Friday, July 14, 2017

Direct Action by L.A. Kaufman: Forthcoming Review

After I finish reading Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism by L.A. Kaufman, I’ll post a review of it in a week or so. Despite some differences of opinion with the author, I consider it a valuable book. If you read it between now and then, we could compare notes. One option would be for you to write your comments before reading mine. Then we could share independent reactions.

The release of her book by Verso prompted Rolling Stone to publish an interview with her titled, “How to Take Action – and Stay Sane – in the Trump Era.” The sub-title was “'Direct Action' author L.A. Kauffman discusses how to get motivated and fight burnout, and why "protest works."

Five of the six customer reviews on Amazon give it five stars. NPR also reviewed the book.

Verso’s description of the book reads as follows:

A longtime movement insider's powerful account of the origins of today's protest movements and what they can achieve now
As Americans take to the streets in record numbers to resist the presidency of Donald Trump, L.A. Kauffman’s timely, trenchant history of protest offers unique insights into how past movements have won victories in times of crisis and backlash and how they can be most effective today.
This deeply researched account, twenty-five years in the making, traces the evolution of disruptive protest since the Sixties to tell a larger story about the reshaping of the American left. Kauffman, a longtime grassroots organizer, examines how movements from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used disruptive tactics to catalyze change despite long odds.
Kauffman's lively and elegant history is propelled by hundreds of candid interviews conducted over a span of decades. Direct Action showcases the voices of key players in an array of movements – environmentalist, anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, feminist, LGBTQ, anti-globalization, racial-justice, anti-war, and more – across an era when American politics shifted to the right, and a constellation of decentralized issue- and identity-based movements supplanted the older ideal of a single, unified left.
Now, as protest movements again take on a central and urgent political role, Kauffman’s history offers both striking lessons for the current moment and an unparalleled overview of the landscape of recent activism. Written with nuance and humor, Direct Action is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the protest movements of our time.

Verso’s biography of the author is:

L.A. Kauffman has spent more than thirty years immersed in radical movements as a participant, strategist, journalist, and observer. She has been called a “virtuoso organizer” by journalist Scott Sherman for her role in saving community gardens and public libraries in New York City from development. Kauffman coordinated the grassroots mobilizing efforts for the huge protests against the Iraq war in 2003–04. Her writings on American radicalism and social movement history have been published in The Nation, n+1, The Baffler, and many other outlets.

Consider checking it out. I look forward to evaluating it, hopefully with some of you.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Words, Harm, Blame, and Splintering



by Wade Hudson Tikkun Daily
July 10, 2017

[Jesus] recognized with authentic realism that anyone who permits another to determine the quality of his inner life gives into the hands of the other the key to his destiny. If a man knows precisely what he can do to you or what epithet he can hurl against you in order to make you lose your temper, your equilibrium, then he can always keep you under subjection.
--Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman

Cruel words can trigger hurt feelings and anger. Individuals who speak those words need to be held accountable and we need to reduce their frequency. But a compassionate response avoids blaming only the speaker. Listeners share responsibility for their reactions, and social conditioning and other factors contribute as well.

The Dalai Lama said:

You have to think: Why did this happen? This person is not your enemy from birth…. You see that this person’s actions are due to their own destructive emotions. You can develop a sense of concern, compassion, even feel sorry for their pain and suffering.

Words do not directly cause harm like a hammer causes pain when it hits my thumb. Cause and effect is a linear dynamic; emotions are immersed in a holistic system. Words contribute to hurt feelings, but how I process what others say is another factor. I am partly responsible for how I respond. I can learn how to react differently.

So I no longer tell people, “You hurt me.” That phrase shifts all responsibility onto the speaker.

It can be more constructive to say, “When you said X, I felt Y.” In that case, the focus is on a single action. That makes it easier to acknowledge a mistake and resolve not to repeat it, which can help heal the relationship.

On the other hand, “You hurt me” focuses on the other. As such, it can be seen as a personal attack, a challenge to who you are at your core. That can make the exchange more heated and lead to a reciprocal, escalating blame game with each party accusing the other, which often degenerates into ad hominem name-calling.

One result is personal fragility. People become less likely to speak honestly, because they’re afraid they will cause harm or be accused of causing harm. That fear gives power to people who are prone to charge, “You hurt me.” Those accusers can then try to manipulate the speaker with guilt trips.

“You hurt me” is like charging a felony rather than an infraction. When “defendants” plead “not guilty” to that felony, “prosecutors” often punish, shun, or excommunicate them. As a result, former allies often splinter over disagreements about tactics.

Faced with that harshly judgmental dynamic, many potential allies withdraw from social engagement and operate in a safer environment with a small circle of friends, which reinforces the splintering.

America’s highly individualistic culture exaggerates the responsibility of individuals. But the primary problem is the System, which includes our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals. A kind response to mean words takes into account that reality.

I wish I were not so easily offended. I wish others were not so easily offended. I wish that like-minded people did not divide so easily into factions. After all, we need community, not fragmentation.

Blaming individuals diverts energy away from organizing to change institutions and policies. More compassion and less blaming could help nurture a broad-based movement to transform the United States into a supportive community that would enable you, me, and everyone to be all we can be.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

The Backfire Effect

Dear Subscriber: I very much appreciate the connection we’ve had via Wade’s Weekly. The interest, feedback, and support you’ve shown have been very helpful. I hope we stay in touch. To continue receiving my posts, please subscribe to Wade’s Wire on the homepage.

This is my latest post there: "The Backfire Effect."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wade’s Journal - May 18, 2017

Now that I’m retired from cab driving, I’m more relaxed and look forward to a fruitful future.

My 50-year-old commitment to help organize “communities of faith, love, and action” remains intact. The language we’ve used to articulate the “faith” part has changed over time, but the spirit has not. For the first 20 years or so following that commitment, the spiritual values behind my work were implicit -- until I decided to make those beliefs explicit. Since then I’ve stumbled along: researching, going to workshops, convening workshops, writing, talking, planting seeds, and looking for an open-hearted, compassionate, holistic community to join.

Now I think I’ve found one: Thrive East Bay, a community that’s led primarily -- in a very non-hierarchical, “flat” fashion -- by young people. As is the case with so many young people these days, the members of that community amaze me. They seem far more advanced than my peers and I were at that age. It definitely gives me hope for the future. The Thrive East Bay people I’ve gotten to know a bit personally have been impressive and highly committed to social transformation.

More than a year ago, I met the Thrive East Bay organizer, Joshua Gorman, at a workshop that he and I attended which was convened by the Center for Spiritual and Social Transformation (now the Ignite Institute). He invited the participants to an event sponsored by Generation Waking Up, a project that provides training, mentoring, and support to young people to help “bring forth a thriving, just, and sustainable world.” That event, which was open to people of all ages and whose participants were a diverse mix, was remarkably inspiring. It included poetry, music, and personal sharing from the stage as well as among the audience, who at times milled about and paired up to interact.

When Thrive East Bay began not long afterwards, I went to their first public event, which was held in a Lake Merritt apartment with about 20 people squeezed in. A similar format was employed and I again found it to be invigorating. But my working full-time interfered with sustained involvement.

After returning to one of their events last week, I’m heartened by their growth. And now that I’m free, I plan to participate fully once I return from visiting folks in Seattle and on the East Coast during the next several weeks.

The Thrive East Bay website homepage identifies the group as “a new kind of community” dedicated to “connect, grow, transform.” The About page states:

Thrive East Bay is a purpose-driven community of people committed to creating a flourishing world for all.

We are a new kind of community offering a relevant space for diverse people seeking meaning and connection in our rapidly changing world. Informed by modern science and ancient wisdom, our culture is both secular and spiritual, infused with a deep sense of purpose and interconnectedness, inspired by the arts, and focused on social change.

We welcome people of all ages and backgrounds as we engage in personal growth, shared learning, and collective action.

We host regular Sunday events, small group circles, workshops, and training courses in the Oakland, Berkeley, and wider San Francisco Bay Area.

We are inspired by the following core principles that guide our community:
  1. Thriving Lives - We support each other in overcoming personal challenges and injustice, and creating healthy lives filled with purpose, joy, and expression.
  2. Love In Action - We let love guide us toward compassion, gratitude, empathy, and community amongst diverse groups of people.
  3. Shared Learning & Practice - We seek to deepen our understanding of the world through conversation and critical inquiry, and to grow together through transformative practices and action.
  4. Systemic Change - We unite to build equitable systems where we can flourish as individuals, as communities, and as a planet.

I particularly relate to the fact that they identify “support each other” at the head of their first core principle. I also respond to the fact that in that principle they affirm “overcoming personal challenges,” which suggests a commitment to self-examination. I anticipate exploring with them whether and how they believe that effort includes “modifying harmful social conditioning,” a key concern of mine recently.

I’m also eager to participate in the “Holistic Movement Building” workshop with Kazu Haga and Sonya Shah June 26-29, which aims to

harness the power to change policies and institutions while cultivating the love it will take to transform relationships…. How do we dismantle systems of oppression without replicating those same patterns in our own relationships? How do we heal our wounds while transforming the systems that perpetuate them? How do we better cultivate the relationship between inner and outer transformation?

Kazu and I have had some rich interaction concerning those issues. I’m very encouraged to see that he, Joshua, and others are keeping the holistic-change fire alive!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

“Reactance” and How to Talk

Dear Subscriber: I very much appreciate the connection we’ve had via Wade’s Weekly. The interest, feedback, and support you’ve shown have been very helpful. I hope we can stay in touch. To continue receiving my posts, please subscribe to Wade’s Wire on the homepage.

This is my latest post there: “Reactance” and How to Talk

Monday, May 15, 2017

Moving to Wade's Wire (first notice)

Soon I will no longer be posting here but will only be posting to Wade's Wire, generally relatively short pieces (800 words or so) 3-5 times per week.

To receive those posts via email, visit the home page at http://www.wadeswire.org/, enter your email address in the Subscribe box at the top left, and click Subscribe.

I just posted there "Peter Coyote, Change, and Transformation."


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

“My Bottom Line” Revisited

Facebook just told me that five years ago today I posted “My Bottom Line.” On the one hand, I am disappointed that I'm still seeking the kind of holistic community described in that essay. On the other hand, I am encouraged by various recent efforts to nurture such growth, including invitations that I received today from two allies with whom I have engaged in rich dialog about these matters.


The first invitation was from Kazu Haga, founder of the East Bay Peace Academy. It reads:


Holistic Movement-Building
Tuesday, June 26 - Friday, June 29; 10am-5pm
Taught by Kazu Haga and Sonya Shah


"Power without love is reckless and abusive, while love without power is sentimental and anemic." Dr. King, Gandhi, Chavez and others envisioned a movement that harnesses the power to change policies and institutions while cultivating the love it will take to transform relationships. What does it mean to build holistic movements for justice and healing? How do we build a movement grounded in love without giving up the power and the urgency of now? How do we dismantle systems of oppression without replicating those same patterns in our own relationships? How do we heal our wounds while transforming the systems that perpetuate them? How do we better cultivate the relationship between inner and outer transformation? What do holistic movements for justice and healing look like in terms of real practice and on the ground? This workshop will engage these questions, explore past and current movements, and envision paradigms and practices to build more holistic movements grounded in both justice and healing. This four-day inquiry will interweave theory, discussion, experiential exercises, and a collaborative approach.


Cost $425. For more info, click here.


The second invitation was from Joshua Gorman. It reads:


Join Thrive East Bay for our first monthly 'Root Down' event this coming Sunday as we deepen in community, engage in embodied practice, and nourish ourselves with delicious food and meaningful connections.


Thrive East Bay is a community of people committed to personal and social transformation. We stand together for a world of love, justice, and belonging. Our monthly 'Root Down' events build upon our larger monthly gatherings by providing an opportunity to connect more deeply with inspiring people; to engage in transformative practices that we can carry into our everyday lives; and to share in the power of community in service to a world that works for all.


When: this Sunday, May 7th from 4 - 6pm (please arrive on time!)
Community potluck and connecting from 6 - 7pm


Where: PLACE for Sustainable Living
1121 64th Street
Oakland, CA 94608
(This venue is wheelchair accessible.)


Co-Hosts: Aryeh Shell & Kele Nitoto


Cost: No one will be turned away for lack of funds. There is a suggested sliding scale contribution of $10 - $20 to help us cover our costs. You are invited to contribute what you feel called and are able to.


Potluck: Sharing food together is an essential part of community. Please bring a tasty dish and/or beverage to share with others for the community potluck.


Volunteers: We are seeking volunteers to help with the set-up and break-down of this event. If you are available to arrive early or stay late, let us know at teamATthriveeastbayDOTorg.


Invite a Friend: Please feel free to invite a friend who may value attending.


We look forward to 'rooting down' in community!


In partnership,
the Thrive East Bay Team

As I retire from cab driving, I look forward to having much more time to explore those issues. In particular, I’m interested in finding, helping to create, and publicizing user-friendly methods that activists could use to support one another to modify their counter-productive social conditioning and become more compassionate and effective. My hope is that such methods can be widely replicated, with little or no training required by the participants.