders to an organization that was in a civil rights battle.
  • ·      Trying to organize people to actually attend the shareholder meeting.  The reason being that if you can manage to get thousands of shareholders in, even if there is just a single person representing the majority of shareholders…the optics are terrible.
  • ·      Emphasizing the importance of the middle class to actually show up to shareholders meetings – make them have the announcement of their policies that doesn’t get hidden and tapped down.  (NB; we could use social media effectively here, I think.)
  • ·      “I suggest that America’s corporations are a spiritual slum, and their arrogance is the major threat to our future as a free society.” 182-183

The Way Ahead
  • ·      Organizing has to take place in the middle class
  • ·      There is a split between the upper middle class and the lower middle class…the lower middle class tends towards chauvinism and the upper and middle middle classes tend to assume a liberal, democratic, holier-than-thou position.
  • ·      So, the problem is that if the upper and middle of the middle don’t win the lower, they will go really reactionary.  “People must be ‘reformed” – so that they cannot be deformed into dependency and driven through desperation to dictatorship and the death of freedom…. Their fears and frustrations at their helplessness are mounting to a point of a political paranoia which can demonize people to turn to the law of survival in the narrowest sense.  These emotions can go either to the far right of totalitarianism or forward to Act II of the American Revolution.” 189-190
  • ·      “The human cry of the second revolution is one for a meaning, a purpose of life—a cause to live for and if need be to die for.” 196
  • ·      “The great American dream that we reached out to the stars has been lost to the stripes.  We have forgotten where we came from, we don’t know where we are, and we fear where we may be going.  Afraid, we turn from the glorious adventure of the pursuit of happiness to a pursuit of an illusionary security in an ordered, stratified, striped society.  Our way of life is symbolized to the world by the stripes of military force.  At home we have made a mockery of being our brother’s keeper by being his jail keeper.  When Americans can no longer see the stars, the times are tragic.  We must believe that it is the darkness before the dawn of a beautiful new world; we will see it when we believe it.” 196