Wednesday, June 14, 2006

On Solidarity

Be warned. I'm not sure that I'd call this an optimistic diary. `Somewhat bleak' might be a better weather forecast.
When I was in high school, a good friend introduced me to Crisis. It was the first comic I ever read. I used to wait for him to get his copy every month so that I could shamelessly borrow it before he'd even finished reading. Before I found Crisis, I had no idea that comics could be something other than super-trashy stories about super-macho heroes and super-scantily-clad screaming (though never ever shrill) women. Shows what little I knew - those were the glorious years of the Hernandez Brothers Love and Rockets series, and Neil Gaiman's Sandman, not to mention his ethereal and utterly remarkable Black Orchid .

I first encountered Pastor Niemoller's famous words on the back of one of those Crisis issues. You all know the ones:


First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.


For a long time I found those words very powerful. If you had asked me why I thought politics mattered, I might well have paraphrased Niemoller. If you asked me what I thought solidarity was, the odds are pretty damn good that I would have pointed you to the back of that comic. "Hang together," I would have said, "Or you will hang separately."

But then I found that all too often, you will hang separately anyway.

I still greatly admire Niemoller. But I've come to harbour some serious doubts about these famous words as a prescription for solidarity. Not recently - my doubts been stewing away quite merrily for some years now. But it would be fair to say that lately they've come bubbling up to the surface again.

At their crudest, Niemoller's words invoke a kind of self-interest. "Defend others," they proclaim, "if you want to be defended in your turn." I am not suggesting that such self-interest is malicious: it's a rare motive that is not mixed. But I think this crude paraphrase offers some clues about why we end up hanging separately.

In our barbed wire world, equality is the rarest of commodities. All of our relations are power relations, predicated on inequality and our efforts to bolster or undermine it. And let me add some bluntness to my earlier crudeness. Those with power often perceive that they can afford to betray those without power, because they don't believe that they'll ever actually be so vulnerable as to require the defence of the powerless. The citizen does not in her heart of hearts believe that she will ever need to hide in the basement of an illegal immigrant. The captain of industry does not imagine that a pauper shall keep him from starvation. In the U.S. and the U.K., the Christian woman does not envision a time when a Muslim woman will shield her from religious persecution. The imperialist does not dream that he shall be saved from subjugation by a colonial subject. And frankly, those perceptions are usually accurate. After all, the ability to betray with personal impunity is an integral part of what having power and privilege is all about.

Interpreted as a prescription for solidarity based on enlightened self-interest, I think Niemoller's words assume an equality that is seldom present. Read more literally, they explain why we too often hang separately.

But I'm not done with Niemoller's words just yet.

I was at a union stewards' meeting soon after the U.S. attacked Iraq. By that time, stewards' meetings had become something I forced myself to attend. Climbing up those stairs to the office/meeting room, I'd feel my mask fall into place. You know the one? The mask you put on because you're going to a place where you know that you are despised because of who you are and what you believe, and you don't want to give the bastards the pleasure of your pain. After four years of sitting in that room of mostly white, mostly U.S. faces, I had learned to keep my mask very firmly in place.

One of the items at the meeting involved a resolution condemning the U.S. invasion. Nothing that would make much practical difference, but a kind of belated `going on record' to express support for anti-war groups in the area. There was a round robin `discussion.' "Unions are not political organisations," one person said. "we should not be endorsing or opposing this sort of thing." Another volunteered that "This won't make any practical difference, so we shouldn't bother talking about it." But the argument that received the most attention went something like "We shouldn't condemn the U.S. invasion of Iraq, because that would show a lack of solidarity with union members who support the invasion."

So where does solidarity end and complicity begin?

And if self-interest, enlightened or not, will not serve as a basis for solidarity, then what can replace it?

Apologia

Another old diary -- this one's from BT, June 10, 2005.

34 Comments:

Blogger catnip said...

I won't pretend that I understand all of the complexities you're alluding to. I can say though that when I posted the poem recently at BT, it was an attempt to jar some people into thinking about the bigger picture - that the Golden Rule has some meaning - even for those of us who are not Christian. It is a universal expression of ethical behaviour. And it was that principle that spurred me to post it.

The principle goes far beyond what might appear to be selfish motives of protecting oneself by defending others just in case you find yourself in need of such defense at some time.

For me, it's an expression of interdependence, inter-connectedness - that what happens to one, happens to all of us (which leans more towards my buddhist beliefs). I was thinking about this last nite in a different context, which I will probably post later today on my blog. While doing so, I was reminded of words I read by Deepak Chopra years ago.

He tried to explain quantum physics (which I am totally ignorant about) in simple terms by guiding the reader in a meditation. He asked that readers focus on their hand and that they then begin to visualize the components - the skin that is composed of cells - the cells that are drawn togethr to form the greater object known as the hand - the pure energy that exists betweens the cells via the neutrons firing off commands. That once the level of pure energy was realized, we could then see how we can never be separate from anything in our universe because that energy is free flowing. If I touch a tree, there is an exchange of energy. If my energy is released into the greater world by touching another person physically, that exchange only identifies the energy. It does not identify whether that person is white or brown or American or Canadian or ill or well...

In that way, I am connected to all.

So, going back to the poem, that is why I see it as an expression not just of solidarity, but as an example of the undeniable fact that we cannot simply separate ourselves from one another based on larger characteristics or definitions or labels such as Jews or communists or trade unionists. We are not just those things. We are the energy that flows between the spaces that bring us together.

(with apologies to Deepak Chopra who stated this with much more eloquence and clarity)

6/14/2006 9:05 pm  
Anonymous Maryb2004 said...

So, Dove, you don’t see Niemoller’s words as a prescription but as a statement of fact. We will not speak up for others (because we see others as others, not as ourselves) even when it is in our own self-interest to do so and therefore we are all doomed. We will all hang separately.

I can see your point but if that’s true why don’t we all just kill ourselves now before we’re hung? If there’s no hope anyway.

I think I prefer Catnip’s idea that Niemoller’s words should spur us to look at the bigger picture. Yes, we have a self-interest in creating a world where everyone is safe because then WE will be safe; but we also should do it because we are all one. Whether that is apparent from our outward forms or not.

I agree with Catnip on our interdependence. I’m no longer much of a Christian but when I think of people as children of god, I too think of us all being connected by the energy that physicists tell us bind our bodies together and bind the universe together. So when the greatest commandment is followed by “love your neighbor as yourself” it makes a lot of sense since our neighbor is, essentially, our self. And, like Catnip (I think), the Niemoller poem to me is a reminder that if we try to treat others as other and allow those others to be destroyed, we end up destroying ourselves. It is a reminder of our essential oneness, not our separate self-interestedness.

All of which sounds grand. But personally I’m terrible at loving my neighbor as myself.

6/14/2006 10:24 pm  
Blogger catnip said...

All of which sounds grand. But personally I’m terrible at loving my neighbor as myself.

I just had a serious bout of self-loathing. After writing what I did, I soaked in the tub and continued reading a bio of Gandhi.

That I refuse to forego the sense of ego gratification that comes with chastising or humiliating others in my writings (such as political opponents) - that I choose to surrender my humility in some cases, definitely disturbs me. 'When you know better, you do better' as Maya Angelou says.

6/14/2006 11:19 pm  
Blogger dove said...

OK -- first of all, let me say that I am glad we are still talking.

In terms of complexities, catnip, I’d reinforce that this post above was something I wrote a year ago. In other words, while I think it is related to what you wrote, it is not a direct response to any of your posts per se. But it is true that my thinking on Niemoller hasn't changed particularly in that time.

Niemoller's words are morally powerful - there's no doubt about it. That's why they they get reworked, it's why they are so well-known: they resonate with people, they strike a chord, they make people think. Certainly they did me.

Even if, as I do, one reads this excerpt of Niemoller's writing as an expression of enlightened self-interest, that 'enlightened' -- that pursuit of a long-term goal which acknowledges the existence of others rather than a short-term goal which does not -- is important. I don't think it suffices as a prescription for solidarity: that does not however mean I think it without value.

And as you point out, mine is not the only possible reading of Niemoller. For what it's worth, that idea of interdependence that you link to Niemoller (that what happens to one, happens to all) is something I think of in terms of the slogan "an injury to one is an injury to all." So we might wrap different words around it, but I suspect the 'it' we are thinking of may not be so dissimilar.

But 'an injury to one is an injury to all' ends up with problems too -- at least when it comes to implementation because questions inevitably arise about 'who decides what counts as an injury?' and 'who is included in that 'all'? I think that all too often those questions are resolved in ways that favour those who are relatively powerful and relatively privileged, over those who are relatively powerless.

That's why, I think it important to look fairly systematically and cold-heartedly at the ways in which power relations and inequalities separate us, at the ways in which they make us untrustworthy to each other, both in the world generally and in our activism – because so often they do. And by that, I mean looking at the ways in which we are complicit in maintaining and benefiting (at least materially) from oppressive power (as well as the ways in which we may experience oppression, which I think are often easier to examine in some ways, at least) and then looking – again, systematically and cold-heartedly – for ways to undermine that. And I think the barriers are real, albeit made: a lot of effort went into making them and naturalising them and it will take a lot of effort to dismantle them.

6/15/2006 8:17 am  
Blogger dove said...

Hi Maryb2004,

Touche. I'm going to have to delay replying substantively until tonight. However, it's true that when I look around the world, an awful lot of what I see is people hanging separately -- and being hung out to dry. And it's also true that I am not particularly hopeful.
Sorry -- I'm going to have to leave the substantive stuff until tonight.

6/15/2006 8:56 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

I read this the first time you posted it, dove, at BT (I was surprised to see I commented on it, though!).

Then, and now, I see it not so much as being bleak or not optimistic, but more as a diagnosis. Niemoller's saying is justly famous, well regarded and widely quoted... the principles of solidarity, self interested or no, are ones that should be aspired to. Thing is, he wrote it after not having spoken out about this or that thing (and actually, from what I understand, actively encouraging some of the policies), until it directly affected him or what he held dear. What he did after he wrote the poem, I have no clue.

This, of course, is exactly the point... that people should indeed speak out about this or that injustice even if it never does directly affect them. Thing is, many don't. Or, if they do speak out, it's not with the same fervor that they would if the wolf was at their own gates.

So, the most important part, to me, of your article was this:

And if self-interest, enlightened or not, will not serve as a basis for solidarity, then what can replace it?

It may be that I'm just a natural "fixer" or something but, as I was trying to point out in the comments about immigration and black people and solidarity and so on... it does no good at all to tell people they shouldn't feel what they are feeling... what we need to do next acknowledge the issues that are there and work out a way to reach people where they are, not where we wish them to be.

I don't know what can replace self interest as a basis for solidarity... I think, at the core, that that sort of thing is too um... utilitarian or something to be an actual basis for true solidarity. You've also mentioned the problems of an injury to one is an injury to all.

I think the reason neither of those work is because, as you also pointed out, that simply isn't the case (in practical, materialistic terms) for a great number of people. They are fully able to continue to live their lives in comfort (or discomfort) even if their neighbor falls by the wayside, so in their minds there may be no real reason for any beyond a limited amount of solidarity, if that.

So, then what? Heck if I know... I believe MitM has a germ of an idea, in his diaries on myths and stories and catnip with the interconnectedness. I believe others have also parts and pieces, including famous historical figures such as Gandhi and King, and the ones they absorbed the ideas from.

What covers it all, though? I had this conversation with a brilliant man some time back, about starting new social movements... he was of the opinion that both the leader(s) and the overall, overarching theme came after the movements began. I was (and am) of the opinion that the theme needs to come first, and that there should be many leaders (much more difficult to just kill a movement by killing the leader that way).

Well, I don't know if I've helped further the conversation or not ;) especially as I am not sure what is needed myself, except that I think it needs to be bigger than self interest, more inspiring and fun and compelling than solidarity, and more complete (inside and outside) than political, ideological, and many religious philosophies.

There, that's not so difficult, is it?

6/15/2006 8:22 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

Oh, and on solidarity and complicity.. . I think the time is coming when people, especially those affiliated with or spinoffs from the corporate blogs, are going to be facing that question over the next few months (and years).

6/15/2006 8:26 pm  
Blogger thepoetryman said...

I think the bigger problem is hanging ourselves. An act of asymmetric self-annihilation, if you will.

6/15/2006 8:46 pm  
Blogger catnip said...

Oh, and on solidarity and complicity.. . I think the time is coming when people, especially those affiliated with or spinoffs from the corporate blogs, are going to be facing that question over the next few months (and years).

I think that time is already here. It seems to be a very quiet voice at times, but it is there.

dove,
I understand (I think) about your concern about moving from the ideological to the practical. As I wrote over at my place, I'm a simple person and what I aspire to is applying my principles to all and that is a very difficult task. But, it's not impossible, as those who inspire me have done so and continue to do so.

I must often surrender to the fact that I am severely limited in my impact but that shouldn't stop me from what I actually can do - despite the realistic complexities involved.

I mean looking at the ways in which we are complicit in maintaining and benefiting (at least materially) from oppressive power (as well as the ways in which we may experience oppression, which I think are often easier to examine in some ways, at least) and then looking – again, systematically and cold-heartedly – for ways to undermine that.

I don't look at it in a cold-hearted way nor do I think that's necessary because my motives for the 'undermining' come from my heart - my concern for those caught in the power struggle.

Perhaps that's where we differ?

6/15/2006 11:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From poco:

thepoetryman, the utterly inconceivable, marvellous, and fantastic effect of hanging ourselves is that the US suddenly becomes a victim of this assymeteric warfare. Who'd've thunk it?

Sorry guys, too much bad taste in my mouth re the recent news for me to pen anything remotely resembling a reasonable comment..

6/16/2006 4:29 am  
Blogger dove said...

Well – I ended up leaving the substantive stuff until not ‘tonight’ but for substantially longer – so my apologies for that. Partly that’s because I had a promise to keep which I had been breaking for too long and partly it’s because it took me much longer to write in response than I had expected.

Fortunately Nanette, with her usual brilliance and incision, has said so much of what needed saying: to wit,

“it does no good at all to tell people they shouldn't feel what they are feeling... what we need to do next acknowledge the issues that are there and work out a way to reach people where they are, not where we wish them to be…”

Nanette – I hope that in offline life you are a union organiser as well as a superb writer and graphic artist. Because if not, the U.S. trade union movement is missing out.

And yes, this “And if self-interest, enlightened or not, will not serve as a basis for solidarity, then what can replace it?” is the central question.

Despite Nanette having really said what needs saying, I’m still going to blather on for a bit.

I’m not saying solidarity doesn’t exist. I know damn well that it does. Oddly enough, its existence is one of a very few things about which I am left in absolutely no doubt. I’ve seen it once, I know the warmth it gives. But “how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff ‘tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn.”

And learning that – how to come by it, what it is made of, where it is born – is what I’ve been trying to do.

I’ll stand by what I’ve said about Niemoller’s words elsewhere: I read him as making an appeal to enlightened self-interest which fails primarily because it assumes that we approach each other in a state of equality. And we do not.

Many of us will have seen that inglorious political equivalent to the sack-race at the school fair: the 500m dash to the centre. Over and over in that race – regardless of where it is played out – the needs and interests of the relatively powerless get dropped in hopes of winning that race. Usually with sincere promises to wait, be patient, ‘we shall come back and pick up what we dropped later on, once we have won the race.’ But as the Queen said to Alice, “The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam to-day.” ‘Jam tomorrow’ is one of the reasons I’m wary of being overly hopeful: a lot of people get screwed over in hopes of ‘jam tomorrow.’

If alternatively, we read him as saying something along the lines of “we are all connected” or ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ – well yes, that is much preferable but it is still important to understand that sooner or later – to use a very gentle metaphor – we will most likely find ourselves in a room with people who simply do not (and perhaps never will) consider us, or those whom we love to be part of that all which is in fact susceptible to injury. Certainly a failure to understand that from the outset is not without its physical and emotional risks.

Let me try and be clear

I need to see plainly what is the case: not what I wish was the case, however desperate that wish might be.

I may want everyone to be interconnected and interdependent, but the fact is that I live in a world where Unicef bombs the Smurfs, ( video link ) because as myriad pointed out

"In test showings, the sight of beloved cartoon characters killed by bombs proved far more effective than similar images from the real world at sending UNICEF's anti-war message"

In a world where we were all interconnected and interdependent, this would not be true. But we do not live in that world.

The reason I need to see ‘what is’ rather than what I would wish – is that if I don’t see clearly ‘what is,’ if I don’t look at those places where the connections have failed and arrive at some understanding of why they have failed, then how can I begin to work out how they might be reconstructed?

I said earlier that I have no doubt that solidarity exists. And I don’t doubt – I can’t – because I’ve been fortunate enough to experience it. It has hugely transformative power. What I don’t have a clear grasp of is how I was fortunate enough to get there on that occasion. But having chewed on this like a dog on a bone for a while now, there are maybe a couple of things I think I can say about it. Right now, anyway. It’s possible that I’ll think differently on it later.

The first is that what pulled that particular ‘us’ – and it was a small ‘us’ – into solidarity was not a shared identity or shared experience (in fact, there was no single aspect of either that we all had in common) but some shared political commitments. The commitments came before the solidarity. Being in solidarity only started to happen as ‘we’ went along, as ‘we’ began to have reason to believe that ‘we’ were not going to betray our political commitments even if doing so became expedient. We did not start from a place of mutual trust: eventually we were fortunate enough to arrive there. Once we did have that confidence in each other, we managed to accomplish some things I had not thought possible. I certainly don’t want to imply that ours was some hugely significant fight: it wasn’t – it was just one of those sordid little struggles that goes on all over the place. But that confidence, that trust, that solidarity, was both something that we could not do without and it was also something that we could not contrive, by fiat or desire.

The second thing is something ‘we’ did, which in retrospect I think was both unusual and crucial: ‘we’ didn’t try to pretend we were ‘all the same.’ We did not pretend that we approached each other or the world on an equal footing. We talked about the fact that we stood in different relations to power and what that meant, in terms of our asymmetric ability to betray each other (put bluntly, some of us, including me, had the option of making that lightning dash for the centre and some of us did not). We also talked about the ways in which our different subject positions meant we were likely to be interpreted differently when we engaged with that wider context in which we were working. Incessantly. Eye? Meet navel. Absolutely. But oddly enough, making those things explicit made them less powerful, it made those potential betrayals less probable, and it made solidarity more possible. I think, anyway. At least we had a shared understanding of what was going on. And given that some of the stuff going on around us in that wider context was something one of us accurately described as ‘crazy-making,’ that was probably no bad thing.

I’m not saying we all sat down and had lots of long formal conversations about these issues, but we did discuss it explicitly, often, as we were going about our work or in scraps of time between things that needed doing. But we had a strong need to make sense of what was going on, both within the wider context that we were working and within that ‘us.’

On a slight tangent -- catnip – regarding your question. I think that’s something for you to decide about, really – whether you think my concerns and motives are heartfelt, I mean. Obviously I have an opinion about the subject (which is that my concerns and motives come from both head and heart, the former being moderately analytical most of the time, the latter being moderately numb most of the time), but that’s just my opinion – it doesn’t mean it’s right. I think people often have at best a murky understanding of the motives for their actions and I’d not exempt myself from that.

6/17/2006 4:23 pm  
Blogger dove said...

hey poco,

yes, suicide is an 'asymmetrical act of warfare', terrorising families and shooting unarmed men in their hallways is 'keeping the public safe' and the Sultan of Brunei has apparently presented Bush with a copy of "The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook"

There is nothing reasonable left to say.

(Another tangent: I have no idea why my links did not go in properly in that last monstrosity of a post. The two things I tried to link to were:

video link of smurfs and myriad's diary

6/17/2006 4:35 pm  
Blogger thepoetryman said...

poco,

"thepoetryman, the utterly inconceivable, marvellous, and fantastic effect of hanging ourselves is that the US suddenly becomes a victim of this assymeteric warfare. Who'd've thunk it?"

I for one would have thunk it. I'd imagine a majority of the country would have thunk it and even more if many had not had their head so far up fears pipe!

Asymmetric warfare is bs... Pure and simple. logic mathematics used to describe a relation between two things where the first has a relation to the second, but the second cannot have the same relation to the first..... Thinking along the lines of this mathematical principle it is evident that it is just doublespeak for Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It is ludicrous on its face.

6/17/2006 8:45 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

I'm not anything at all like any of that in offline life, dove, I'm afraid ;). I take care of my old, ill mom and do stuff online and think a lot of (mostly useless) thoughts, and that's about it ;).

Oh, and write things in my head, half of which I never put on paper. I bought a small cassette recorder recently, thinking maybe I could speak the stuff out... not so far, though.

I need to see plainly what is the case: not what I wish was the case, however desperate that wish might be.

But oddly enough, making those things explicit made them less powerful, it made those potential betrayals less probable, and it made solidarity more possible.

The entire post was good, and explained very well the issues, and solidarity, but these two things caught my eye. Especially the word explicit.

I am not sure where I'm going with this, but I've been thinking of (and almost writing about) sanctuary lately, in regards to immigrants and refugees and others. And the betrayal of that sanctuary, especially for fleeing torture victims.

And the necessity of building, from the ground up, a solidarity among very distrustful, betrayed people... not only immigrants but native born. Of all types and in many places. For those that believed the promises of movements of times past, and those who believed the fairy tales countries tell about themselves and others.

And how, in order to build this, and to have this trust, there is the necessity of being very explicit in words, promises, and possible future betrayals.

That's not quite what I want to say, I don't think... but while I think there should be an overarching theme, I also believe that the time for catchy phrases and platitudes is long past. That things need to be very clear, very concise, very explicit, very truthful... sort of like those chimes across the water.

Hmmm... still not quite it, but that's the gist. Will see if I can add more clarity tomorrow ;)

6/21/2006 4:36 am  
Blogger dove said...

Put more of it on paper Nanette. Get it out of your head and onto the screen: you have things to say that need hearing.

How do we build that -- yes, I think being explicit helps. At the least, what our navel gazing did was put us in a position where we couldn't betray ourselves or each other and then claim to have done it 'by mistake,' by 'not realising.'

Thinking on a bit more -- one of the core problems (at least as I see it) is that it's so often easier for a relatively powerless group to get what they want at the expense of an even more powerless group than at the expense of a more powerful group.

I have a couple of thoughts on this, which tend in very different directions.

The first is that we need to 'map the margins.' I'm thinking of something Kimberle Crenshaw wrote
Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence against Women of Colour

What happens when we look at the places where two relatively (though not absolutely) powerless groups intersect?

So in the case of the (real) concern shannika and MLAC were expressing, that gains for Meso-American immigrants would be at the expense of African-Americans --what happens if we look at, for example, the needs of families that are both Meso-American and African-American -- that have it in their hands both ways, whether through dual heritage or through whom they've chosen to live with and love. If the needs of those in such families/partnerships/relations are placed front and centre -- if they provide a kind of focal point -- does it then become harder for the kind of betrayal we've been talking about elsewhere to take place?

The other thing I find myself thinking about is game theory -- horribly utilitarian, but I think there is some stuff to be gleaned from it -- to some extent I think the situation prospective coalition partners find themselves in is similar to that of the 'prisoner's dilemma.'

But yes -- absolutely it needs to be explicit. And it needs to recognise that there's no point in just asking people to 'learn to be more trusting.' Having been told that myself from time to time, one might as well ask somebody to learn how to fly to the moon -- at least in the absence of specifics, tangible evidence of commitment. We need to be asking 'How can you trust me?" I think, rather than assuming we have a right to be trusted.

And making clear the connections between different issues I think, generally: for example, that wall they're building to keep immigrants
out can just as easily be used to keep USun's in.

Anywy -- I'm rambling again. What do you think?

6/21/2006 11:08 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

I'm way too tired to write anything very coherent, but I just want to jot down some notes, so to speak. So I don't lose the thought.

what happens if we look at, for example, the needs of families that are both Meso-American and African-American --

If the needs of those in such families/partnerships/relations are placed front and centre -- if they provide a kind of focal point -- does it then become harder for the kind of betrayal we've been talking about elsewhere to take place?


I am not sure, but I don't think so. For one thing, I don't think there are all that many that would fit that description, although there are Meso-Americans who are of African descent. Many don't want to be associated with the Black American experience, or to be thought of as such.

We need to be asking 'How can you trust me?" I think, rather than assuming we have a right to be trusted.

I think this is key. Not only for black Americans, but for the poor whites, for poorer women, and for so many others. None of us will get where we need to go without the others, but asking what would allow people to trust us and each other, and listening to what is rather than what we want to hear, might be a good start.

I'll try and expand on this and other points - darn, I have almost a thought on the solidarity angle, and the Neimoller poem, only it needs to be turned around. The poem, that is... or rather, the um.. something. Self interest. Man... (notes) it's not because if you don't speak for them they'll come for you (although that is part of it). No ifs...

Oh well, it'll come to me. Or not ;)

I think the "fenced in" thing is a good mental and visual image, for that proposed wall.. and one that just may work on the US side, as we love to think of ourselves as free to roam, or to get into our gas guzzling SUV and just take off into the sunset. Til you hit the wall that is.

6/22/2006 4:30 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

I think one thing I was trying to get a hold of, or at least trying to articulate, is the quid pro quo factor and if it's any good. "I'll stand up for you if you stand up for me, otherwise we'll hang separately" or whatever.

I think that, by removing the "if", and just somehow getting across "I'll stand up for you." full stop, that might go a long way towards building trust. It seems to me that the "if", the sort of horsetrading type utilitarian feel of you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours allows for the entrance of cynicism and also betrayal. Or feeling a sense of betrayal, I guess, even if there really isn't one. Something catnip said somewhere is sort of reflective of this, I think.

Anyway, I was thinking of the concepts of the ACLU or Amnesty International, both of which have sort of that philosophy (although about different matters), even if it's possible that they sometimes fail in application, no doubt partially because the need is so huge and they must choose their battles. And they do have "if's" ... if you are oppressed or if you have a constitutional claim or whatever. But still, I think the general idea of "I'll stand up for you" full stop can be applied somewhat.

Am not sure if this thought is going anywhere, lol.

6/22/2006 8:02 pm  
Blogger dove said...

I think it does -- get rid of that 'if' and I think things start to look more promising.

There's still something we need to get at in terms of things like prioritising -- choosing ones battles -- both in terms of how those choices are made and ensuring the ways in which they are fought don't end up pitting relatively vulnerable groups against each other.

(Is this similar to that old idea about unions being organisations intended to take workers out of competition with each other -- in theory, at least?)

6/22/2006 9:20 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

On reflection, I think "I'll stand with you" is a better term/concept than I'll stand up for you. Although both should be included and explicit. The one more implies equal cooperation and unity, whereas the other more implies help and a sort of paternalism (to my mind, anyway. Depending on the situation).

Okay, just had to get that out, lol.

There's still something we need to get at in terms of things like prioritising -- choosing ones battles -- both in terms of how those choices are made and ensuring the ways in which they are fought don't end up pitting relatively vulnerable groups against each other.

Yes, I agree. And it probably is like the old unions idea... although, shameful to say, I know little about unions. I have a British friend and in conversation once he was asking if I'd heard about this famous lefty milemark, or this famous union thing, or this well known lefty book and so on... (no, no, no and no) - finally (and somewhat in frustration, I'm convinced) he said "Well, you must be a lefty from the heart because you know sod all about being one". Eventually I convinced myself that was a compliment ;).

I think in pictures, so bear with me - whenever I think of the state of the left, or just of society in general now, in my mind I see little islands of people... the unions over here, the environmentalists there, white women mostly in this place, various other women mostly in that place, different races and ethnicities here there and everywhere and so on, every conceivable faction... globs of groups, some with little bridges into another group, but they are not very sturdy bridges... sort of like those rope ones you see in movies, maybe.

Everyone has somehow been convinced that if they don't operate in their own interests, no one else will. Or few else will... thus you have some pulling this way, some pushing that way, and because of the gaps between them, or the rickety bridges, rightwing (or just manipulative) forces find it easy to separate a group out and attack it, like a lion with a zebra herd.

The others see, and some even may try to help, but because they have been culled, or separated out, the ones under attack are weakened regardless.

Now, when I imagine my perfect social movement, progressive family, whatever you want to call it... as you can probably guess, it's a huge glob of people of all sorts, interests, goals - with no daylight between them, no way to cull any from the whole. When one group (of the wider group) is attacked, they are shuttled to the middle of the glob to fight from there, with all the other groups on the outside refusing to move or to allow this group to be singled out.

I would say that lack of doing this is what happened to the Democratic party in the US, but I'm not so sure that this sort of thing has ever really existed within the party, not in any real way. Or if it did, they sure lost the ability to stand up for one another very quickly, considering how short of time minority or women's rights, or environmental ones and so on have been on the national agenda.

So, I am not sure how to get to this point, but I think this sort of answers the quote from you above. The priorities being whoever is vulnerable at the moment... and not in a 'we'll come to you and save the day' type of thing, which I think is um... not demeaning but some other word, but more in a "okay,. you go ahead and save the day and we'll back you up all the way' type of thing. Allowing people the space and security to strengthen themselves and each other. Across borders and nationalities, which is the only way in this day and age to be really effective, I think.

6/22/2006 11:39 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

I have copied most of my comment from 4:36 AM (good heavens, what was I doing here at that time of the morning?) over to the hb community blog post, which I just noticed was there, lol. So we can sort of go back and forth posting the comments and then start from there if you wish.

6/23/2006 12:49 am  
Blogger dove said...

Hi Nanette -- sorry about the delay -- I've been thinking, too, or trying to. I will start migrating some of the comments over onto Human Beams and pick up again.

6/24/2006 7:09 pm  
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