Remembering George Willoughby

There’s a nice remem­brance of George Willough­by by the Brandy­wine Peace Community’s Bob Smith over on the War Resisters Inter­na­tion­al site. George died a few days ago at the age of 95 [updat­ed]. It’s hard not to remem­ber his favorite quip as he and his wife Lil­lian cel­e­brat­ed their 80th birth­days: “twen­ty years to go!” Nei­ther of them made it to 100 but they cer­tain­ly lived fuller lives than the aver­age cou­ple.

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George in 2002, from War Resisters Inter­na­tion­al

I don’t know enough of the details of their lives to write the obit­u­ary (a Wikipedia page was start­ed this morn­ing) but I will say they always seemed to me like the For­rest Gump’s of peace activism – at the cen­ter of every cool peace wit­ness since 1950. You squint to look at the pho­tos at there’s George and Lil, always there. Or maybe pop music would give us the bet­ter anal­o­gy: you know how there are entire b-rate bands that carve an entire career around end­less­ly rehash­ing a par­tic­u­lar Bea­t­les song? Well, there are whole activist orga­ni­za­tions that are built around par­tic­u­lar cam­paigns that the Willoughby’s cham­pi­oned. Like: in 1958 George was a crew mem­ber of the Gold­en Rule (pro­filed a bit here), a boat­load of crazy activists who sailed into a Pacif­ic nuclear bomb test to dis­rupt it. Twelve years lat­er some Van­cou­ver activists stage a copy­cat boat sail­ing which became Green­peace. Lil­lian was con­cerned about ris­ing vio­lence against women and start­ed one of the first Take Back the Nightmarch­es. If you’ve ever sat in an activist meet­ing where everyone’s using con­sen­sus, then you’ve been influ­enced by the Willoughby’s!

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The Gold­en Rule, 1959, from the Swarth­more Peace Col­lec­tion.

For many years I lived deeply embed­ded in com­mu­ni­ties co-founded by the Willough­bys. There’s a recent inter­view with George Lakey about the found­ing of Move­ment for a New Soci­ety that he and they helped cre­ate. In the 1990s I liked to say how I lived “in its ruins,” work­ing at the pub­lish­ing house, liv­ing in a coop house and get­ting my food from the coop that all grew out of MNS. I got to know the Willough­bys through Cen­tral Philadel­phia meet­ing but also as friends. It was a treat to vis­it their house in Dept­ford, NJ — it adjoined a wildlife sanc­tu­ary they helped pro­tect against the strip-mall sprawl that is the rest of that town. I last saw George a few months ago, and while he had a bit of trou­ble remem­ber­ing who I was, that irre­press­ible smile and spir­it were very strong!

When news of George’s pass­ing start­ed buzzing around the net I got a nice email from Howard Clark, who’s been very involved with War Resisters Inter­na­tion­al for many years. It was a real blast-from-the-past and remind­ed me how lit­tle I’m involved with all this these days. The Philadel­phia office of New Soci­ety Pub­lish­ers went under in 1995 and a few years ago I final­ly dropped the Non​vi​o​lence​.org project that I had start­ed to keep the orga­niz­ing going.

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George at Fort Gulick in Pana­ma (undat­ed), also from Swarth­more.

I’ve writ­ten before that one of the clos­est modern-day suc­ces­sor to the Move­ment for a New Soci­ety is the so-called New Monas­tic move­ment – explic­it­ly Chris­t­ian but focused on love and char­i­ty and often very Quaker’ish. Our cul­ture of sec­u­lar Quak­erism has kept Friends from get­ting involved and shar­ing our decades of expe­ri­ence. Now that Shane Clai­borne is being invit­ed to seem­ing­ly every lib­er­al Quak­er venue, maybe it’s a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to look back on our own lega­cy. Friends like George and Lil­lian helped invent this form.

I miss the strong sense of com­mu­ni­ty I once felt. Is there a way we can com­bine MNS & the “New Monas­tic” move­ment into some­thing explic­it­ly reli­gious and pub­lic that might help spread the good news of the Inward Christ and inspire a new wave of lefty peacenik activism more in line with Jesus’ teach­ings than the xeno­pho­bic crap that gets spewed by so many “Chris­t­ian” activists? With that, anoth­er plug for the work­shop Wess Daniels and I are doing in May at Pen­dle Hill: “New Monas­tics and Cov­er­gent Friends.” If money’s a prob­lem there’s still time to ask your meet­ing to help get you there. If that doesn’t work or dis­tance is a prob­lem, I’m sure we’ll be talk­ing about it more here in the com­ments and blogs.

2010 update: David Alpert post­ed a nice remem­brance of George.

August 2013 updates from the pages of Friends Jour­nal: The Gold­en Rule Shall Sail Again and Expand­ing Old Pine Farm.

Extending customer relationships through social media

Over on my O’Reilly Media blog, I’ve writ­ten “Will Face­book (all but) replace cor­po­rate web­sites?,” a look at where I think the third-party social media web­sites are going. Here’s a taste:

The goal of most web­sites is to extend­ed the inter­ac­tion with the vis­i­tor beyond this one vis­it: we seek to sell them a prod­uct, join our mail­ing list, buy tick­ets to our event or sub­scribe to us in a news read­er. Face­book is quick­ly becom­ing the most impor­tant email list and news read­er. If it con­tin­ues to inno­vate (and bor­row ideas from inno­v­a­tive com­peti­tors) it could quick­ly become a major com­mer­cial por­tal as well. As its adop­tion rate climbs with­in the ranks of our tar­get audi­ences, it becomes an effec­tive way to extend vis­i­tor rela­tion­ship and build more inti­mate brand iden­ti­ties.

This will change company’s inter­ac­tions with cus­tomers, who will start to expect and then demand real-time inter­ac­tion. This can take many forms – sta­tus updates, cal­en­dars, videos – but the empha­sis will be on imme­di­a­cy. The style will shift from slickly-produced mass mar­ket­ing to a one-on-one respon­sive back and forth. Smart mar­keters will think less in terms of sell­ing and more in terms of rela­tion­ship build­ing. Ana­lyt­ics and constantly-rolling A/B tests will give us a near real-time gauge with which to mea­sure the suc­cess of these rela­tion­ships. The reces­sion is bring­ing a new urgency for mea­sur­able results and might actu­al­ly help shift cor­po­rate and non-profit bud­gets away from high-price opin­ions and toward this new style of social-network-mediated mar­ket­ing.

It will be inter­est­ing to see how orga­ni­za­tions adapt to social media’s evolv­ing role.

Julie’s church in the news

The Philadel­phia Inquir­er wrote an arti­cle on Julie’s tra­di­tion­al­ist Catholic church this week and even pro­duced a video that gives you a feel of the wor­ship. Because of the two lit­tle ones we try to alter­nate between her church and Friends meet­ing on First Day morn­ings (though my crazy work sched­ule over the past few months have pre­clud­ed even this). I’m in no dan­ger of becom­ing the “Catholic Ranter” any­time soon (sor­ry Julie!) but I do appre­ci­ate the rev­er­ence and sense of pur­pose which Mater Ecclessians bring to wor­ship and even I have cul­ture shock when I go to a norvus ordo mass these days. Com­men­tary on the Inquir­er piece cour­tesy Father Zuhls­dorf. That blog and the Closed Cafe­te­ria are favorites around here. Here’s a few pic­tures of us at the church fol­low­ing bap­tisms.

PS: I wish the Catholic Church as a whole were more open-minded when it comes to LGBT issues. That said, the ser­mons on the issue I’ve heard at Mater Eccle­si­ae have gone out of their way to empha­size char­i­ty. That said, I’ve occa­sion­al­ly heard some under the breath com­ments by parish­ioners that weren’t so char­i­ta­ble. Yet anoth­er rea­son to stay the Quak­er Ranter.

Making New Factions

Strange­ly enough, the Philadel­phia Inquir­er has pub­lished a front-page arti­cle on lead­er­ship in Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing, “Friends frus­trate some of their flock, Quak­ers bogged down by process, two lead­ers say”. To me it comes off as an extend­ed whine from the for­mer PhYM Gen­er­al Sec­re­tary Thomas Jeav­ons. His cri­tiques around Philadel­phia Quak­er cul­ture are well-made (and well known among those who have seen his much-forwarded emails) but he doesn’t seem as insight­ful about his own fail­ings as a leader, pri­mar­i­ly his inabil­i­ty to forge con­sen­sus and build trust. He fre­quent­ly came off as too ready to bypass rightly-ordered decision-making process­es in the name of strong lead­er­ship. The more this hap­pened, the more dis­trust the body felt toward him and the more intractible and politi­cized the sit­u­a­tion became. He was the wrong leader for the wrong time. How is this wor­thy of the front-page news­pa­per sta­tus?

The “Mak­ing New Friends” out­reach cam­paign is a cen­tral exam­ple in the arti­cle. It might have been more suc­cess­ful if it had been giv­en more sea­son­ing and if out­sider Friends had been invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate. The cam­paign was kicked off by a sur­vey that con­firmed that the great­est threat to the future of the year­ly meet­ing was “our grey­ing mem­ber­ship” and that out­reach cam­paigns “should tar­get young adult seek­ers.” I attend­ed the year­ly meet­ing ses­sion where the sur­vey was pre­sent­ed and the cam­paign approved and while every Friend under forty had their hands raised for com­ments, none were rec­og­nized by the clerk. “Mak­ing New Friends” was the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to tap younger Friends but the work seemed designed and under­tak­en by the usu­al sus­pects in year­ly meet­ing.

Like a lot of Quak­er orga­ni­za­tions, Philadel­phia Year­ly Meet­ing has spent the last fif­teen years large­ly rely­ing on a small pool of estab­lished lead­er­ship. There’s lit­tle atten­tion to lead­er­ship devel­op­ment or tap­ping the large pool of tal­ent that exists out­side of the few dozen insid­ers. This Spring Jeav­ons had an arti­cle in PYM News that talked about younger Friends that were the “future” of PYM and put the cut-off line of youthfulness/relevance at fifty! The recent polit­i­cal bat­tles with­in PYM seemed to be over who would be includ­ed in the insider’s club, while our real prob­lems have been a lack of trans­paren­cy, inclu­sion and patience in our deci­sion mak­ing process.

Philadel­phia Friends cer­tain­ly have their lead­er­ship and author­i­ty prob­lems and I under­stand Jeav­ons’ frus­tra­tions. Much of his analy­sis is right. I appre­ci­at­ed his reg­u­lar­ly col­umn in PYM News, which was often the only place Christ and faith was ever seri­ous­ly dis­cussed. But his approach was too heavy hand­ed and cor­po­rate to fit year­ly meet­ing cul­ture and did lit­tle to address the long-term issues that are lap­ping up on the year­ly meet­ing doorsteps.

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard some very good things about the just-concluded year­ly meet­ing ses­sions. I sus­pect the year­ly meet­ing is actu­al­ly begin­ning a kind of turn-around. That would be wel­come.

 

Don’t miss:

Christian peacemaker Teams News

On Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 26, 2005 four mem­bers of “Chris­t­ian peace­mak­ers Teams”:www.cpt.org were abduct­ed in iraq. On March 20th the body of Amer­i­can Quak­er Tom Fox was found; on March 23rd, the remain­ing three hostages were freed by U.S. and British mil­i­tary forces.
Here at Non​vi​o​lence​.org, we have always been impressed and high­ly sup­port­ive of the deep wit­ness of the Chris­t­ian peace­mak­ers Teams. Their mem­bers have rep­re­sent­ed the best in both the peace and Chris­t­ian move­ments, con­sis­tent­ly putting them­selves in dan­ger to wit­ness the gospel of peace. Not con­tent to write let­ters or stand on pick­ett lines in safe west­ern cap­i­tals, they go to the front­lines of vio­lence and pro­claim a rad­i­cal alter­na­tive.
While we can be grate­ful for the release of the three remain­ing hostages, we should con­tin­ue to remem­ber the 43 for­eign hostages still being held in iraq and the 10 – 30 iraqis report­ed­ly tak­en hostage each and every day. As iraq slips into full-scale civ­il war we must also orga­nize against the war-mongerers, both for­eign and inter­nal and finde ways of stand­ing along­side those iraqis who want noth­ing more than peace and free­dom.

Here’s links to recent articles on the situation: https://​deli​cious​.com/​m​a​r​t​i​n​_​k​e​l​l​e​y​/​n​e​w​s​.​c​p​t​-​f​o​u​r​.​f​o​x​m​e​m​o​r​ial

And a per­son­al note from Nonviolence.org’s Mar­tin Kel­ley: I myself am a Chris­t­ian and Quak­er and one of our folks, Tom Fox, of Lan­g­ley Hill (Vir­ginia) Friends Meet­ing is among the hostages. I don’t know Tom per­son­al­ly but over the last few days I’ve learned we have many Friends in com­mon and they have all tes­ti­fied to his deep com­mitt­ment to peace. Some of the links above are more explic­it­ly Quak­er than most things I post to Non​vi​o​lence​.org, but they give per­spec­tive on why Tom and his com­pan­ions would see putting them­selves in dan­ger as an act of reli­gious ser­vice. I am grate­ful for Tom’s cur­rent wit­ness in iraq – yes, even as a hostage – but I cer­tain­ly hope he soon comes back to his fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty and that the atten­tion and wit­ness of these four men’s ordeal helps to bring the news of peace to streets and halls of Bagh­dad, Wash­ing­ton, Lon­don and Ottawa.

Action Step:

If you have a blog or web­site, you can add a feed of that will include the lat­est Nonviolence.org-compiled links. Sim­ply add this javascript to the side­bar of your site [Dis­abled Now]

Where’s the grassroots contemporary nonviolence movement?

I’ve long noticed there are few active, online peace sites or com­mu­ni­ties that have the grass­roots depth I see occur­ring else­where on the net. It’s a prob­lem for Non​vi​o​lence​.org [update: a project since laid down], as it makes it hard­er to find a diver­si­ty of sto­ries.

I have two types of sources for Non​vi​o​lence​.org. The first is main­stream news. I search through Google News, Tech­no­rati cur­rent events, then maybe the New York Times, The Guardian, and the Wash­ing­ton Post.

There are lots of inter­est­ing arti­cles on the war in iraq, but there’s always a polit­i­cal spin some­where, espe­cial­ly in tim­ing. Most big news sto­ries have bro­ken in one month, died down, and then become huge news three months lat­er (e.g., Wilson’s CIA wife being exposed, which was first report­ed on Non​vi​o​lence​.org on July 22 but became head­lines in ear­ly Octo­ber). These news cycles are dri­ven by domes­tic par­ty pol­i­tics, and at times I feel all my links make Non​vi​o​lence​.org sound like an appa­ratchik of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty USA.

But it’s not just the tone that makes main­stream news arti­cles a prob­lem – it’s also the gen­er­al sub­ject mat­ter. There’s a lot more to non­vi­o­lence than anti­war expos­es, yet the news rarely cov­ers any­thing about the cul­ture of peace. “If it bleeds it leads” is an old news­pa­per slo­gan and you will nev­er learn about the wider scope of non­vi­o­lence by read­ing the papers.

My sec­ond source is peace move­ment web­sites

And these are, by-and-large, unin­ter­est­ing. Often they’re not updat­ed fre­quent­ly. But even when they are, the pieces on them can be shal­low. You’ll see the self-serving press release (“as a peace orga­ni­za­tion we protest war actions”) and you’ll see the exclam­a­to­ry all-caps screed (“eND THe OCCUPATION NOW!!!”). These are fine as long as you’re already a mem­ber of said orga­ni­za­tion or already have decid­ed you’re against the war, but there’s lit­tle per­sua­sion or dia­logue pos­si­ble in this style of writ­ing and orga­niz­ing.

There are few peo­ple in the larg­er peace move­ment who reg­u­lar­ly write pieces that are inter­est­ing to those out­side our nar­row cir­cles. David McReynolds and Geov Par­rish are two of those excep­tions. It takes an abil­i­ty to some­times ques­tion your own group’s con­sen­sus and to acknowl­edge when non­vi­o­lence ortho­doxy some­times just doesn’t have an answer.

And what of peace blog­gers? I real­ly admire Joshua Mic­ah Mar­shall, but he’s not a paci­fist. There’s the excel­lent Gut­less Paci­fist (who’s led me to some very inter­est­ing web­sites over the last year), Bill Connelly/Thoughts on the eve, Stand Down/No War Blog, and a new one for me, The Pick­et Line. But most of us are all point­ing to the same main­stream news arti­cles, with the same Iraq War focus.

If the web had start­ed in the ear­ly 1970s, there would have been lots of inter­est­ing pub­lish­ing projects and blogs grow­ing out the activist com­mu­ni­ties. Younger peo­ple today are using the inter­net to spon­sor inter­est­ing gath­er­ings and using sites like Meet­up to build con­nec­tions, but I don’t see com­mu­ni­ties built around peace the way they did in the ear­ly 1970s. There are few peo­ple build­ing a life – hope, friends, work – around paci­fism.

Has “paci­fism” become ossi­fied as its own in-group dog­ma of a cer­tain gen­er­a­tion of activists? What links can we build with cur­rent move­ments? How can we deep­en and expand what we mean by non­vi­o­lence so that it relates to the world out­side our tiny orga­ni­za­tions?