The tonnage of wartime

MLK spoke to Coretta of a “sick nation” in November 1963. Fifty years later, this is a civilization steeped in war and violence. The friends of rape, pillage and genocide are not far removed.

Buckminster Fuller said:

You may say, “Why don’t you cut out all this political-economic stuff and get along with the stark facts of description of precisely what you think the postwar housing is going to look like?” And I say to you it isn’t going to look like anything until the war is over and that I can’t envision it’s coming at all except in terms of the meaning of the war.

This is true for postwar housing as well as learning and education, transportation, energy, ecosystems, transportation and social safety net. These are all bound by being at war, and endless policies and priorities that perpetuate war. War begets violence. War begets destruction, dismay, isolation, genocide and rape.

Fuller continues:

I say, and I have given realistic testimony to prove, that is why we have had to have a war: because we couldn’t free ourselves for thinking without the detaching effects of war. Short of war, we just let well enough alone. We were swivel-moored to the rooted-down tonnage of our lugubrious past.

living history through primary sources

There have been some incredible pieces of historical documents written and distributed in the last month. Three that jump to the forefront of my mind are:

 

 

today, @umairh goes off on the economy + politics

Earlier today on Twitter, @umairh “Economist. author. slayer of zombies” stated:

I’m going to do five quick points on politics + the economy. This is gonna hurt. Enjoy!! |
1. The question is: how long will average incomes in the US decline? Another 25 years? Forever?
2. There is no reason to believe average incomes in the US will reverse their long run trend and rise anytime soon.
3. There is every reason to believe average incomes in the US will stick to their long run trend. And decline. For a long time.
4. The big problem in America is simple. The rich are getting richer, for no good reason. And everyone else is getting poorer.
5. Without major political reform — a system which can give the middle class basic rights — the US middle class is toast.
6. The US has a social model that has failed. It is working for thousands of people. It’s not working for millions.

… I don’t know how to stress this to you guys enough. This is deep shit. We’re going to come of age in a failing society.
Ok. Am I scaring you, telling you what you already konw, or you just don’t care?
Our leaders don’t give a shit. That’s exactly why you should.
Jail the bankers, stop the wars, restore rights, save the middle class, end poverty, invest in the young. It’s not rocket science.

… There are 47 million people living in poverty in America. While the 6 Walmart heirs are worth more than the bottom 150 million.
That, folks, is what a broken social model looks like.

… So those of us who’ve suggested the economy’s broken for years now have been proven right? And the pundits wrong? Surprise.
This economy could hardly be more broken. And that it’s taken the establishment a decade to get it is precisely why.
What should really concern us is that there is nothing on the horizong that’s going to reverse any of the problems in the economy.

Word choice

“These are crimes of domination and violence.” A quote from Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) related to her efforts to pass a bipartisan bill removing sexual assault reporting from the military chain-of-command. This is after the bill failed in the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee.

Domination and violence. These are a few of my least favorite things. These are two products of centuries of masculinity festering in the New World. Subjugation and genocide.

These are actions that cut through the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual; or as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote, the four dimensions of being human.

Somehow, in this society, we have created notions that real men don’t have emotions. If you cannot show nor share your feelings for fear of ridicule, reprimand or other denigration, then you might as well have little or no feelings at all.

Something has happened in the collective souls of men. Harry Potter referred to horcruxes, as objects that captured part of someone’s soul. In order for some fraction of a soul to be removed from a being, it had to fragment.

A new form of masculinity is urgently needed in the 21st Century. One where one man’s dignity does not depend on the oppression of some woman, child or other man. Where one man’s power does not correlate to his prowess or cunning, but on his gentleness, patience and trusting of others; particularly, in trusting other men.

The military brass do not trust some other entity to supervise. They don’t know how to trust some other entity. They have created such vast walls to isolate themselves, and the culture of rape and sexual assault that plagues the armed forces, that they fear what will happen by a law mandating that some external force be responsible for establishing protocols and consequences needed to create a new culture, new forms of safety in the day-to-day of being in the military.

By opposing such a change, the military commanders want to maintain an imbalance of power. They want to continue to have the discretion to grant immunity or a get-out-of-jail free card to a private or an officer who rapes, assaults or abuses a woman or another man.

Our political system is still fumbling with gender, masculinity, entitlement, male privilege and patriarchy. Last year, I realized how the term rape entered the public debate due to the shameful statements of two Republican candidates who are well on their way to being elected until they spoke about rape. Suddenly, rape was in the headlines and on tv. The R-word had become okay to say for the first time in my life whereas abortion has been in the public debate and a fixture in U.S. politics for most of my life. There were choices made back in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s to talk about the A-word, but refrain from mentioning the R-word. The men who led both parties in a two-party political system were complicit in the everyday use of the A-word and countless derivatives like “partial birth” and “abortion clinic.”

This is why it has fallen to a woman on the Senate Armed Forces Committee to rectify a culture of assault that has compounded a failed system for far too long. Fortunately, there is one tireless advocate who refuses to be cowed by custom and the way things have been. A new era is here for the military’s endemic patterns of coercion and rape.

An economy that needs jobs

Where do you send someone looking for work? Looking for just about any job?

Someone who is willing to do all sorts of work. Who has done work as a bartender and construction. Someone who is asking me where there’s work as he sits in the front seat of my car, within 7 minutes of flagging me down. It began with him motioning that I roll down the window. See David needed to talk because he needed to ask for assistance to get to district court. He had been waiting at the bus stop, and realized that he would not be in court in the 15 minutes that he had. I don’t know how much he could imagine how I appreciate having been asked to give some support.

The passenger seat of the car turned into a confessional as David told me how we thought it was 10:30, when it was 80 minutes later in the day. A lapse of time that could have resulted in a warrant for his arrest, barely a week after getting out of prison.

I pulled the car up to district court, with 3 minutes to spare. In 12 minutes of our interaction, I learned that David was (is?) an orphan, had stopped hanging out with his old friends, is staying with a friend, looking for work, and had been to the southside library once. That his siblings are all in Kansas, so it’s hard not having any of their support here. He stopped hanging with the old crowd because a fight got ugly, which got him a felony.

After asking me of anyplace that I knew of offering work, he asked me what kind of work I did. When I told him “working on community projects that create jobs,” he was amazed. He expressed his appreciation that there were people who do that kind of work. In this moment, he even said something along the lines of “I like how society works. That there are people out there doing stuff like that.” (That’s my memory’s version of verbatim, because it was so amazing to hear this man expressing his appreciation for this society.)

It’s basic, he’s looking for work so that he can “get his own place.” When we talked about how job listings were no longer in the newspaper and now on the internet, he told me how he had a nice laptop before being imprisoned. But while inside, a former girlfriend sold the laptop because of her addiction, so he cannot look for jobs and apply for jobs online unless he gets to the southside library.

His weekly meeting has a new name (other than probation), but being late would have resulted in his arrest. A justice system that seems adamant about seizing upon the slightest misstep by David and his caste of the formerly incarcerated. A reminder that this is a system driven by profits, rather than the common good. How many times have I, or any of us in the non-incarcerated classes, been a few minutes or 20 minutes late. By the fortune/luck of not having to get to a weekly obligation on Tuesdays, we don’t have the threat of a warrant or an arrest.

At 3 minutes before noon, David had enough time to thank me profusely. As he opened the door and stood outside the car, he turned and asked me for a card or my number. Now, as the holidays approach, I will wait and see how soon he calls.

______

Meanwhile, we have a broken system, chock full of another class. A political class of two entrenched political parties who dilly dally over the fiscal cliff that Robert Reich describes as being “more like a hill.” But, the Echo Chamber of corporate media insists on repeating mention of that cliff. Sounds more sensational. More importantly, it furthers the fear-based decision making that we cannot invest more, because we must cut back. As if there aren’t billions of dollars out there, and thousands of millionaires who wouldn’t benefit from investments in schools, broadband, bridges, public transport systems, and an energy grid that would actually move the US into the 21st Century in 2012-2020. We couldn’t do so at the dawn of the 21st century because we didn’t have the leadership. It remains to be seen whether we have the leadership now, beginning with the POTUS in the WH.

Meanwhile, the two sides of the negotiating table dither over how much they have to cut social programs. And the other side pretends (or acts either confused or hesitant) to acknowledge the need to raise taxes in the richest country in the world. But, this is what starving the beast, looks like.

One of many blessings in this electoral season was the GOP demonstrating how dire they have become. That Dick Lugar’s toppling in the Indiana senate primary is collateral damage for a fanatical cabal who threw not only teachers but fire fighters and police officers and their unions under the bus. If we have our senses about us, we will recognize that the firefighters and police officers are with us. Instead of nitpicking over the differences that we have, a rabid opponent has given us a gift. A gift to recognize that we are all believers in a society that invests in public institutions, that recognizes that we need schools along with roads, sewer systems, hospitals and clinics. That we are in need of jobs.

corrosive economics

four days ago i stated that

capitalism breeds a scarcity mindset.

Today, I’d add:
Capitalism breeds a perception of scarcity, when exquisite sufficiency is before us, around us, and within us.
i was also told this morning by a 72-year old friend how he and his wife appreciated me for “calling a spade a spade.”

Why open space?

Open space is a way to break up the mundane, old ways of conferences. Just as we are realizing that rote memorization does not work in the classroom, and education needs to be shaken up. Our meetings and multi-day conferences need strong winds of new ideas and currents of new ways.

We do not need to leave the cool, non-traditional, people-powered ways to the techies in San Francisco, either. In fact, for the sake of our selves, our souls and our future, we need to harness our collective strengths. Open space (or Open Space Technology, as it can also be called. OST for short.) is one compelling way to do so.

Open space is not only about the topics that get discussed. The experience of open space is equally important. The experience of making choices and self-authorizing. The experiences of realizing that other people are co-creating ideas, having exchanges and addressing their own needs at the same time. In fact, others are doing so At. This. Very. Moment.

Open space is like communication. Just as 70% of communication is non-verbal, leaving 30% to be verbal. 70% of open space’s potency is how it feels, and 30% is what is said in the array of small groups.

Open space honors that we do not all learn in the same way. Open space embraces that we are all on different pages. Our being in different places is embraced, rather than viewed as being detrimental. It is actually, seeing a group of people as each one of us in a group is. Oftentimes, some people are ready to discuss some specific tangent, while others are seeking basic definitions and understanding of what is happening. Open space allows for the introductory and in-depth or tangential to happen at the same time. The people get to choose which one suits them.

During the recent BIN conference, I introduced open space technology as a version of “montessori for adults.” Go do what you want, as you want, with whomever else wants to do it. Or as they say in the Montessori camp, “go learn on your own, while being guided by a teacher.” Guiding happens, just with us guiding ourselves rather than relying on some typical teacher/facilitator.

****

I have attended too many gatherings and conferences where the energy of a group can swiftly change. The warmth, curiosity of the first-day-and-a-half pivots. Suddenly, people can begin to see that the multi-day funfest is has an endpoint. Questions arise: how do i carry this on next week when I am back at school/work/my home/my desk? How will the importance of this moment be sustained? Who is going to follow through on all that been talked about, identified, proposed and what i have heard?

Open space can be a pressure valve to let off some of the steam that expands in a contained space. Instead of trying to control it, open space provides a blank canvass for people to doodle, paint and illustrate. Old controlling tendencies get mired in question of what: what are we gonna paint? what are we using, watercolors, oils, pastels, charcoal? what is going on this canvass?

Instead, open space can be a canvass to the nth power. There can be as many canvasses as there are people who are ready to paint. Canvasses for whatever people identify a need for, and then commit to take it upon themselves to utilize. (if no one goes to discuss the place that open space identifies, then it quickly ceases)

Instead of saying, “oh no, we only have x number of slots,” open space enables, equips and empowers. People can say:
– You want a canvass to do what?
– Great. Go find some space and put a call out to everyone else so they know what you are up to.

The primary constraint in open space is our minds. By that, I mean the limits of what our human minds can fathom when we categorize, define and differentiate. Open space is a wiki for meetings and conferences. Some people can discuss topics and issues while others can figure out the building blocks of logistics, principles, leadership, communications. This is some of what happened when we devolved in Atlanta.

***

A year ago, I first introduced open space to another group. When defining it, I had to explain that it is not Free Time. Instead, it was a time for people:

  1. to go do what they need to do,
  2. to go where they needed to go,
  3. in order to take care of themselves.

That meant napping for some, and snacking for others. For me, i sat on a rocking chair on a large porch at the Benezet House of the Penn Center in St Helena, South Carolina. FOr most of the people present, it was a chance to jump in the car, ride 10 minutes to the beach where they took their shoes off, rolled their pant legs up, and strolled in the waves along the beach. They were doing what they needed to take care of themselves. They were right where tehy needed to be. And they got to do the things that we were all there to do: tell our stories, exchange ideas and experiences, compare notes.

As a little kid in me would say, it was so important that we got to do it outside, too. Afterwards, when i asked some people what their favorite part of our previous 2.5 days had been, they said it was their time on the beach.

***

That is some of what open space can allow for. What began as one person’s idea spread. It went from one car-full of people. To another. To a third. Just like that an idea found a group of people ready to spring into action. These ideas and such moments are all around us. The question is whether we can see them.

Rather than attempt to control them — control the ideas, control the moments, control the people — open space is one way to embrace ideas, moments and people.

Federal dollars in education in 2010-11

Reading an article in Chronicle of Philanthropy (which, btw, looks and feels much leaner than just a few weeks ago — has the advertising dropped that rapidly?) on federal allocations for school reforms. The dollar amounts are noteworthy for their relative amounts:

  • $1.15B between 2009-2011 for i3 Fund: $650M in 2009-10 stimulus plus $500M in 2011
  • $950M for the Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund
  • $210M for Promise N’hoods.
  • … mentions the cool $50M Social Innovation Fund, too.

Notable, as I’ve heard the most mention of Promise Neighborhoods. And I’ve heard about i3 after that. But, there’s very little buzz in my world of email lists, relationships and people about the near 1B in Teacher/Leader. It’s amazing to me that the one that is 5x larger has had a fraction of the discussion. (again, from where i sit, stand and read)

Like with the bailout figures of yesteryears, only figures like those above could make $50,000,000 seem small.