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.

the other approach is justice

There are a couple of approaches to poverty. One is what you would call charity. Mother Teresa chose to pick the babies our of the gutter, to do direct service with God’s most vulnerable. The other is called justice. It has to be both-and. It can’t be either-or.

– Sister Florence Deacon, on pg 12 of the NYT Magazine, October 28, 2012. Sister Deacon is a part of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Primary sources, found freely online

An excerpt from 1970, found online today:

But many … have become disillusioned after a time by their experiences with liberation groups.  More often than not these groups never get beond [sic] the level of therapy sessions; rather than aiding the political development of [those involved] and building a revolutionary movement, they often enourage escape from political struggle.

All this in the second paragraph of an article titled, “What is the Revolutionary Potential of Women’s Liberation?” I removed the references to women and women’s movements and women’s rights to make the passage applicable to numerous oppressed populations. It is applicable to sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and xenophobia.

Therapy is critical. And this suggests that it alone is insufficient to sustain, or continue to nourish the souls and liberation of those involved. The clarity of mentioning political development and political education is a clear second step after one has taken the first stage of deep healing. In order to grapple with the inner injury, there has to be an external system to grapple with.

Politics is a use of power.

In my own experience, revolutionary groups with only the therapy stage lose those who have been a part of them once they have healed. When there is a lack of new engagement, new opportunities, new levels of discourse then the initial emphasis of “therapy sessions” is insufficient.

On the other hand, the on-going presence of the initial stage of healing and a second track can create a dynamism and interplay between the two tracks.

 

****

There are passages that demonstrate how significantly times have changed:

 

As well as what remains the same:

Many of the characteristics which one needs in order to become respected in the movement — like the ability to argue loud and fast and aggressively and to excell in the “I’m more revolutionary than you” style of debate — are traits which in our society consistently cultivates in men and discourages in women from childhood.  But these traits are neither inherently male nor universally human; rather, they are particularly appropriate to a brutally competitive capitalist society.

The authenticity fixation has reached its limit in certain circles, and is pervasive in others. It may be perishing, but it has a long, slow death.

***

Eleanor Holmes Norton describes the intersection crash of race + family, in the Black Women’s Manifesto, writing:

With black family life so clearly undermined in the American environment, blacks must remake the family unit, not imitate it. Indeed, this task is central to black liberation. The black male will not be returned to his historic strength – the foremost task of the black struggle today – if we do not recreate the strong family unit that was a part of our African heritage before it was dismembered by the slave-owning class in America. But it will be impossible to reconstruct the black family if its central characters are to be crepe paper copies acting out the old white family melodrama. In that failing production, the characters seem set upon a course precisely opposite to ours. White men in search of endless financial security have sold their spirits to that goal and begun a steady emasculation in which the fiscal needs of wife and family determine life’s values and goals. Their now ungrateful wives have begun to see the fraud of this way of life, even while eagerly devouring its fruits. Their even more ungrateful children are in bitter rejection of all that this sort of life signifies and produces. White family life in America today is less than a poor model for blacks. White family life is disintegrating at the moment when we must reforge the black family unit. The whole business of the white family – its softened men, its frustrated women, its angry children – is in a state of great mess.

Hooah: anything + everything except no

I heard about this brilliant campaign video earlier that brings together Senators up for reelection, entitlement, corruption, the Gulf of Mexico, the oil spill. I hadn’t known of VoteVets previously, but I’m now glad to have the acquaintance.

That lead me to wanting to figure out how to spell ‘woo-ha’ that i remember Jake Gyllenhall hollering in that Swofford movie a few years back. It turns out that it isn’t spelled like that, and there’s a good deal of history. I shouldn’t be surprised that there is such history in military matters — reminds me of the question, What’s your military story?

Here are two tidbits:
From HOOAH!Bar

The word “hooah” (pronounced who-aw) is an expression of high morale, strength and confidence that usually means “heard, understood and acknowledged” but can mean almost anything except no. It may have originated with the British phrase “Huzzah!” that dates at least to the 18th Century, although many other explanations are offered. It grew roots in the Army infantry and has now spread to the rest of the U.S. military.

Then in wikipedia

Hooah (pronounced /ˈhuːɑː/) is a U.S. Army battle cry used by soldiers “Referring to or meaning anything and everything except no.”

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.

What a venture wants …

I came across the site for Seattle firm Second Avenue Partners yesterday (after reading site of WA State Senate candidate Eric Liu). Their synopsis of what  business plan ought to answer includes:

Consider the following questions:
Is your company bringing a new technology-based product or service to market?
Is your company at the “seed” or first stages (i.e. raising less than $10 Million)?
Is your company headquartered in the Pacific Northwest United States?
Will your company offer 40%-60% compound annual returns on Second Avenue Partner’s’ money?
Are there multiple exit strategies for your company?

A different lens than the one-page business plan format/formula.

Appropriate reading as counterpoint to the Duration of Unemployment graphs from CalculatedRisk blog. Oh, that and Donald Peck article in the Atlantic on ‘How Jobless Era will transform America.’