My Resoc Interview
By Marla Renn at Nov 19, 2009
1. At a public talk someone asks you, "okay, I understand what you reject, but I wonder what you are for? What institutions do you want that you think will be better than what we have, for the economy, polity, gender, race, ecology, or whatever you think is central to have vision for?
I understand how in important the economy is as an central organizing force of our society and the values that it holds. There are predictable and consistent results to any given economic policy. This is a good thing. What we have now produces the results that we have. Around me I see the climbing rates of homelessness, hunger, poverty, drug addiction, privatization of human necessities such as medical care and education, the destruction of sacred Indigenous land sites for roads and golf courses. I want a world where the institution of the economy rewards co-operation, protection of land, culture, equity, and the health of communities. It is not a miracle that we need, but a radical change in the economy that organizes us. This is good news because it is possible to have a different economy. Having vision is remembering and respecting that a world better than the one we have right now is possible. Beyond that what I see is the principals of participatory economy as being a proposal worth trying. I liked balanced job complexes, because I think that they will provide an incredible structure that by design will make it very difficult for institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and other types of oppression to exist. I think that consumers and neighbourhood councils are a good because they are a structure that will ensure that the participation of those impacted by political/economic/social decisions are involved in the decision making process. I have my limits however in what I can say about how the economic and political institutions of this better world should be, it is not an area of expertise or extreme interest.
I personally have an interest in the areas of education and community/family, so that is the place that I think about most when I consider the types of institutions and ways of socially organizing ourselves that would produce a world better than what we have. The process of education can be imagined in many different ways. Similar to the visioning in the kinship sphere that works for social institutions to support a variety of family groupings and intimate relationships, though without sanctioning or supporting abusive, patriarchal, or otherwise hierarchical and destructive ones, there can be many varieties of educational structures all based a common commitment. At the heart of that commitment are the values of participatory economy, but more specifically for the institutional vision I have for education is for it to be democratic, equitable, relevant to the lives of learners, based in the community and world that the learner is in, recognized for what it is - a life long journey. Such an approach has wide implications including the abolition of: standardized learning materials, paths, process; hierarchical relations between teachers and students; the removal of people from the community to learn; educating citizens who do not have the capacity, opportunity, or interest to participate in the decisions that affect and shape their society. In does mean that there is a reevaluation and redesign of the process and structures of how education is done so that it does support the development of a democratic, equitable and non-hierarchical society. When learning is relevant it is a response to the needs of our society and therefore holistic and not broken up by the arbitrary boundaries of intellectual disciplines, or forced to answer to arbitrary methods of assessment that work to build the capacities and confidence of some at the cost of solidarity, critical thinking and creativity. This also means that group work is included as a process that is both supported and explored as a site of education, there is an inclusion of a much wider community of teaching mentors, education builds community, and that the design of it is taken on as a community project.
For kinship and community spheres I want to see the integration of community work and care into the organization of the society. I do not think that this needs to be done by the economy, but I do think that it is important that economic social policy rewards people rather than punish them for contributing to the life and health of their community. This means that people have time and support in their job to mentor a student, to care for an elder, to parent, to coach. This means that we do not warehouse those with extraordinary dependencies but rather integrate and share the care giving work within our society.
2. Next, someone at the same event asks, "Why do you do what you do? That is, you are speaking to us, and I know you write, and maybe you organize, but why do you do it? What do you think it accomplishes? What is your goal for your coming year, or for your next ten years?
I do it because I have hope and a vision. I do it because I see how shackled I am by my own socialization and so we must struggle to envision another way, and we must do that with others. Our ability to collaborate and organize solutions with our community (in all it's shining and of its great but also often frustrating diversity) is the only way that we can take back our destiny. We're in a bad horror film where we all know the ending in the first three minutes of watching it, if we do nothing will have a predictable (and painful) outcome of the worsening of the same. When I organize with others I am inspired and hopeful because I see the power of what is possible when we work with purpose and focus on a goal. I also see how destructive the socialized hierarchies of patriarchy, racism, capitalism etc are, and how powerful their ability is to hold on and arise from what always seems like ashes. As someone who does organize I see the necessity to use our visions of this better world to transform everything that we do, it also changes how we organize together - so that we don't continue to produce tiring and all too common results of reinstating hierarchies in their various forms.
What I hope it accomplishes is building the capacity, success, and hope in communities to tear down what is wrong and build a better world.
Goals, honestly it depends what day you ask me. Somedays I am positive I be part of a radical and revolutionary breaking apart and shaping of a new world, other days I am positive that change will come so slow that my job is to movement build, and that means making reforms and big changes with years of hard work in fields of my training.... It is something that I would like to be part of a wider conversation with similarly committed people to explore.
3. You are at home and you get an email that says a new organization is trying to form, internationally, federating national chapters, etc. It asks you to join the effort. Can you imagine plausible conditions under which you would say, yes, I will give my energies to making it happen along with the rest of you who are already involved? If so, what are those conditions? Or - do you think instead that regardless of the content of the agenda and make up of the participants, the idea can't be worthy, now,or perhaps ever. If so, why?
Yes there are conditions under which I would agree. One would be that it proposes a structure for these chapters to participate together, and that it makes efforts to include the participation of marginalized communities such as poor, original peoples, those without immigration status, visible and physically able minorities. Another would be that equal weight and importance would be given to the exploration and design of institutions other than strictly economic and political ones, such as community, culture, kinship, education. It would also have to include a proposed mandate that is seeking real revolutionary change, not simply reform. In my eyes this means that it cannot attempt to be an umbrella organization that caters to the participation of all groups and organizations. I don't want to give my energies to another project that is effectively made disabled because it doesn't want to piss off particular types of groups/participants. That said it would also seek to build alliances and bridges within the leftist movement or those seeking social justice. Lastly, it would not have "leaders", or in anyway produce a vanguard, nor would it rely on the existence or investment in propping up nationalism. Last last, such a federation would have to be able to offer real resources for the development of vision and practical projects. Such resources do not exclusively refer to money, but it doesn't exclude it either.
4. Do you think efforts to organize movements, projects, and our own organizations should embody the seeds of the future in the present? If not, why? If yes, can you say what, very roughly, you think some of the implications would be for an organization you would favor?
Yes I do. The implications would include a re-socialization of those involved so that we build the capacity and skills of non-hierarchical organizing. It would mean that although the same old tired issues within organizing would arise again, intentionality and effort would disable them from having power and sabotaging our efforts - and lead to the living experience of those involved to build a participatory, democratic, equitable. It would result in community initiatives and projects that explore, design and implement a participatory society.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I answered it (eventually) because I feel special for having been asked to participate in this process, honoured and respected for the contribution that my experience and committment brings. I answered because I feel that my participation is valued....and also because I was asked more than once (sorry but its true). Finally because I believe in the possibility of parecon, and see how it has made a difference in my own organizing, and see it as really the only viable vision for a better world and so I see the value of this project. Why didn't others answer...because they don't see the value, don't have time....or don't feel capable or at ease communicating their thoughts and ideas via writing.