Deep Rules: Adopting Global Capital

In light of the Panama Papers release earlier this week, this probing blog by Joe Brewer poses three DEEP RULES of global capital:

  1. Economies must grow no matter what the cost
  2. All value must be measured in monetary terms
  3. Money is debt that must always be repaid with interest
  4. Rich people are morally superior to poor people

Scathing. Cathartic. Chilling. All at once.

 

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen in the Midst of Grexit

I borrowed “Citizen: An American Lyric,” Claudia Rankine’s 2014 collection of poetry from the library weeks ago. It is full of social commentary written in formats that are part poetry and part prose elsewhere. It is currently overdue, so I grabbed it today to read a few more lines and a few more pages before I return it this afternoon. Fittingly, I read it in the midst of #ThisIsaCoup blasts into our global cyberscape thanks to the failed romance and mounting grievances between Greece and the European Troika. There is so much to read in these 24 hours since a “agreekment” (sic) has been announced through the fourth estate. But, Rankine’s words on page 75 strike me as apropos to the political and economic storm and man-made disaster happening over days, weeks, months and years in Europe:

what faces you, the storm, this day’s sigh as the day shifts
its leaves, the wind a prompt against the calm you can’t
digest.

Blue ceiling calling a body into the midst of azure, oceanic,
as ocean blushes the blues it can’t absorb, reflecting back
a day

the day frays, night, not night, this fright passes through
the eye crashing into you, is this you?

Yes, it’s me, clear the way, then hold me clear of this that
faces, the storm carrying me through dawn

not knowing whether to climb down or up into its eye —
day, hearing a breath shiver, whose are you?

Guard rail, spotlight, safety lock, airbag, fire lane, slip guard,
night watch, far into this day are teh days this day was
meant to take out of its way. An obstacle

to surrender, dusk in dawn, held open, then closing,
then opening, a red-tailed hawk, dusk at dawn, taking
over blue, surveying movement, against the calm, red sky
at morning.

whose are you?

Navigating these storms will require many skilled deckhands working towards a shared goal. It will require that many egos get put on ice or are told to pipe down because their attitudes prevent the key participants from figuring out the terms of negotiation and the chemistry to play well together. That’s why we have the adage of “all hands on deck.” Not doing so, will result in a European Quagmire that will result in the collapse of the European Union — too many opinions, too many differing wishes, and too many demands.

As Thomas Piketty and others stated in an open letter to Chancellor Merkel last week:

In the 1950s, Europe was founded on the forgiveness of past debts, notably Germany’s, which generated a massive contribution to post-war economic growth and peace. Today we need to restructure and reduce Greek debt, give the economy breathing room to recover, and allow Greece to pay off a reduced burden of debt over a long period of time. Now is the time for a humane rethink of the punitive and failed program of austerity of recent years and to agree to a major reduction of Greece’s debts in conjunction with much needed reforms in Greece.

BLM blog roll for 7/1

So much wisdom, so much prescience at this time of lynching, and this time of liberation:

James Cone, interviewed by Bill Moyers (11/23/2007)
http://billmoyers.com/content/james-cone-on-the-cross-and-the-lynching-tree/

The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning, Claudia Rankine in NYT (6/22/2015)
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/22/magazine/the-condition-of-black-life-is-one-of-mourning.html

Bryan Stevenson, interviewed by Corey Johnson on Marshall Project (6/24/2105)
https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/06/24/bryan-stevenson-on-charleston-and-our-real-problem-with-race

The Long History of Southern Terror, by Heather Cox Richardson, in Jacobin Magazine (6/21/2015)
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/06/reconstruction-civil-war-ame-dylann-roof/

The Debt, by FiveFifths, on SevenScribes.com (6/10/2015)
http://sevenscribes.com/the-debt/

What This Cruel War was Over, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, on The Atlantic (6/22/2015)
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/what-this-cruel-war-was-over/396482/

We Were Never Meant to Survive: A Response to the Attack in Charleston (6/19/2015)
http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31465-we-were-never-meant-to-survive-a-response-to-the-attack-in-charleston

Stop Trying to Be Good, Be Black, by Jamilah Lemeiux, on Mic.com (6/30/2015)
mic.com/articles/121508/stop-trying-to-be-good-be-black

End is not in sight

We are undertaking a vast experiment in the days and years and decades that we are alive.

As creatures of habit, we are forever attempting new ways to structure guarantees into life. This is a tricky choice and an attempt to bring greater assuredness into the daily experiences and relationships that defies the essence of being alive in an unknown and unpredictable world. Despite all the messages and signals that we have been told, we do not know what to do in order to know what lies ahead. This we cannot know. Entire lifestyles have been created to offer predictability and a greater perception of knowing what will happen. But we cannot know what will happen; we may know what can happen but are not the entire determinant of whether something will happen as we imagine it to be.

In the midst of all this not knowing, there is concern, anxiety, confusion, and a strong pull to be in control. Control is a fiction where we believe that only one factor, or a few factors, determine an outcome. Control has a confident, brash ego that tells itself and others that it is all that matters; it is unclear whether Control actually knows otherwise, or genuinely believes in its perceived superiority than any (and all) other factor.

Immersed in the lie of Control, I settle into Faith. Faith that there are many factors and divergent forces swimming amongst one another. Similar to the choppy, erratic movement of Brownian’s Motion that I learned if in Form 4 Physics. Fast moving but not in a single direction, so much force. Much uncontrolled force. Uncontrollable.

Faith that there are much greater forces than humans alone and all of humankind on this Earth. Faith in the dogged resilience that fosters life, spawns evolution, encourages experimenting, and embraces change when it happens. Faith that there is much more happening than I can see with mine eyes, hear with my ears, taste, and sense in all ways. Faith in tiny, miniscule, microorganisms of force and Faith in profound, vast ecosystems that harmonize air, earth, water, and fire.

9 months later, and 10 years on

May 2015. Today is Mike Brown’s 19th birthday. This I learned from the political education and relationships that I have benefitted from through the It Starts Today campaign that ends today on Mike Brown’s birthday. April 2005. Ten years ago, I was invited by John, Courtney, and Jamie to apply to join the Advisory Board at Resource Generation. I did so. I entered my first board meeting at the Walker Center in suburban Boston in a cohort of rookie board members along with Andrew, Ajita, Penny, and Meg. We were some kind of board Fab 5 heading into headwinds of organizational turbulence, interpersonal challenges, and divine breakthroughs that I could hardly fathom when I first walked through that doorway as board member. It was revolutionary to attend meetings where the culture was to introduce yourself by saying four things: Your name. The place you live. Your class identity. Your “PGP” (preferred gender pronoun). I’ve been more schooled in and on gender and sexuality from the colleagues, friends, comrades, and confidantes of RG than any Women & Gender Studies classes could have instilled. At the first RG conference that I attended (circa 2006), multiple RGers did not only talk about their inherited wealth but told stories of how they could trace their white families’ wealth all the way back to slavery. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It rocked my world. And, I was hooked. RG gave me the tools, the political education, the camaraderie to be able to say that “my mom grew up in a working-class, white family” for the first time. I had never understood this, nor seen this facet of my family tree before being immersed in spaces that were explicit and unapologetic about class, classism, capitalism, and class dynamics. Not by being outwardly focused and waxing philosophical about class in society, but by being inwardly focused on families and the belief systems and biases that color my choices. I have been off of the board for just about four years and forever give thanks and have multiple, daily appreciations for the gifts that having been a board member at RG has bestowed upon me. Wisdom, love, patience, courage, trust in others (in their anxieties and their daring feats and so much more), impatience, humility, a yearning to tell stories and write blog posts among them. And ask others questions so they will write their blog posts and tell different versions of their stories. Today, I honor the life, the premature death, and the legacy of Mike Brown and all the people of Ferguson, Missouri. As one more name, place, and episode in the long legacy of lynching and the addiction to violence that discolor the US Constitution. I had not known the name of Ferguson before last summer. The people and popular outrage of Ferguson compelled me to figure out how I could act where I was and with those people that I already knew. To inquire who were the small group of people that I could band together with in such a nauseating, perplexing, horrifying time. If you’ve got some change in your pocket, some discretionary dollars in your bank account then go and invest in Black liberation, in Black leadership, and in Black dignity. By investing in Blacks in America, we are investing in all humankind. Thanks, yall. And, praise Jesus that I’ve learned to see that those who believe in freedom are of all races, of all classes, of all nationalities. And, I will continue to seek out those who believe in freedom and civil disobedience.

The practice of meetings

I recall a clip of Allen Iversen, former all star guard of the Philadelphia 76ers saying, “We talkin’ about practice.”

This was at a press conference where Iversen seemed irritated (at least to me) that he was having to spend time answering questions about what he was or wasn’t doing during practice. They weren’t talking about games or opponents but what was rumored to have happened at practice. Namely what had occurred between Iversen and his coach. He had plenty of reasons to be weary of how the press portrayed him, since they had portrayed him as a ruffian from the time he was 18 years old.

I remember Allen Iversen’s irritation years later because it reminds me of feelings that so many people have towards a constant irritation in their own lives. It is not basketball practice that they are obligated to attend, forced to go through, and then go back to over and over again. It is not anything sports-related, but it is the job-related meetings that people are required to attend, to go through, and go back to over and over again, even when they don’t go well.

Like a bad practice, a bad meeting feels terrible. The difference is that most of us, unlike professional sports athletes, don’t get skewered by the corporate media afterwards. There may be gossip about what does or doesn’t happen in a meeting, but rarely is it in front of video cameras and reporters.

In the last month, I have heard instances of two friends who were feeling a lot like Allen Iversen. They were stewing after long, onerous, and horrendous days. Their work days did not consist of hours of practice, but hours of meetings. Meetings that people loath. All-day meetings that feel useless or, even worse, are counter-productive. Meetings that take people away from what they feel a need or obligation to do, and have to sit through something else. To be in a physical space, or on a phone call that obstructs and distracts.

I find this practice/meeting metaphor more poignant having just read about how people steal your most valuable asset, your time. Time which unlike money cannot be compensated, reimbursed or retroactive. When I heard Iversen’s quote, it sounded like he was doubly frustrated. Frustrated at a practice that seemed like a waste, and then having to spend time listening to people ask him questions about an incident that they were not a part of, and that he did not want to revisit.

A question that we ask in our house is: How does this serve you?

How do meetings serve you? More importantly, which meetings don’t serve you? And, what is causing us to continue to subject ourselves to terrible meetings. It has been 13 years since a book with the title, We Have to Stop Meeting Like This written by Tony Jeary and George Low, came out. I haven’t read it, but whatever meeting status quo the authors hoped to address and disrupt seems to carry on.

Rather than get wiser in how we do meetings, we have gotten stuck. It seems to me that all meetings consist of some fundamental elements:

<ul><li>two or more people</li>
<li>one or multiple topics to address</li>
<li>how the people in the meeting communicate with one another</li></ul>

In my math mind, this feels like an equation:

X = P + T + C

Where X is a meeting, and the three variables are People, Topics, and Communication. Depending on the set-up, and the power dynamics, a different meeting could mathematically be written as:

X = (4P x 3T)/C

Where four people are present and they have three topics on the agenda.  Like in any good equation, any of these variables (P, T or C) can greatly affect the outcome of meeting X. But, oftentimes, it seems to me that communication, C, is the variable that most affects both the people in a meeting and how they talk to/address/shout at/disagree/pummel/reprimand/present to/inform the other people/person in a meeting.

As social beings, how we communicate with one another tremendously impacts how well or how poorly we get along. As is the case in any team sports, chemistry has as much to do with performance as talent. As a child, and as a younger brother, who often played sports and pick up games, I learned how a team with more synergy and less talent could often win over a team with more talent and less synergy.

Our working environments and campaigns need meetings with better synergy and more attention given to the chemistry and dynamics between People. The old and entrenched habits around meetings need to be broken. We’ve got to figure out how to drop these bad habits, as they are lethal to our health.

The Internet, an adventure of books

Over the last 18 years, the Internet has been a boon for my reading. I still choose paperback and hardbacks, and I increasingly choose books from the public library rather than abebooks.com. I have made buying a book from an independent bookstore a simple act of selecting a sweet gift for a friend. (And, no, I don’t buy books from amazon.com as it cannibalizes the industries of writing.)

This morning, I had a fascinating 25 minutes as I sought the name of a young adult science fiction book that I read a couple of years ago. I could remember the name of one of the supporting characters, Dikeagou, because his name is a familiar and repeated name in our home. But, the book’s title escaped me. And so teh internet searches began (mind you through duckduckgo.com where they don’t track and store your searches like they do over at “do no evil” google).

It took multiple searches, and a few marvelous stops along the way that are sure to stoke my reading this winter are:

Oh, and the book I was looking for is listed on that third blog, 8 YA Books. It is The Shadow Speaker written by Nnedi Okorafor-mbachu, who lives and teaches in Chicago. Published in 2010.

Calling for Attention

The large hand-written signs used to say I AM A MAN.

Now they say DON’T SHOOT.

If this is the message, it suggests that our humanity (our manhood, our womanhood) as Black people is no longer in doubt, but the sanctity of our lives as Black people is what is at play. The question, then, is what will it take for the state to respect the lives of Black people, and therefore all people.

There’s a reason that Lani Guiner and Gerald Torres called us the canaries in their book, The Miner’s Canary. [for more on the book visit: http://www.minerscanary.org/about.shtml]

from Ferguson, Missouri — August 2014

Instructions in Writing, week 2

What I heard and remembered to take notes on in Week Two of Fast Flash Fiction at the Santa Fe Community College were. Much of last night’s class was about editing one another’s work and what else to remember as I re-read and revise my own stories. Number 3-6 are cited from a handout given (citation needed):

  1. Anticipation | Hold someone on the edge of their seat until they are almost impatient.
  2. Beautiful moments | “I take out beautiful moments in each piece.”
  3. Personify objects/emotions | in ways that the reader won’t expect.
  4. Unfamiliar similes | will jump out at readers in positive ways.
  5. Conflicting images | take what readers expect in a character and turn it upside down by choosing conflicting images.
  6. Metaphors | are often what can propel or kill a story.
  7. Surreal | make it work.
  8. Stick to your core | “[There are] parts of your piece that you are going to hold onto with dear life. You have to remember that your voice is your voice.”

There were also a few quotes that resonated:

You want every paragraph to matter.

I create stories from what I remember in childhood, and change the ending.

Use adverbs sparingly. I love adjectives.

Instructions in writing, Week 1

I began my first writing class last week. The title is Fast Flash Fiction is a six-week course taught by Meg Tuite at Santa Fe Community College. Tuite, the instructor, cusses, inspires, and tells stories with plenty of tangents like thet legions of great storytellers that I know.

Tuite dispensed multiple dosages of simple truths in writing on the first night:
1) Read it out loud.
2) Keep your core.
3) Get it out | “I am not sure that I’ll call it vomit. Maybe, pink vomit.”
4) Deadlines are good.
5) Every page matters | in flash fiction where we have to condense our work.
6) Start thinking about the senses.
7) Brevity and ambiguity | These are essential in flash fiction, leaving the reader wanting to know more, to be taken along.
8) Gamble. That is where your voice is.

A couple of other choice moments were:
– “I get a lot of people published. Because you work hard in this class.”
– “Write about something that you are close to. Emotionally invested. Risk, risk, risk. The most exciting part of life –> getting close [to something].”

Lastly, there are three, simple questions to guide the workshopping and feedback shared with classmates are:
What do you love?
What makes sense?
What is confusing?