Full of Love and Clarity – 5 Questions in these times
Posted on September 6, 2020
It’s been hard to write these days, hard to look at my social media feed, hard to manage distance learning for an almost 6 year old, hard even to slow down because of all the sadness and f’d up shit that is happening right now.
But last weekend, Mychi and I did just that. We took a step back from all the intensity and celebrated our 10 year wedding and commitment anniversary! We went on our first COVID19 overnight solo staycation in the Bay Area, actually it may be the first time we ever did this. Looking back at a full decade and full decade ahead, we soaked in all the goodness but also sat in the dark moment this country and world is in. I have immense gratitude for the love and community we have had in these times. I also got more clarity and finally finished this blog that has been sitting on for a few weeks.
My last blog was about being 44. The one thing I forget to say is that I feel more free to give unsolicited advice as a yelder. Much of this serves as a reminder for myself too. Needless to say, in the midst of climate fires, state sanctioned police violence and vigilantism, authoritarianism on the ballot, and the aftermath, a new world war with China, just to name a few, we are on the cusp of some very uncertain times. I’m entering this moment EYES. WIDE. OPEN.
As we’re mired in all this, I see many of us (including myself) getting stuck in some contradictions and dangerous trends. These are not “new” per se and I’ve written about some of this before (i.e. the 3 Ps of Pessimism, Perfectionism and Purism) but the context and conditions are different and the stakes are WAAAY higher.
Here are 5 I’ve been thinking about but there are definitely more and many ways of saying this. Here they go!
#1 Do we take on offensive or defensive battles? If you know me, you know my answer, which is learning how to fight offense and defense simultaneously as Bruce Lee has said. Defensive battles are seen as reactive and offensive battles are seen as advancing. But how do we “advance” while being on the defense for so many years? Let’s draw some wisdom from Bruce. He integrated the “stop-hit” technique from fencing, which when attacked, the fighter uses an offensive and defensive strategy at the same time. He talked about every block move also being a punch and vice versa. How can our offense and defensive moves be one strategic intervention, one true flow?
For me, with less than 60 days until the election, I’m entering this moment full of love and clarity.
I’m clear that we need to tactically defeat Trump (yes, that means electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris!) but it does not end there. We need to keep laying the foundation and build our capacities for the challenging times ahead.
I’m excited and inspired to be building new projects like Seed the Vote and Generation Rising that leverages the grassroots infrastructure we built up in the Bay Area to be an auxiliary volunteer force for the national election. We’re also building the leadership of the next generation of BIPOC youth. And there are so many other important experiments like FueraTrump, Working Families Party, and Black2theFuture Action Fund, just to name a few.
Many of us are also doing this while going on the offense in California with Proposition 15 – Schools and Communities First, which closes property tax loopholes benefiting wealthy corporations. This has been part of a 30 year arc responding to the rise of neo-conservative and reactionary politics and policies in the 1990s. It is not only about shifting power to everyday people but also shifting consciousness, building local and regional infrastructure and, most importantly, governing. These are some examples of fighting offense and defense simultaneously.
Punchline: Let’s not get stuck in false binaries – offense or defense, short term or long term – and make a f*@&ing play as my homie Marisa Franco would say. The stakes are too high and there are NO guarantees.
#2-4 are shorter but still just as important.
#2 Do we build leaders or organizations? Explicit or not, there is a movement tension between “leadership” vs “organizational” development. Traditional ideas of leadership development tend to be individualistic and in isolation to building organization(s) or a broader movement ecosystem. Traditional ideas organizational building tends to focus on the sole interest of the organization. These are false choices. In the 21st century, we need a more dynamic model to support and strengthen leaders and organizations simultaneously. Organizations are only as strong as their leaders but organizations also need an actual plan to support leaders long term in the movement, especially in the face of growing white nationalism, authoritarianism, and neo-fascism…
Punchline: Build resilient leaders AND organizations!
#3 Do we need more organizers or activists? Paid organizing jobs in progressive labor and movement building organizations are critical movement roles but some conflate this and treat this as “the” movement. At the same time, individual activists and collectives have always been able to move faster and often move to the left of organizations and institutions with direct action or other tactics. Both have enough contradictions but there is a ton of shade in both directions.
But here’s the thing. Some of the best organizers are activists and vice versa. And, to be clear, many of the best organizers are not paid. Organizers deepen relationships and consciousness, build leadership of others toward long term vision and strategy through multiple political homes and left projects. Organizing, in this sense, is a value and an approach.
Everyone has the self determination to sustain their politics and their life in their own way – anyone who says differently is understanding movement politics and economics ahistorically. AND we are the most effective when all strategies are utilized, hence #DefundThePolice.
Punchline: So practice a diversity of tactics and direct our shade at the system NOT each other!
#4 Do we need more process or practice? There is this tension of figuring out the right process and perfect analysis/strategy OR taking action without a whole lot of reflection. It could look like wanting to “fully heal” first before we can take action OR people defeating Trump as the end game when we know that it is just the beginning. For me personally, I’m not waiting for “the movement” to take the US’s escalation against China more seriously as the next real front of struggle. We need to be more nimble and fluid in this moment and be hella grounded in clear and sober assessments of the moment. We can learn and grow while making bold experiments. AND just to be clear when I say “practice” and “experiment” — I mean I’m in it to win it and want us to have it all.
Punchline: Find your squad, Set some intentions, and practice the hell out of them!
#5 Are we human or are we invincible robots? Umm. I think this one is clear but sometimes I still think it needs to be said. WE ARE NOT ROBOTS. Even though capitalism treats us as such, we need to remember this and take. care. of. ourselves. We do not need more martyrs but we also still need to be disciplined and rigorous in how we show up in the world.
Recently, I had a health scare and it was definitely an intense moment, but I leaned in and started sleeping, exercising and hydrating more. I also started up acupuncture and generative somatic coaching. I’m in waaaay better shape. Luckily our bodies are pretty damn resilient.
I realized that the last 5+ years, as I was working towards my sabbatical, I was also grinding myself in the work, building new projects and learning to be a parent (still learning btw). Burnout is real and having healthy boundaries is a really tricky thing.
It sometimes feels like there is no control or choice but indeed there are. Boundaries are fluid and change depending on the conditions. It takes a lot of awareness of yourself, the people around you and the political moment. It is a balance of setting intentions and practicing them over time.
Long(er) Punchline: there are LITERALLY no guarantees in our work AND in life. So appreciate and love up on all the people around you. Power them up with your love, accept the love and grace when offered, take time for yourself to get clarity, take care of yourself and dig into the work. We have lots to do and lots to win. There are no guarantees but if we remain stuck and feeling some kind of way, I can guarantee that is how, in fact, the right wing, neo-fascists will win.
This is the end of this yelder rant and if you got this far, here are some recent pictures of life in these times. Eyes on the prize and much love to you all!
(Images of one of our rare beach days, Collin is full of joy and there is a selfie of me and him. We’re trying to make this more of a thing during the rona.)
(Images of Collin with his mail, cardboard office setup and funny poses during bath time)
(Images of our tent in our back yard, Collin roasting his marsh mellows and Collin with in front of his preschool sign on the last day of pre-school this summer.)
NOTE: Question 3 was edited on September 8th, 2020