community action

Cyberpower

Pattern ID: 
829
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
25
Kate Williams
Dominican University
Abdul Alkalimat
University of Toledo
Version: 
2
Problem: 

In the age of the Internet, if someone can’t send an email or browse the web, they are much like the person in the age of print who had to sign their name with an X. Many people and communities are still catching up to the information age and what digital tools offer. One word for what they offer is Cyberpower—power in cyberspace.

The usefulness of this word can be understood in comparison to another useful word: e-commerce. E-commerce is a word that summed up what businesses, coders and consumers were doing. On the basis of that summation, many more people were guided in that direction, and e-commerce became more advanced as a result. Millions are now buying and selling online, with the goods delivered in the real world. Our experience with the word cyberpower is the much same: the word came into use based on practice; then it mobilized more people to exercise their cyberpower. As with e-commerce, when you wield cyberpower, the “goods”—power—are delivered in the real world, in a cycle from actual to virtual to actual.

Context: 

Digital inequality often impacts the same people as older inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, exclusion. But the new tools are so powerful that not using them sets individuals, groups and communities even further back. The hardware and software are still changing, and only the users are able to shape them and shape the future. And a global conversation is taking place every day online. They

Discussion: 

Even as technology changes, diffuses, and becomes cheaper, digital inequalities persist. For certain populations, access is impossible or is controlled, skills are lower, support isn’t there, or the tools and resources themselves are relatively irelevant. If the core conversations and the rich information sources are all online, yet not everyone is participating or even able to observe, how do we maintain democracy? Recent calls for a dialogue of civilizations, starting with the United Nations (1998), rather than a clash of civilizations (Huntington 1998) could be taking part online, but only if everyone can see, hear, and speak in cyberspace.

It is not yet well understood, but communities in crisis—be it from poverty, disaster, war or some other adversity—are known to turn to technology for response and recovery. Cellphones, impromptu cybercafés, the Internet, all helped in the Gulf hurricane recovery. Farmers on quarantined farms quickly mastered home Internet use during England’s foot-and-mouth-disease outbreak. The US armed forces now strategize in terms of land, sea, air, and cyberspace. Immigrants all over the world have created digital diasporas. (Miller and Slater 2000) Whatever language people use to describe it, cyberpower is the driver in all these cases.

Hiphop can be seen as a technology-based response to crisis and a cyberpower project. In a community-based seminar, we proposed to create a CD of original raps about IT. Students and community members were skeptical—one said, “We don’t know anything about computers”—but all the music making was digital, the tools were put together in bedrooms and basements, and the result was a compilation of 15 tracks. Sample these lyrics by S. Supreme:

Information technology
Skipping the Black community with no apology
Flipping the power off
On an already alarming deficit,
So please, please, PLEASE, PASS THE MESSAGE KID!
Ohh Umm Diddy Dum Dum
If he don’t turn his Ice off
And turn his head past the gas of Microsoft
He’ll really be lost like the tribe, ‘cause the time is now and that’s a bet
How you throwing up a set and you ain’t on the Net,
Yet you say you’re a G?
I said I’m not Chuck D, but welcome to the terror
If you ain’t ready to build in this information era
Survival of the fittest, our rights get diminished, cats be on their Crickets
But don’t know about Linux

In this track cyberpower is talking about cyberpower.

Another example of cyberpower is our experience with an auction of Malcolm X’s papers. The sale, planned for March 2002, was discovered online, then thousands protested online and the sale was stopped. The process began when monitoring eBay for items related to Malcolm X, we discovered that eBay’s auction house, Butterfields, was about to sell thousands of pages of Malcolm’s diaries and notes, recovered from a storage locker, for an expected price of $500,000. Using the listserv H-Afro-Am, this news was spread across multiple communities of scholars, librarians, activists, and others. The American Library Association then created a story on their online news site which is fed to more sites and individuals. The next day The New York Times did a story. On the third day The Guardian newspaper ran a story about the impending sale and the online groundswell against it. The listservs and the news articles alerted the family and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, who wre able to negotiate the postponing of the sale, then its cancellation. An agreement was negotiated with the seller whereby the materials are now in the possession of the family, housed at the Schomburg’s archives. In sum, the important historical papers (actual) were being auctioned (virtual); thousands of people were mobilized (virtual); traditional media carried the story (virtual and actual); and ultimately the materials were withdrawn from sale and placed intact in a public library archive for scholars and the public (actual).

Another example of cyberpower is told by Mele (1999). Faced with a teardown of their housing project, tenants in Wilmington, Nouth Carolina wrangled the key to a long-locked community room, internet access for the lone computer (actual), and via email and listservs (virtual) recruited architects and planners to help them obtain, digest and answer developer and city plans. They won an actual seat at the negotiating table and, more important, key changes to the teardown plan that included interim and long-term housing for residents.

All sorts of new tools for exercising cyberpower are in wide usage at this writing, for example, MySpace, blogs, wikis, and the online video festival known as YouTube. Use of any of these tools locates you in a lively community. The idea from Putnam (2000) that we’re “bowling alone,” not connecting with other people in an atomized world, is, as Lin (2001) asserted, trumped by the fact that we are not computing alone.

Solution: 

Cyberpower means two related activities related to empowerment: 1) individuals, groups and organizations using digital tools for their own goals, or 2) using digital tools as part of community organizing. The general idea is that people can use cyberpower in virtual space to get power in the actual space. Cyberorganizers help get people cyberpower just as community organizers help get communities empowered.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Digital inequality often affects the same people as traditional inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, and exclusion. With Cyberpower individuals, groups and organizations use digital tools for their own goals. Cyberpower also means using digital tools as part of community organizing and development, when Cyberorganizers help people gain Cyberpower.

Pattern status: 
Released

Spiritually Grounded Activism

Pattern ID: 
786
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
24
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Some social change agendas and strategies are derived from sacred texts, religious doctrines and traditional spiritual practices. Grounding ones public engagement in this way can lead to productive and insightful action but such efforts are often highly charged. Contemporary societies and communities vary widely in how well they receive such initiatives -- a martyr to one group will seem like a dangerous radical to the opposition. Intermingling politics and religion can taint both, leading to false pieties in politics and making mundane the prayers and rituals which were originally spiritual in purpose.

Context: 

Groups and individuals seeking to structure social agendas have to create a sense of their purpose, and spiritual convictions often offer constructive guidance. Activists can find allies in the public debate by framing their position in religious terms. Personal resilience can be sustained by strong religious belief.

Constitutional separations between Church and State in North America and Europe are decidedly ambiguous about whether and how particular congregations should participate in public affairs. Other societies, notably those Muslim ones which base their law and the state itself on religious dogma, can find secular ethical criteria offensive. Furthermore, activism motivated by religion is often denounced as extremist by those whose motivations are strongly secular.

Discussion: 

This pattern is illustrated by a series of historical examples intended to suggest its scope. The possibilities are many and varied. Read these stories while remembering that secular organizing can be just as powerful, legitimate and insightful.

Gandhi practiced and advocated "Ahimsa," the non-violent struggle for truth, inspiring an his part of the anti-colonist movement to center on that strategy. Derived from Hindu tradition, Ahimsa applied to all features of their lives, from confrontations with the British to the ways they lived and ate and worked together. Martin Luther King, working within the Christian tradition, was able to find the religious inspiration for a similar approach to non-violence in the US Civil Rights movement. Thich Nhat Hanh andhis fellow Buddhist monks used self-suffering in the Ghandian tradition to oppose the war in Vietnam. All three movements followed a religious injunction against doing violence, although in each it was recognized that they themselves might die. The strategy continues in use at the state level in the struggle between Tibetans under the leadership of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government.

For centuries Catholic nuns, monks and brothers have been engaged in providing health care, hospitality and basic succor to the poor and needy. In recent years that work gained world wide recognition as a result of Mother Theresa’s order in India. Their practice, like the non-violence movement is both a strategic imperative and an injunction for the activists to live a certain way, in this case sharing poverty and privation with those whom they help.

For the last 50 years, women’s reproductive systems and rights have been at the center of a wide range of conflicts. Papal Encyclicals and local health center policies are alike in their ability to stimulate confrontations about contraception and abortion. In parts of Africa, religious traditions have been the basis for both challenges to and support for female "genital mutilation" or "circumcision" as it is called, depending on ones perspective. Religion, life and birth have always been linked. The relationships between medicine and religion have become quite uneasy, as much at the end of life as at the beginning.

Debt and monetary interest payments mark another area where religions have guided and inspired action on the global scale. The Christian notion of Jubilee provided the doctrinal basis for groups around the globe to press the largest banks and richest nations to support debt relief for poorer nations in the Jubilee 2000 campaign. Meanwhile, working from the Buddhist perspective, writers and activists have begun to reconfigure the definition of wealth and materialism.

Sacred environmentalism is well rooted as well, both in the United States and around the world. Connected in the US to the Transcendentalists of the nineteenth century, this movement has found a responsive reaction in many areas since place and sacred experience are so often linked.

At their best, religious practices serve not only to shape the mission, but also to guide organizational behavior. Silent retreat or a prayer meeting -- either can offer respite from the mundane. Singing together, marching together, sitting quietly in Quaker meeting together -- all of these can strengthen the sense of community. Charitable giving, cooking for the poor, visiting prisoners -- all of these can feel like religious practices when inspired by a spiritually grounded activism. Priests, Imams and other religious leaders offering blessings over an action, can ease the qualms and concerns of their followers. In all these ways, organizational resilience gains support from adherence to a religious or spiritual path. Marshall Ganz reminds us to see religion "not only as a source of “understanding” about what was right - but also as a source of the solidarity, willingness to sacrifice, anger at injustice, and courage, and leadership to take action - in other words, not only of moral “understanding” but the capacity to act on that understanding. Or, as St. Augustine said, not only of "knowing the good", but also of "loving it" enough to act on it. "

The stories in this pattern were chosen to illustrate constructive work undertaken by adherents in a variety of traditions. These same traditions have of course often been the basis for cruel, intolerant and self-righteous oppression, government and justice.

Solution: 

Remember the hymns and prayers of the American Civil Rights Movement, which exemplify ways that a healing religious practice can build solidarity among activists while holding them to laudable ethical standards. The injunctions embedded in this pattern are: by all means ground your own work in the values, the mysteries and the heritage of a religious community. At the same time, hesitate to judge others whose motives and practices are different. If secular values justify and guide your actions assume the best of those driven to act by religious convictions and likewise, if you are religious, give credence to the secular. In either case remember that ritual, whether sacred or secular, can strengthen bonds among organizers and provide them with the respite necessary to keeping on with the work of change.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Some social change agendas and strategies are derived from sacred texts, religious doctrines and traditional spiritual practices. Grounding one's public engagement in this way can lead to productive and insightful action. Remember that ritual, sacred or secular, can strengthen bonds among organizers and provide the respite necessary to keeping on with the work of change.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Friends Journal

Anti-Racism

Pattern ID: 
783
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
23
Lori Blewett
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Perceived physiological and cultural differences are easily exploited by political elites for the purpose of gaining and maintaining social control. Discrimination and violence are a common consequence of perceiving one group of people as less trustworthy, moral, intelligent, or civilized (and ultimately less human) than another group. Imbalances of power are seen as reflections of individual strength and cultural merit rather than systemic injustice. Efforts toward creating a desirable society continue to be hindered by unquestioned privilege, fear, and prejudice across race, caste, and ethnic divisions.

Context: 

There are few cultures in the world that have not been affected in some way by European concepts of race. In some cases, European colonizers layered race on top of long- standing caste hierarchies or religious prejudices to further subjugate, divide, and control colonized people. In the United States, alliances between blacks and poor whites, for example, were intentionally subverted by elites who bestowed minimal advantages on lower-class whites to prevent class-based uprisings. The historical legacy of long-maintained racial divides and inequalities continues to affect any organization attempting to create a more just and sustainable society, even when racism is not the primary issue that an organization or movement wants to address. As with gender divisions, race, caste, and class hierarchies often intertwine to erode the effectiveness of organizations and their communication, especially when patterns of privilege and bias go unnoticed.

Discussion: 

This pattern has two major dimensions: Anti-Racist Awareness and Anti-racist Action.

Awareness begins with seeking a deeper understanding of the multiple ways that racism and race privilege operate in the lives of individuals and organizations. Anti-racist books, movies, workshops, lectures, discussions, and observation can all be useful tools for raising awareness. Multi-cultural history books (e.g., "A Different Mirror") or social/economic analysis (e.g., "Black Wealth White Wealth") can help us see beyond the myth of the melting pot, and understand how social structures maintain racial inequity generation after generation. Films like "Banking on Life and Debt" help us understand the international forces that maintain global inequalities built upon European Colonialism, and how those inequities reinforce domestic racism. Reflective essays like "White Privilege and Male Privilege" can help us see how privileges are bestowed upon whites on a daily basis, even when they do not seek racial advantage.

By analyzing social and historical dynamics of power and privilege, we understand why few people reach adulthood without internalizing social hierarchies that shape our unconscious perceptions of one another. At the same time it is important to become more aware of the possibilities for change and resistance. We must learn about the successes of communities of color that have struggled against racism, and we must learn about inter-racial solidarity that has aided anti-racist efforts at numerous times and places in history.

Armed with a better awareness of the dynamics of racism, members of an organization can become more reflective about their own practices. Developing and maintaining an anti-racist consciousness is an on-going process for most people, but it is especially challenging for members of dominant racial groups. Because information and communication represented in the dominant culture are likely to reinforce the racial status quo, whites in the U.S., for example, must take extra care to seek the perspectives of people of color who are critical of mainstream policy, discourse, and ideology.

Action begins with recognition that we are not powerless in the face of institutionalized or interpersonal racism, and that challenging racism is both an individual and collective responsibility. Examples of anti-racist action are plentiful --from individuals interrupting racist jokes to transnational organizations uniting against contemporary colonialism.
An anti-racist orientation can help guide many facets of an organization: out-reach practices, service providing, hiring, resource allocation, group communication, etc. With an anti-racist perspective, individuals can work to create organizations that both embrace ethnic diversity and model a commitment to racial justice. Organizations whose members are primarily from privileged communities can seek guidance from leaders that represent grassroots organizations in other communities. Groups can form alliances across racial or national boundaries making shared use of differing access to information, experiential knowledge, economic resources, and political power.

Organizations can promote anti-racist solidarity by investigating the racial dimensions of any issues that they are working on. For example, anti-racist environmentalists have exposed the disproportionate effects of toxic waste on communities of color. Information technology activists interested in racial justice have designed projects to accomodate differing needs in differing ethnic communities. Within the anti-war and anti-globalization movements, activists with an anti-racist orientation have drawn attention to the role that racist discourse and ideology play in maintaining public support for international policy.

The greatest challenge to anti-racism is the discomfort, defensiveness, and animosity that it often engenders among whites (or other racially privileged groups—depending on the context). Rejection often happens when individuals from privileged groups do not see themselves as responsible, in any way, for the conditions that other racial groups experience. Talking about race privilege and unconscious racial biases can seriously threaten people’s positive sense of self. Many people are more comfortable believing that innate characteristics of racial groups cause the problems or successes that each groups experience, and some people even perceive themselves to be discriminated against when members of other racial groups demand social change to alleviate injustices. Whites who are economically disadvantaged, (or who experience discrimination related to age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, or other characteristic), sometimes see anti-racism as a denial of their own hardships. In extreme cases, oppressed whites may react so negatively to anti-racist critiques that they turn toward white supremacist or neo-nationalist ideologies to shore-up their low self-esteem (see Paul Gilroy for a critique of British anti-racist education of working class youth). People of color also sometimes oppose anti-racist perspectives when they have been convinced by the dominant culture that racism is no longer a significant, institutionalized problem. For people of color, becoming more aware of racism can be particularly painful and disempowering.

In order to be successful, anti-racists must recognize the strength of dominant racial attitudes and ideology. Anti-racist education and discourse should be geared toward the forms of denial and dismissal that are most common in a particular context. Educational activities should include follow-up support to help people process new, sometimes disturbing, ways of seeing the world. Resources that put a human face on the experience of racial oppression can be particularly useful. Focusing on the shared costs of racism (and the shared benefits of ending it) may be the best way to encourage inter-racial solidarity. When both whites and people of color recognize that ending racism is in their interests, they begin to see themselves as part of the long history of resistance to racism. This sense of solidarity across time and racial boundaries adds meaning and a sense of hope to the difficult, and sometimes emotionally painful, process of recognizing and challenging race privilege and racism.

Solution: 

Only by recognizing racism (personal and institutional) and actively challenging it, can we hope to overcome the racial divisions that inhibit effective problem solving and weaken progressive movements. An anti-racist orientation to social change can help organizations successfully challenge policies and practices that mask power, exploitation, and resource grabbing behind the guise of liberal individualism and national interests.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Efforts to improve societies are hindered by privilege, fear, and prejudice across race, caste, and ethnic divisions. As with gender divisions, other hierarchies intertwine to erode the effectiveness of organizations. Anti-Racism has two dimensions: Anti-Racism through awareness and Anti-Racism through action. An anti-racist orientation to social change can help organizations challenge policies and practices that mask power, exploitation, and resource grabbing.

Pattern status: 
Released

Teaching to Transgress

Pattern ID: 
763
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
20
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Obviously, good teachers try their best to teach what they believe to be correct. Yet, the world changes so that what was true is no longer true and what was once irrelevant becomes important, even vital. Further, even with respect to things that do not objectively change, new knowledge is continually created. It is natural for students to identify with good teachers and to value their knowledge highly. A possible side-effect of this basically good process, however, is that the student may become reluctant to “go against” the teaching of their mentor/hero/professor. This reluctance occurs, not just with respect to individual teachers, but also with respect to the society as a whole.

Context: 

The world is changing rapidly and critically. For example, the human population has exploded in the last few hundred years. The consumption of fossil fuels continues basically unabated despite the signs of global warming and the finite nature of these fuels. The incredibly destructive nature of modern weaponry means that fights for limited economic resources or over restrictive and doctrinaire religions can produce unprecedented levels of human misery. Yet, many individuals, groups, and societies seem just as conservative and rigid as ever.

Discussion: 

Living organisms have existed on earth for at least 10**9 years while modern human institutions like government have only been around for about 10**4 years. Living organisms all have the capacity to change with each new generation both through mutation and re-combination. We would do well to emulate what has worked.

The United States Consititution, although a best efforts work at the time it was created, also carries within it, provision for change through Amendment and many of these have been critical to the broadening of American democracy to a wider range of citizens.

The Walking People (Underwood, 1997) describes the journey of one branch of the Iroquois Tribe over several millenia. In the process, they were forced to learn to accomodate to different physical and cultural situations. They developed numerous mechanisms both for retaining learned wisdom and for challenging and changing when new situations arose.

The need for challenge and change has probably never been greater. Nonetheless, there are many mechanisms that tend to prevent change. At the individual level, change can be uncomfortable. Typically, a targeted change in one area or domain also has unintended consequences not only in that same area or domain but in others as well. If an individual changes, this may require compensatory changes in those close to the individual. Thus, there is often resistance to change at the level of family and friends as well. Furthermore, there is often institutional resistance to change. Institutions, including corporations, work to keep any and all advantages that they already enjoy. Governments and religions also often work to keep the status quo.

Given the numerous levels at which resistance to change occurs, it is necessary to have active mechanisms that work toward change. The impacts of change need to be carefully evaluated however because not all changes, even well-intentioned ones work well.

Solution: 

In order to help prevent stagnation of knowledge, one useful strategy is for the teacher, as an integral part of their teaching, to teach “transgression”; that is, to go against the “received wisdom” — to test and rebel against it. The scope of such transgression should be wide and include all of a society's rules, prejudices, and attitudes.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Students identify with good teachers and value their knowledge highly. This might mean, however, that students might be reluctant to “go against” the teaching of their mentor/hero/professor. Teaching to Transgress actively questions and tests society's “received wisdom.” Teaching to Transgress helps instill the idea that societies must change and that we all have responsibility for promoting that change.

Pattern status: 
Released

Back to the Roots

Pattern ID: 
877
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
13
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Humankind has developed incredibly complex intellectual, cultural, physical, and technological artifacts over the years. This has put a wide chasm between our present status and our "roots" where we all were closer to nature, closer to the source and sustenance of our lives.

Context: 

These are some of the "roots" that all humankind shares: Fire and the hearth. Running water, bubbling or still water. Ice and steam. The sea and the ancient life within it. The sun, moon, stars, comets and planets. Soil, mud, sand, rocks. Mountains, caves, dunes, swamps. Plant — huge trees, alpine flowers, cactus and lichen — and animal life — frogs, monkeys, lemurs, spiders, rats, ants, bats, mosquitoes, cassowaries, camels, penguins and pigs. Hunger, food, nourishment, thirst, cells, the body, the rhythms and phases of life. the family; culture, music, art, and stories. Love, knowledge, wonder, mystery, language. perception. We can't foreswear them because they are part of us.

Discussion: 

In A Pattern Language, Alexander and his colleagues described three patterns devoted specifically to water — ACCESS TO WATER (25), POOLS AND STREAMS (64), and STILL WATER (71) — as well as SACRED SITES (24) and TREE PLACES (171). Yet, according in a review of Alexander's work in a Harvard Design Magazine review Saunders faults Alexander’'s "New Age flower-child wistfulness" when Alexander speaks of the health benefits that are associated with a deeper connection with nature.

In cities and in developed areas around the world generally many of humankind’s “roots” are barely visible. In the U.S., for example, only 2% of people who live in rural areas are engaged in farming. Even more astounding is the fact that "rural" is no longer rural: a large percentage of rural dwellers live within 25 miles of a city. But far from being a nostalgic look back, discovering, cultivating and building on our “radical center” can be a wellspring for creative preparations for the future.

We are learning the hard way that "estrangement from the animate earth has negative consequences for human functioning" (Barlett, 2005) and people are making strides towards a closer touch. City dwellers are now demanding “Pea patches” and other urban gardening opportunities. People are learning the value of having plants close by when, for example, convalescing from disease, operation or abuse (Tesh, ____). In South Central Los Angeles, in an economically disadvantaged part of the city close to the scene of the Rodney King riots of 1992, 14 acres of land that were destined to become home for a giant trash-to-energy incinerator was purchased by the city through eminent domain for $4.8 million. Through a series of events, the city granted temporary use of the land for community gardens that turned into 12 years and the 350 families have cultivated the urban farm since that day. In 2006, in spite of large public demonstations, the farm, lungs for the city in a car-centric metropolis, was reclaimed by the city to be sold back to the original owner. The land will be used for light manufacturing or warehouses.

In the introduction to her excellent book (2005) Peggy Barlett recounts many of the ways through which we have lost or nearly lost our connections to our roots — and the possible perils that such losses may engender. She also shows how the benefits from reconnecting spread in unexpected ways: "As volunteers clean up a trash-filled urban stream, for example, they absorb a new concept of watershed. They learn that parking lots, driveways, and lawn chemicals affect water quality and stream insect life. People who might have never thought about mayflies or runoff water temperature develop a new relationship to the stream ecosystem and indicators of its health (Barlett, 2002). Concerns about urban air quality also draw attention to the ecological matrix of life. Trees provide "services" by removing air pollutants, retaining storm water, cooling temperatures, and providing habit and food for other species. Restoration work of prairies and forests builds attachment to the natural world in a more grounded local way than a more diffuse embrace of nature in the abstract (Light and Higgs, 1997). According to Barlett, "Modern cities make distance from nature possible for a larger group than in the past." She also raises the idea that "Urban place is a locale as well for the enactment of human hierarchy. Distance from the natural world may be connected to power over the lower classes and their labor." Certainly the arts, the priesthood, the seats of governmet, and the banks are found in cities.

One intriguing concept is how our very thought patterns — our abstractions, human-centrism, and economic calculations — may exclude nature and our roots. Barlett, for examples, shows how anthropology, sociology and the other social sciences exclude humankind's connections with other life forms, natural phenomenon and own past. Of course from a capitalist perspective, nature has "value" only when it has a "price" and potential for profit. Unfortunately many people find themselves "priced-out" of their own land and their own culture legacy. Access to unexploited and unspoiled nature, our common roots is increasingly the domain of the wealthy. The most dangerous of these tendencies, however, may be that we forget our own history as a part and product of nature and hence our ability to reformulate a more harmonious connection with nature.

How are we supposed to employ this pattern? For most of humankind's progress through the centuries nature was abundant and humankind scarce. Nature was something that could be "conquered." Some of the world's religions informed us that God intended us to have "dominion" over nature. We can't really "go back" to the primeval time of our "roots" — nor would we want to. We will not and can not abandon our cities and "return" to a state of nature. But at the same time we must boldly explore the idea of living in some sort of closer harmony with nature and the forces of life that we implicitly think we can ignore.

Yet for the timelessness and presumed innocence of our roots, immense damage has been wrought over time "in the name of" roots: blood, tradition, purity, the soil. We know that people from the city are not "better" than people from the country. We also know that the reverse is not true; for actually many people in the country have also lost their feel for nature. We don't invoke the idea of "roots" to pit one group against another but to relate the two in common bonds.

Barlett believes that "there are unanticipated benefits to collective and individual well-being with the reconnection to the natural world, an often-neglected dimension of the emerging paradigm shift toward a more sustainable society" and "part of a shifting paradigm that locates humankind within the biosphere." Thinking holistically we can imagine and create new opportunities for reconnecting with our roots that have unxpected benefits: "a community garden in New York City may replace an abandoned lot and come to be a social focus for many who live nearby." Barlett again, "Community gardens not only provide nutritious food and conviviality with neighbors, but can build a different sense of self through a new awareness of growing cycles, weather and human agency."

For example, South Central Farmers and their current struggle to maintain the urban farm land.

Solution: 

Barlett presents "several layers of connections to nature" including knowledge; emerging emotional attachment; purposeful action; new personal choices and ethical action and commitments to political action. The plants that we eat of course have literal roots that climb backwards, down through the soil, searching for nutrients. Humankind’s roots also reach back through time and space and are likewise eternal.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Humankind has altered the world socially and materially incredibly over the years. This has created a chasm between our present status and our "roots" which are closer to nature and closer to the source and sustenance of our lives. Going Back to the Roots is not intended to be a nostalgic trip: discovering, cultivating and building on our “radical center” can be a wellspring for creative preparations for the future.

Pattern status: 
Released

Working Class Consciousness

Pattern ID: 
751
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
12
Steve Zeltzer
Labor Video Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The need for a global consciousness, solidarity and collaboration among working people in every country of the world is a critical task for confronting the economic, political and social challenges the working class faces. The deepening contradictions of imperialism with it's war in Iraq and the need to militarize Asia and the rest of the world are opportunities for bringing working people together.

Context: 

The man made failure of the most recent catastrophe in the US Gulf Coast is an example of the need of working people to take control of their lives and society.

Discussion: 

One important tool in this process of international working class globalization is not only by joint collective action by workers throughout the world but through the use of film, art and media technology to bring working people together.

The training of workers in every industry and every country for this work is the task ahead and the success of this project requires that this be an international campaign based on the grassroots of struggle in collaboration both with regional, national and international labor. The Labortech and Labor Media conferences www.labortech2004.org in many countries of the world have been important in training and building these international links. They have taken place in Vancouver, BC, Moscow, Russia, Seoul, Korea and many cities in the United States.

In the US and Europe and growing parts of Asia, these resources are readily available but at the same time workers in every country of the world must have the means and ability to concretely link up internationally. The developments of LaborNets in Japan, Korea, Austria, Germany, Turkey, Denmark and the US have been a growing vehicle for developing labor festivals and labor technology conferences.

LaborFests or Labor Media Conferences have been held in Japan, Korea, the US, Russia. This past November, a LaborFest was held in Buenos Aries and one is planned this coming October in El Alto, Bolivia and in April-May 2006 in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey.

These festivals which could be held in every city of the world provide a venue and concrete means for linking through film, music and culture the collective experiences and consciousness of workers throughout the world. The rebellions of workers in Latin America, the fight against capitalist globalization have been a theme that expose the commonality of all the attacks the working class faces.

The important need to use media both tv and radio to link workers around the world is also growing. The same economic policies such as deregulation, caualization, privatization and de-unionization are at work in every country of the world.

The failure of the workers in the United States to begin to challenge the basic assaults that they face is of course the responsibility of the corporate unionists who control the resources and apparatus of the trade unions. The failure to provide a concrete alternative program and agenda is a major impediment to any form of national and international fightback. The need for an international collaboration is also connected to develop the means for the international working class to take control of their destiny. Airline workers world wide, longshore workers, medical workers, teachers, public workers, telecommunication workers are faced with the exact same type of attacks yet they have been hobbled by a lack of international collaboration and collective joint action.

The experience of the Liverpool Dockers strike in 1995 that led to the formation of an international labor action in solidarity as well as a web based international solidarity campaign was crucial in building international support.
http://www.labournet.net/sept97/sfpress1.html

This was carried on in 1997 when the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions KCTU and their supporters established an international web page in support of their general strike. The web page in Korean and English became a critical tool in building direct support action for workers around the world as well as an information portal on the struggle and a way for unions and workers worldwide to show their solidarity on the web.

The Korean union federation KCTU has been the most active national union federation in the world to seek collective cultural action and direct labor action to defend it's interests. It has recently called for a national strike against casualization and temporary work on November 23, 2005 and international action by workers throughout the world would be an important step in building this collective action about an issue that effects and harms working people worldwide.

The KCTU also hosts and organizes a yearly festival in November 12 in commemoration of the death of labor organizer Chun Taeil to not only have a mass mobilization but a national 8 hour cultural media art celebration. This even which is held at the Korean Broadcasting Company Stadium brings together the experiences of the working class through a cultural and theatrical production that is choreographed to the minute over 8 hours. Such a festival could and should be held in every country that ties together the song, poetry, music and art of struggle. The power of this collective expression is an important element in breaking down the corporatized isolation, marginalization of workers and humanity as well as the commodification of music, art and cultural expressions for profit of the multi-nationals.

The growing privatization of the internet and the threat to censorship and control of the internet has been growing. In the Liverpool dockers strike, the shipping corporations tried to stop information from being posted. In Korea, the government sought to pressurize www.nodong.net, the Geman government this year raided the internet servers of the German labornet www.labournet.de. Most recently the Canadian Telus Corporation prevented million of users from accessing the labor web pages of the Canadian Telecom Union TWU. (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/01/business/worldbusiness/01telus.html?pa...)

This censorship does not only come from corporate and anti-union media and technology corporations.
In the UK, the Executive Council of the FBU banned members from using the public website of an opposition grouping opposing labor management collaboration and "partnerships". (http://www.labournet.net/sept97/sfpress1.html)

The international collective voices of working people have the power to overcome the different languages, cultures and borders that presently exist. In fact, this is crucial for a new renaissance of collective self consciousness that is vital for the transformation of the present dynamics. The future reorganization of the world economy into one controlled by the working class requires the use of these tools now to build this collective and democratic power.

The use of the internet as not only a communication tool but broadcasting tool is relatively at an early stage. A 24 hour labor video and radio channel in all the languages of the world is realizable with the expansion of the internet and this is now happening with a 24 hour labor radio channel in Korea at www.nodong.org International collaboration in action and on a cultural level must be linked with the use of communication technology and a labor media strategy that focuses on how these technologies can empower the working class and farmers as well as how they can confront the global propaganda blitz by capitalist media against the interests of the people.

Solution: 

The international collective voices of working people have the power to overcome the different languages, cultures and borders that presently exist. In fact, this is crucial for a new renaissance of collective self consciousness that is vital for the transformation of the present dynamics. The future reorganization of the world economy into one controlled by the working class requires the use of these tools now to build this collective and democratic power. The need to defend democratic communication rights and protections is fundamental to defend media and democratic communication and education and direct action are necessary to accomplish this work.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Global consciousness, solidarity, and collaboration among working people around the world are critical for addressing the challenges that the working class faces. One important tool in addition to collective action is the use of film, art, and media technology. The training of workers for this work requires an international campaign in collaboration with labor at all levels. The need to defend communication rights and protections is fundamental, as is education and direct action.

Pattern status: 
Released

Matrifocal Orientation

Pattern ID: 
617
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
9
Lori Blewett
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Because almost all contemporary societies are androcentric (male-centered), women's needs, interests, ideas, and perspectives on the world are often ignored or trivialized. Androcentrism perpetuates a patriarchal system that oppresses women and severely constrains (and damages) men's lives as well. An orientation toward social change that gives voice to women's perspectives and strives to replace patriarchy with an egalitarian, matrifocal society would go a long way toward creating a just and peaceful world for all.

Context: 

Although societies differ in the degree and form which male dominance takes, male privilege is generally maintained through systems of beliefs, laws, discriminatory practices, and cultural norms (including direct or indirect perpetuation of male violence). Patriarchy concentrates social, political, and economic power in the hands of men at the expense of women. Because gender oppression is ancient and insidious, a conscious effort is needed to recognize the gendered dimensions of social problems. Looking at the world with a matrifocal orientation can help create contexts in which women-centered analyses of social problems are fully incorporated into problem-solving processes.

Discussion: 

A matrifocal orientation to social change draws directly on women’s experience and knowledge and puts the needs of oppressed women at the center of social transformation. Matrifocal societies, real and imagined, do not challenge patriarchy by offering its mirror image--with women in positions of dominance over men. Rather, they embrace values traditionally seen as feminine: peace, nurturance, cooperation, and care for those most in need. A matrifocal society is one in which dominance over others is not supported (neither as an individual or collective goal). The needs and contributions of women are valued equally with those of men. Women’s interests are not special interests but human interests. Social distinctions between males and females may be minimized [depending on the culture], and those biological/social differences that remain do not inhibit women’s full participation in the society. A matrifocal orientation to social change recognizes that “the rising of the women means the rising of the [human] race” (1).

The need for women’s voices to be heard in order for society to become more just, has been recognized by progressive social reformers for centuries (and probably longer). This awareness led to the development of women-centered movements throughout the world. As a social/political orientation, the Matrifocus pattern is reflected in both feminist organizing in first world nations and community-centered women’s organizing in Third world nations. Historically, many Third World women’s organizations have been concerned with conditions of economic hardship, displacement, and state-sponsored violence affecting their communities as a whole, while first world feminist groups have focused more exclusively on women’s social and political rights. In recent decades the issue of violence against women has been a common theme of transnational women organizing (2). Regardless of the issue, whenever women organize with the goal of creating a more just and sustainable society, they are endeavoring to insert their voices and their perspectives into the public debate. By doing so, they are subverting the androcentric norm of male power and female silence.

Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, for example, were able to subvert androcentric norms after initially making use of them. The simultaneous cultural respect for motherhood and perceived political irrelevance of women, allowed Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo to protest relatively unhindered at a time when public demonstrations were officially illegal in Argentina. By also making themselves visible beyond national borders, Las Madres fostered a successful international advocacy network to pressured government investigation into state sponsored murders during the Pinochet regime. The powerful example of Argentinean mothers refusing to be silent has inspired other women’s groups, such as Women in Black in Israel and elsewhere, to stand out publicly against state sponsored violence.

Not surprisingly, many organizations that can be described as having a matrifocal orientation have been “women’s” organizations. But this is not required by the pattern. Labor groups reflect a matrifocal orientation when they strive for gender equity policies, family leave policies, the right to organize in traditionally female occupations, and increased female union leadership. Anti-globalization groups demonstrate a matrifocal orientation when they recognize the significant impact of trade policies on women, and when they give voice to women’s knowledge as farmers, workers, parents, and preservers of culture. Environmental groups like the Chipko movement in India or EcoFeminists in the U.S. reflect a matrifocal orientation when they draw upon and amplify the voices of women, highlight reproductive issues as environmental issues, and speak with reference to the future of all children on the planet.

Regardless of whether a group consists of men or women or both, having a matrifocal orientation means that people ask, “How is the problem we perceive exacerbated by patriarchy, and how has our way of responding to it been limited by patriarchal thinking?" Resisting androcentric norms by putting women’s perspectives in the center, rather than the periphery, of social debates is a first step toward undermining patriarchy and the social ills it perpetuates.

One problem with the Matrifocal pattern is its potential to reinforce male-female dichotomies. Whenever people speak up for traditionally “feminine” goals and values—particularly when they use the role of motherhood for political leverage--they run the risk of reifying patriarchal beliefs about the essential nature of women. Many reactionary movements have argued that their goals and strategies are in the best interests of women, and female voices are often used to promote these messages. Many western feminists, for example, have been hesitant to organize under the banner of motherhood not only because many women chose not to be mothers, but also because such representations may inadvertently bolster the idea that motherhood is women’s single most important function in society. Activist who use a matrifocal orientation must be careful to distinguish between biological femaleness and matrifocal goals. There are many males that value peace, nurturance, care for those in needs, collaborative problem solving, and an end to reward-oriented hierarchies. There are also many females that are not interested in creating a just society and prefer to amass what benefits they can within the current social order; some fully support patriarchy. Matrifocal is not synonymous with female or maternal.

A second problem with a matrifocal orientation is the misperception that everyone who adopts it will, or should, agree on particular social goals and political strategies. They wont. What is shared by people who adopt a matrifocal orientation is a consciousness that overcoming problems of violence, economic oppression, and gender oppression, requires replacing patriarchy with an alternative social order, and that increasing women’s participation in the public sphere is one step in such a transformation.

Solution: 

A matrifocal orientation keeps the system of patriarchy visible so that alternatives can be imagined and created.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Because almost all societies are male centered, women’s needs, interests, ideas, and perspectives are often ignored or trivialized. Matrifocal communities are organized around values traditionally seen as “feminine” such as peace, nurturance, cooperation, and care for others. A Matrifocal Orientation that gives voice to women’s perspectives would help promote a just and peaceful world for all. Women’s interests are not special interests, but human interests.

Pattern status: 
Released

Social Responsibility

Pattern ID: 
875
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
8
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College
Burl Humana
Kenneth Gillgren
Gillgren Communication Services, Inc.
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Things don’t get better by themselves. Without purposeful intervention, organizations of all kinds lose sight of their social responsibilities.

Context: 

Any organization that sees itself without social responsibility will change only in the face of financial penalty or purposeful intervention. Where social benefits form all or part of an organization’s purpose, this alone does not guarantee positive achievements. Any organization with a shared vision of social responsibility, whether a for-profit corporation or a not-for-profit group working for the public good, needs to deliver what it promises. A passion for principles drives the efforts of individuals and citizen groups to make corporations, professions and governments more responsive; the more open and accountable they are, the more responsive they will become.

Discussion: 

The striving for social responsibility takes many forms. Grameen Bank (www.grameen-info.org) and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, received the 2006 Nobel Prize for furthering peace and human rights by providing economic opportunities that conventional banks would not. Working Assets (www.workingassets.com) preassigns a portion of its revenues to activist causes. Socially responsible investing uses published criteria to recommend investment vehicles and to initiate stockholder actions in support of particular principles.

Advocacy organizations pursue a wide variety of principles. The Saltwater Institute advocates five values: (a) family and community responsibility, (b) respect and appreciation for the natural world, (c) service and stewardship, (d) the necessity for work and productivity, and (e) an intentional commitment to goodness (www.saltwater.org/our_story/beliefs.htm). Scientists for Global Responsibility (www.sgr.org.uk) opt for openness, accountability, peace, social justice and environmental sustainability, while Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (www.cpsr.org) address technological problems in the light of technology-related principles.

Until the late 19th century, corporate charters in the United States confined a company to a specific purpose in the common good. For example, an 1823 act of the New York legislature incorporated the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company with a charter to build and maintain, with private investment, a canal between the Delaware and Hudson rivers and to charge regulated fees for the transport of coal and other goods. Any other activity by the corporation, such as setting up a bank, required an amendment to its charter (Whitford, 1905). A recent form of the socially-responsible corporate charter is the Community Interest Company ( www.cicregulator.gov.uk).

In 1970, the economist Milton Friedman wrote that "The social responsibility of business is to maximize its profits." Invoking the authority of Adam Smith to claim that society most benefits if everyone pursues selfish advantage, Friedman paved the way for some businesses to ignore the wider impacts of their pursuit of low costs, increasing sales, and big financial returns, and to consider themselves accountable only to owners and regulators. In turn, this gave rise to the tyranny of the financial bottom line; any attempt at purposeful social progress needs to overcome the myth that social progress takes place of its own accord.

Activism on behalf of principles other than self-interest or convenience is necessary to remind selfish businesses of their social responsibility, and to prevent other organizations from losing touch with theirs. This activism can take place outside the organization, in citizen groups and political platforms, or within the organization as the individual actions of the tempered radical (Meyerson, 1995) and in the form of changes to policy and governance. In these efforts, the struggle of advocacy is at least as important as the specific principles being advocated. Social responsibility does not depend upon any one principle of conduct.

To be socially responsible is to be accountable to a full range of interested parties for the achievement of clearly-stated goals. It calls for: (a) clear vision, values and strategy for a better future; (b) understanding and management of expectations; (c) actions compatible with vision and values; (d) monitoring of outcomes; (e) accountability for results; and (f) a culture and governance that makes this possible. A socially responsible organization acts on the basis of clear values, which may explicitly include measurable results, transparency and accountability (e.g. www.gfusa.org/about_us/values).

Any organization has internal and external stakeholders: customers and constituencies which both contribute to and benefit from the organization's work. For example, the Citizens Advice Bureau (2004) considers stakeholders to include potential and actual clients, volunteers, staff, partners, policy makers, and government bodies. No two of these customers of constituencies have the same expectations. A socially responsible organization makes itself accountable to stakeholders according to the unique expectations of each group, and always consistently with its values and strategy.

Accountability to stakeholders measures actual performance against predetermined goals. It does not simply describe what an organization has achieved in the past, but requires commitment to achievements in advance. To be accountable is to measure indicators of performance that affect stakeholders, and to make the results transparent—that is, to report outcomes to stakeholders as evidence that the organization is fulfilling its goals and enacting its values. One example is a set of performance indicators for microfinance institutions ( www.swwb.org/English/2000/performance_standards_in_microfinance.htm).

Any organization devoted to serving others is measured every time someone walks in or logs on—indeed, whenever anyone even drives past the building or happens upon the web site. A commitment to achieve social benefits does not absolve a not-for-profit from thinking of the people it serves as customers, and to consider its relations with them as marketing (Brinckerhoff, 2003). To clearly understand perspectives from outside the organization is a first step toward measuring and improving the organization's impact.

Social responsibility requires accountability, but for what and to whom? Several frameworks exist for measures of accountability. The Balanced Scorecard (Kaplan & Norton, 1992) suggests four linked categories: financial, customer, internal business, and innovation and learning. These categories are linked to strategy because improvement in any one will benefit all the others (except that no direct relationship is claimed between the first and the last). Epstein and Birchard (1999) propose three categories: financial, operational, and social.

A "stakeholder scorecard" (Epstein & Birchard, 1999, p. 96) uses the major stakeholders as categories of performance measures. This approach directly measures how the organization serves its stakeholders, and orients strategy towards those with an interest in the outcomes. Stakeholders may fall into predetermined categories, such as shareholders, customers, employees and communities (Epstein & Birchard, 1999); alternatively, they may simply appear as a list of specific categories of stakeholder most important to the organization.

No organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, is socially responsible simply by virtue of its intent to achieve social benefits. Action consistent with the organization's espoused values demands a culture—ethical assumptions, values, beliefs and behaviors—that pervades the organization from top to bottom. Without a culture of demonstrable consistency between espoused and practiced values, claims to social responsibility are at best window-dressing, and at worst a symptom of a demoralized, failing and unethical organization. By contrast, a culture of accountability makes an organization more effective and more sustainable; social responsibility demands nothing less.

Solution: 

Whether from without or within, advocate for principles to help for-profit corporations realize their social responsibility in addition to the responsibility they feel toward stockholders, and to spur not-for-profit organizations, government bodies, and professions to keep their social responsibility in view. One principle that applies everywhere is that of openness and accountability.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Having social benefits as part of an organization's mission, does not guarantee positive achievements. Any organization with a shared vision of Social Responsibility needs to deliver what it promises. Activism on behalf of principles other than self-interest or convenience is necessary to remind organizations of their Social Responsibility, and to prevent other organizations from losing touch with theirs.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Political Settings

Pattern ID: 
760
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
7
Jonathan Barker
University of Toronto
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The venues of political action are changing dramatically with the proliferation of new kinds of non-governmental organizations, the broadening coverage of the Internet, and the actions of governments to redefine and often reduce the scope of their direct interventions. We need concepts to describe these changes and assess their implications, both negative and positive, for democratic participation.

Context: 

Innovative political or social action fits into the existing field of popular and governmental activity. What political settings—as gatherings to inform, discuss, assert, dispute, debate, and decide important public matters—are available? What are their biases about who can participate, how matters are discussed, and what issues can be raised? Where do particular settings fit in the hierarchy of power? How do economic and cultural forces and physical threats influence the process? Will a new action create a new setting or alter an existing one? By asking questions like these, activists will better grasp the changes they are asking people to make, and researchers can analyze the changing shape and structure of political space over long or short spans of time. 

Discussion: 

Political settings are the basic physical units of collective political action. Each instance of a political setting has its own unique location in space and time. Many recur on a regular basis. Meetings and demonstrations are common types of political setting. Here are two recent examples from reports about political change in Venezuela. One is a small-scale political setting, a barrio meeting; the other describes two large-scale, competing political marches:

The Meeting
Nidia Lopez stood on one side of the brick built shack. It was like one of the thousands that made up the barrio of Andres Bello. The barrios, or slums, are where the majority of the Venezuelan population lives. Thirty people looked at Nidia. Some of them stood outside in the mud. The building was too small to fit them all.
Nidia spoke and her voice was clear and loud. She said, "There are 23 families living on the street in this barrio. In eight years what has this government done for them? In three years what has this Committee done for them? They need help now! What are we going to do for them now?"
The "we" that Nidia was talking about was the Urban Land Committee for the Andres Bello barrio. The Urban Land Committees...exist everywhere there are barrios in Venezuela and barrios are everywhere in Venezuela.
When barrio problems are discussed...the most common suggestion is to get organized. At the Andres Bello meeting, barrio resident Hector Madera said, “When the people of our barrio have a problem they mustn’t rely on the media, or go and whisper in the ear of a friend in a Chavista party, we need to organize ourselves.”
Nidia Lopez felt the best way the Andres Bello CTU could help the 23 homeless families was to take the appeal to the President. Everybody else in the meeting argued it was more important that organization happen first.
The families should...discuss with each other about what they wanted. They should also talk with the owner of the mansion. Only then should they approach the government for assistance if they still needed it.
Madera said the barrios needed to organize together, "When organized we can involve the people from nearby barrios, like Chapellin, and get their support. We will help them and them us. Together we solve our problems ourselves. We can march together."
( Source: Entitled to Democracy:Venezuela’s Urban Land Committees and Participatory Democracy. Saturday, Feb 11, 2006. By Alex Holland – Venezuelanalysis.com)

The Marches
Venezuelans celebrated International Worker’s Day yesterday with two large marches that wound through the streets of Caracas. One in support of the Chavez-led "Bolivarian Revolution," and the other with the opposition. This marks the sixth year in a row that Venezuelan workers have held separate marches on May 1st.
The opposition march was led by the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) which, according to the Venezuelan daily El Universal, called for the participants to march for increased salaries, back-pay, a dignified social security system, and freedom for CTV President Carlos Ortega, who was sentenced last year to 16 years in prison for his role in the two-month 2002-3 oil industry shut down.
"Things are turbulent. With this government everything is turbulent," yelled 15 year- CTV veteran, Israel Masa, from the opposition march. "That’s why we are marching -- to demand transparency in the next elections, because we in the opposition know that we are the majority and that we are the true democrats."
The pro-government march was led by the National Workers Union (UNT) and officially entitled, the "Bolivarian March Against Imperialism and Free Trade Agreements," highlighting the international importance of today’s celebrations, and calling attention to the recent motives for Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Community of Andean Nations.
"This demonstration is a struggle against imperialism and the conspiratorial plans of US imperialism against Venezuela," announced Venezuelan National Assembly Representative Dario Vivas ...at the start of the march. "The people of Venezuela are ready to do whatever necessary to guarantee our liberty."
(Source: Opposition and Chavez Supporters March Separately for Mayday in Venezuela, Tuesday, May 02, 2006. By Michael Fox - Venezuelanalysis.com)

As these two examples show, the respective contexts -- social structure, rules of entry and action, physical layout, and cultural expectations -- heavily influence the quality of participation and the content of decisions and messages. “Political setting” is a particularly useful concept for describing political action in context, the venues of face-to-face political communication that are the building-blocks of public political life. They encompass all occasions in which issues and needs of general importance to a community or a society are discussed, contested, and decided. They may be open and democratic, but very often they explicitly or implicitly bar certain groups, certain perspectives, and certain issues. It is important to investigate how they filter participants and ideas.

Although many of meetings and debates that seek to influence community-wide matters take place in government institutions, an increasing proportion occur in voluntary associations, social movement groupings, and invitation-only meetings. Internet discussions demonstrate the growing importance of virtual political settings and raise questions about how they differ from face-to-face meetings and how uneven access to computers affects political outcomes. The rules and culture of each setting influence the quality of communication, deliberation, and decision-making it embodies. Are they open or secret? Which voices do they amplify or exclude? What about women, poor people, people of low status, different cultures and religions? What is their impact?

The idea of political setting draws upon ecological psychology’s concept of "behavior settings," but it puts the focus on activity that aims to influence public policy. It opens the door into exploration of the evolving pattern language exemplified in the face-to-face political actions from below that are emerging in meetings and demonstrations around the world with all their limitations as well as their strengths.

Solution: 

Seeing and analyzing popular politics through the lens of political settings promises to generate a useful and realistic view of the political resources available for popular action and of the obstacles that such action faces.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Political action venues are changing with the proliferation of new kinds of nongovernmental organizations, the broadening reach of the Internet, and the actions of governments. Political Settings are the basic units of collective political action.The idea of political settings opens the door to exploration of evolving civic intelligence exemplified by political actions from below.

Pattern status: 
Released

The Good Life

Pattern ID: 
776
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
3
Gary Chapman
University of Texas at Austin
Version: 
2
Problem: 

"What is the good life?" An answer to that question has so many variations today that the competition between answers can often paralyze the imaginations of people who want to implement positive social change. How can one break through the noise and violence of such competition and begin moving global society in a positive and deliberate direction?

Context: 

People who hope for a better world feel the need for a shared vision of the "good life," a vision that is flexible enough for innumerable individual circumstances but comprehensive enough to unite people in optimistic, deliberate, progressive social change. Ideally, this shared vision of the "good life" should promote and sustain conviviality and solidarity among people, as well as feelings of individual effectiveness, self-worth and purpose. A shared vision of the "good life" is never complete, but is always adapting; it should be "in harmony with the human condition," which means that it encompasses suffering, loss and conflict as well as pleasures, reverence and common goals of improvement. An emergent framework for the modern "good life" is based on some form of humanism, particularly pragmatic or civic humanism, but with room for a spiritual dimension of the mind that does not seek domination over the minds of others. Finally, the environmental crises of the planet require a broad vision of a "good life" that can harmonize human aspirations with natural limits. And all of this needs to be an ongoing and open-ended "conversation," best suited to small geographic groups, such as towns and neighborhoods, that can craft and then live an identity that reflects their vision of a "good life."

Discussion: 

Ever since people first began to understand the implications of the time-limits of the human life, there has been speculation on what constitutes the best use of this time, a human lifespan -- in other words, what is the "good life?"

Throughout human history and even today, the answer to this question, for most people, is provided by God and by ritual. That is, the fundamental guide for how to live life is religion expressed through ritual, not only the formal rituals of religious practice but the small daily rituals of an existence permeated with conventions derived from religious guidance. For billions of people today, this is so ingrained in their psyches that doubt about what constitutes the "good life" is absent -- or else a personal secret.

But there is are many other meanings attached to the phrase "the good life." Aristotle argued that the good life is the "bios theoretikos," the contemplative life, in which the aristos, the "best man," spends his life contemplating the order of the cosmos and his place in it. This was transformed by Christianity into the life of the cloister, in which monks and nuns were meant to spend their lives contemplating the wonder of God's work. But it was also embedded into the practice of philosophy in the Western tradition, both metaphysical and otherwise, so that there is still today a strong Aristotelian association between the "good life" and the life of the mind.

It was in Renassiance Italy that Western thinkers first ventured a potential break between the idea of the "good life" and religion, by suggesting that the best example of a good life was a man of "virtu," or the earthly qualities of courage, deliberate action and command -- someone who would be remembered in history, rather than rewarded in heaven. Machiavelli derided Christianity as a belief of meekness and submission, while he advocated a robust republican humanism that celebrated worldly success and the ability to turn one's life into a kind of work of art, not unlike the famous works of art of his time.

The great break of modernity, the separation of modern thinking with that of the past, is the idea that the "good life" is a matter of individual choice -- "the pursuit of happiness," as the U.S. Declaration of Independence puts it. English rationalists, Marxian communists and even conservative thinkers like Edmund Burke all shared this premise: the goal of life is happiness and self-fulfillment.

Thus it has been the explosion of interpretations of the path to happiness that has produced so many competing conceptions of the good life. For many people today, the phrase "the good life" conjures up fantasies of unlimited wealth, leisure and luxury. This has certainly been the interpretation of marketers in a consumerist economy like our own.

On the other hand, for large numbers of people, the "good life" means simplicity and even austerity, an escape from the stress and bustle of urban life, pure air and water, the conviviality of a small rural community and good health. This is a model promoted by a series of books written in the 1930s by Scott and Helen Nearing, who moved to a farm in Vermont in 1932 and then published "The Good Life," a book about "simple, frugal and purposeful living," which was followed by more books and national speaking tours. The Good Life Center, a modern example of the Nearings' work, is still in operation in Harborside, Maine. Elements of this interpretation of the good life are now found in the "Slow Food" movement of southern Europe (and in some groups in the U.S.), and its spin-off in Italy, the Slow Cities (Slow Cittá) movement. This trend has even acquired a label: "downshifting."

The challenge of the current situation in the modern world is to develop the vision of a "good life" that is not anti-technological nor anti-spiritual, but which is serious about the limits of the global enviroment and critical of the emptiness, anomie and hectic "busy-ness" of consumerism. But cities are not going away -- they're growing, around the world -- so we need models of the "good life" that embrace urban living; indeed, population density is likely to be a necessity in the future.

There is an emerging concept of what might be called "reverent humanism," borrowing terms from philosophers Paul Woodruff (Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue) and Luc Ferry (What Is the Good Life?). This proposes a blend of rational and practical humanism with an appreciation of the transcendent, whether it be beauty, the law, or the ineffable spirit of human perseverance. Such a worldview depends on the support of a social context, a community of equals engaged in open-ended dialog that rejects absolute knowledge -- a modernized version of the res publica, the ideal of the Italian Renaissance. The inspiring ideas of the "Slow Food" movement bring in the pleasures of good food, drink, conviviality and ecological balance, while globalization and communications technologies -- especially the Internet -- make possible a sharing of innovations and the development of an appreciation for diversity and peace.

Solution: 

A revitalization of the idea of the "good life" should reinvigorate the ancient appeal of civic humanism, or "reverent humanism," that can embrace human potential, limits to consumerism but yet technological innovation, diversity and transcendence. The development of such an ideal should be a project -- explicit or implicit -- among groups dedicated to progressive social change. And "living the change you want" should become an essential part of the mission of all such groups.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People who hope for a better world feel the need for a shared vision of The Good Life. The environmental crises of the planet require a broad vision of a good life that harmonizes human aspirations and natural limits. A framework for the modern good life should be based on some form of humanism with room for a spiritual dimension that does not seek domination.

Pattern status: 
Released
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