In My Wildest Economic Dreams…

1. Community service would be a tradable commodity.

2. Homelessness would not exist.

3. Health care would be free.

For the record, I consider myself a pragmatist, not an idealist. Pragmatically I know that, no matter how grand or modest the pursuit, both good and bad will result from it. There will always be unintended, unforeseeable consequences of systemic change, and there is never a point at which you can unequivocally step back and say, “Yes. We’re done. We’ve arrived.” Nevertheless, pursuing big ideas nets big impact, so my approach is to think big and dream big; go big or go home. Combined with diligent, dedicated work and incredibly creative strategies, big ideas are how systems start to change.

Our current economic system is floundering. Stagnant unemployment rates–7.8% in the U.S. for December 2012, and 9.8% in California during the same time–have spawned expert conversations about the reality of structural unemployment. Even if we wait for the global economy to rebound, for the Great Recession to yield to a boom cycle, there will not be enough jobs to support the global population of the 21st century. In the words of local nonprofit-slash-tech-startup, Samasource, “There is a global shortfall of 1.8 billion formal jobs.”

In 2001 Bernard Lietaer, a premier international expert on monetary systems and the global financial industry, predicted the economic crisis that started in 2008. In his book The Future of Money, he warned against increasingly risky speculation by giants of the financial industry. He argued that, based on the underlying principles of our modern financial system and the erasure of jobs inherent to the Information Age, complementary currencies must be developed to fill new and changing societal needs. With daunting issues such as climate change and water rights, the 21st century has already been marked by an acute awareness of our limited material resources. With the ceaseless information and exploration available through the Internet, however, we are also acutely aware of the unlimited capacity of human ingenuity.

As people, as workers, as family members, time is our most valuable human resource. With high unemployment, now some of us have a lot more time and with a wealth of skills and experience behind it. Add the context that, according to Paul Hawken in his seminal work, Blessed Unrest, grassroots responses to injustice have generated over one million organizations worldwide dedicated to sweeping social change. Within those organizations are people practicing thousands of new ideas about how we work, how we trade, and how we construct our communities. They’re building complementary economies. This confluence of events means we have a unique opportunity to invest our newfound time in experimenting with emerging economic and social change models. And we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, because there are already incredible local organizations where we can contribute, observe, and feed our capacity for invention.

Some of these organizations, like Samasource and Juma Ventures, are blending the best of nonprofit and for-profit principles to address systemic poverty. Some, like time banks throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, are testing formal complementary currencies as Lietaer recommended. I love learning about these organizations, because it’s inspiring to see the ambition of the tech world work alongside grounded, purposeful human service. And the more people know about these groups, learn from their experiences, and bring further innovation to these models, the more diverse and resilient our economy will be.

So, to bring it back (and add on, of course) to my original statement, in my wildest political and economic dreams:

1. Community service would be a tradable commodity.

2. Homelessness would not exist.

3. Health care would be free (including reproductive care and education).

I’m betting on the successes and failures from pursuing my first ‘big idea’ to inform the solutions for the second two ideas. I’m counting on my Millenial peers to further the social frontier by learning through new types of work. I’m trusting in the talents, passions, and visions of our communities to generate new solutions that don’t just address current problems but fuel future innovation. In short, I believe in the capacity of human ingenuity to solve unprecedented global problems.

Our material resources–natural and financial–may be dwindling or unsteady, but our human intellectual resources cannot be exhausted as long as we continue to use them. We desperately need a more resilient economy, and I absolutely believe we have the resources to build it.

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“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” -Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, 1788

The Wisdom of Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards is the current President of Planned Parenthood and it’s action fund. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, on October 10, 2012. In the current political climate, critical women’s rights are at risk of being curtailed. All people deserve access to education and services that support their best choices, for their values and purpose. Cecile Richards embodies the best of the civil rights movements of this country–courage, vision, voice, and service. A gigantic thank you to The Commonwealth Club, Mother Jones, Global Fund for Women, and NAWBO-SF Bay Area for making this event possible. There’s nothing like witnessing extraordinary leadership to inspire a new generation of activists.

“We’re like the Fandango of reproductive health care.” –on the ease of access to information on sexual health via Planned Parenthood

“It was about…being part of the community…and there’s nothing tedious or drudg[ing] about that.”
–on her exposure to political activism at an early age

“I don’t understand why women’s health care is a partisan issue. It’s not.” –on the intense political polarization around women’s health issues

“[It doesn’t matter] who is in office, we’re never going away.” –on the resilience and importance of Planned Parenthood to our social well-being

“The whole pro-choice/pro-life labeling is completely irrelevant in America [today]…The next generation isn’t really interested in any labels [around politics]…We have to think [critically] about labels and terminology that limit conversation [around these issues].”

“It’s not just about preventing pregnancy, it’s about sexual health. Are we ever going to be in a place in this country where we agree that sex is a good thing?”

“The fastest-growing patient population at Planned Parenthood is young men.”

“The last place these decisions [about family planning] should be made is in government and in the legislature.”

“Providing young people with comprehensive sex education is actually not a big turn-on. Young people with more access to information about STIs and birth control actually wait longer to have sex.” –on abstinance-only sex education

“Everything is bottom-up.” –on how Planned Parenthood has been using social media for their advocacy and messaging

“Social media is the most democratic vehicle we have now for stories people wouldn’t otherwise see.”

“As it turns out, young men in their 20s are just as interested in birth control as young women.”

“After Glen Beck’s comments about how ‘only hookers go to Planned Parenthood,’ it turns out a there were a few non-hookers who had visited and they started talking on our Facebook page.” –on of her most memorable moments in the past year of overwhelming popular response to partisan attacks on women’s health

“1 in 5 women have been to Planned Parenthood in this country.” –on Glen Beck’s above assertion

“I’m still stunned that we’re having this conversation again” –on the debate around the legality of contraception

Moderator: “A recent study showed that universal [access to] birth control would be the fastest, cheapest way to reduce abortion rates. Why do you think pro-choice and pro-life advocates can’t unite behind that?”
Cecile: “I honestly have no idea.”

“1/3 of our new Peer Health Advocates are young men.”

“That’s going to be the big difference in this country [for this generation]” –on advocacy amongst young men for women’s health issues

“Elected officials need folks on the outside to keep them moving in the right direction.” –on why she prefers advocacy and organizing to politicking

“The shaming that goes on with women in this country is inexcusable.” –on Sandra Fluke and ‘legitimate rape’ hoopla

“The more we can see women early-on and get them preventative care, the more women’s lives we can save.” –on the importance of breast cancer screening to women’s health

“By God, I hope in my lifetime we have a woman President of the United States.” –in response to a request that she run for President

“I cannot overemphasize how important it is for women to get in positions of power deciding policy.” –on how women can make the biggest difference in affecting social change

Cecile Richards earned Inforum’s 21st-century Visionary Award, presented by The Commonwealth Club. On October 10, 2012, she spoke and was interviewed by Clara Jeffery of Mother Jones magazine at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, CA. The event was sponsored in-part by NAWBO-SF Bay Area.

United Cultures of America: The Wobblies

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Before the internet and social media, ‘the Wobblies’ could mobilize 300,000 workers across the United States. Whoa, dude… whoa. One of the most infamous labor unions in U.S. history, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) are known for their radical socialism, freedom of speech demonstrations, and their goofy, slanderous nickname. In honor of Labor Day, here are some fun facts about the Wobblies as an indelible political subculture within the United States. (Oh yea, and the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. What’s up, international community.)

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the IWW:

1. They had an unusually high percentage of Finnish-Americans as members. In the early days, their only daily newspaper was published in Finnish, out of Duluth, Minnesota.

2. They led the way for inclusive identity politics. When it was founded in 1905, the IWW was one of two American unions “to welcome all workers including women, immigrants, African Americans and Asians into the same organization.” LEGIT.

3. They changed labor policy in the San Francisco Bay Area. An integral part of the four-day 1934 San Francisco general strike and the eighty-three-day West Coast Waterfront Strike, the IWW helped unionize all ports on the West Coast. Today, “the city of Berkeley’s recycling is picked up, sorted, processed and sent out all through two different IWW-organized enterprises.”

4. They chose pickets over process. In 1908, the IWW split over a perennial debate in activist circles: is political action (working within the system to change it) or direct action (shut down the system so it’ll have to change immediately) more effective in achieving collective goals? Direct action won out for the IWW, starting their reputation for massive worker strikes and boycotts.

5. They’re still around. In the last twenty years, regional IWW efforts have organized bike messengers, sex industry workers, foodchain workers, food co-operatives, and Starbucks baristas (for real).

You don’t have to agree with their principles or even like the idea of unions, but the IWW has indisputably left their mark on politics in the United States. Over one hundred years before Occupy and the 99%, the IWW was more articulate, better organized, and ultimately more effective in achieving their goals. All of that, and before the Internet. Hot damn, that’s impressive.

Excerpt from the current IWW Constitution:
“There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”

***

All quotes and info synthesized from Wikipedia.org and my nerdy recollections of U.S. history classes.

Photo from Machete 408.

The Word Wizard! Insha’allah

Friday’s are great for rituals. A morning run, your favorite lunch spot, prayers, phone calls, funky vocab, you know, personal enrichment stuff. Fridays also tend to bring a lot of chaos, maybe even some lost sanity. When I gotta let it go, I think ‘insha’allah.’

Lots of common Arabic phrases contain the word ‘Allah,’ or ‘God’. ‘Masha’allah is a praise to artistic beauty. ‘Bismillah’ invokes the name of Freddie Mercury. I mean…God. (Same dif.)

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Insha’allah means ‘God willing / if God wills it’. It’s often used in response to direct questions about the future. I love the phrase because its meaning is flexible, and I don't think you have to believe in God to relate to it. Look:

“When is the wedding ceremony?”
“On the 8th, insha’allah.” <– 'if we are lucky enough to be on schedule with God/the universe/everything'

"When are you getting to the airport?"
"At 6 pm, insha'allah, insha'allah." <– 'if all goes as it should'

"Are we meeting for coffee next week?"
"Oh, that would be nice, insha'allah, insha'allah" <– 'We'll see.'

Sometimes I think of it as 'Ya never know what's possible.', or 'So much is out of our control– just chill out.'

Granted, I'm just a white girl from California who says 'dude' too much. I could be getting this all wrong. But hey, it's been one of those weeks. Crazyawesomemindblowing shit, plus wickedtwistedsickening turns of events. So to keep it pretty brief this week, I’ll close this mini spotlight on Islam with an appropriate joke from Jewish America.

"How do you make God laugh?"
"Tell Him your plans."

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And for an extra dose of holy, or because I just couldn’t help it:

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Image from ReverendFun.com, social.bioware.com, and Third Strike.

Leaning Into Adulthood

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Since when do I like going to bed at 10 pm?? Or waking up at 5 am to run, drink coffee, and read the paper before work? When did I start deriving satisfaction from doing personal chores?

I must be getting old, dude. Adulthood is a trip… and then some.

I turned 25 this year, so of course/I guess I’m an adult, but I sure don’t feel like it. Or, rather, I didn’t used to feel like it.

Then one day recently, I woke up bone-weary and stiff after a long day and little sleep. For the first time, my body wouldn’t bounce back after I pushed it too hard. No more functioning for daaaays on 4 hours of sleep after 16 hours of work and 4 hours of fun. Ha! Did I seriously used to pull that off? Ridiculous.

It’s not all about being tired, though. Experience is helping fill in the blanks. I’m answering questions I’ve had for a long time. Now there are places in my mind, body and psyche where all of this friction that’s happening from trying to move ideas around and turn ’em twist ’em rub ’em together supercollide ’em underground just to see what sticks and what doesn’t and what works and what doesn’t and why oh why oh why won’t it work… Well, it’s starting to come together.

Piece by piece, in the smallest transitory moments, I’m learning what I stand for. I’m finding that, when things don’t work out, I have solid ground under my feet. I may find that ground after falling down a large set of stairs and permanently denting my ass (true story), but hey, any kind of grounding experience is good, right?

In any case, I like this adulthood business. I like being responsible, having ownership over my work, and getting paid for it. I like being consistent, knowing myself and my processes well enough to love them, improve them, and play with their fundamental parts. I like being presented every day with new problems to solve, and I like that there’s no ‘right’ answer most of the time.

I also hate it. I hate feeling dejected and exhausted and with no one to rely on at the end of the day except myself. I hate having to sit in front of a computer screen all day while it’s gorgeous outside. I hate accidentally using professional jargon in casual conversations with friends.

But sometimes.. on a good day… when I’m paying attention and the wind is just right…

I fall in to wonder.

Amidst the amoebic maze of doubt, triumph, worry, passion, malaise, joy, and courage that is ‘our 20s’ — and life — I find myself completely, crushingly humbled by the work and sacrifices of the ‘real’ adults before me and around me. They propel families, markets, and communities– and I finally understand how insanely challenging and valuable that work is. Because I know they’re out there making it happen, I can find my way back from defeatism or loneliness, face any silly self-importance I may be harboring, and let it go.

Because really, it’s about the act of taking the big-kid steps, one-at-a-time, until we’ve tripped, balked, backtracked, and bounded enough to find our grown-in stride. Our grown-up stride, I suppose.

Oh shoot! Look at the clock. Well I guess it’s bedtime. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Word Wizard, and good luck to all the big kids out there… 😉

Cartoon from Poorly Drawn Lines.