Friday, July 6, 2012

detroit summer update #5

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5 is the the number of venus and of love. i met grace lee boggs today. went over to her pretty little house on field st. and gathered with a small group of 15 to talk of revolution. christopher, tai amri and i had all just finished reading the pamphlet {R}Evolution in the 21st Century aloud, in rounds. i must first say, as a genteel southerner, that grace is a generous and kind woman, and she welcomed us in with warmth. when i walked up to the armchair where she was sitting i said, "hello grace, it is so good to meet you, i'm michelle." she asked, "from oakland?" and i almost fell on the floor! she has been reading some of our updates, as i understand it...we all proceeded to settle in for a 2 hour chat, and i took a few notes that i will list below:

  • those in power have nothing to offer to resolve anything. hegel's dialectic. phenomenology of the mind. patience & labor & suffering of the negative. this is our work to do
  • create your own alternatives as you talk about counter-revolution
  • instituting a new form of government is the most pressing question of our time. the act of resisting will make the new forms emerge
  • danger of male dominiation
  • danger of charismatic, selfish leaders. "they emerge from our absence." - GLB
  • wangari matthai - "the challenge of africa"
  • love people to life. you can only kill a bad idea by introducing better ideas
  • time banks
  • you have to base your work on the struggles that already exist
  • don't forget that you have internal struggles, as well as those on the outside
  • the whip of the counter-revolution is also feeding the revolution
  • look at where the resistance to the counter-revolution is - it will create leadership
  • contradictions are internal, not external
  • revolutionary thinking requires on-going analysis
  • in the 1960's, we thought in terms of rights - we need to think in terms of responsibilities, as well
  • creating an alternative is part of who we are!
at the end, grace asked whether we would all be able to go to our families and begin talking about the need for revolution because, as she put it, the family is the basis of our knowledge of cooperative action. lastly, she allowed us to tour her home and her massive book collection. i flipped through her marked-up copy of hegel and posed for a picture with her. as we left, rick feldman (one of her long-time collaborators) told us on her porch that we had pleased her with our discussion, and that it had hopefully added at least a week to her life. i know it exponentially increased my own desire to stick around in this, our opulent and suffering world.

next, i attended a community conversation on revolution and forms of self-governance. this was a particularly difficult discussion to face right after our time with grace because, as i am becoming increasingly aware, many of us don't yet know what the hell to do or say when we are asked what we want. frithjof bergmann, the other day, called it a "poverty of desire." we are unaccustomed to being in positions where we might be asked such questions and, so yoked to our expected roles are we that, even amongst radicals, we have a great deal of visioning left to do before we can begin to answer this question fully. if it weren't such striking information to acknowledge, i would have regretted attending due to the sheer discomfort of grappling with exactly how we might create more local alternatives to our current system of representative democracy.

shortly following that event, i experienced - like a series of small lightening bolts - being "called" to discuss with one of my friends a long-standing and painful family situation that is his current reality. in a very frank and fresh way, i was able to frame my visions for just a couple of alternatives to his situation and to invite him into a re-examination of what he had previously considered closed. he expressed having never thought of one of the options i highlighted, and i saw a glimmer of opening in his view which is always enough for anything to be able to move, really. as we wrapped up our conversation, he thanked me for listening to him and gave me a compliment that i choose to take as a challenge before you all: he told me that the loving care and process work that i am so excellent at helping to facilitate is what he sees as missing from our movement. with so much grief to be processed, and so much fear to be faced as we step into the simultaneous realities of how much work there is to do and how fiercely bold we must be to imagine our liberation, we need (as he did) the loving presence and quality attention i had been able to offer him this evening. i pledge to re-imagine and help lead the movement in ways in which we can offer one another the space to go into the guts of healing from the sicknesses the dominant culture propagates in us daily. it is a responsibility i relish accepting.

with love,
michelle and tai amri

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