The Washington insider newspaper profiles Diane Randall and the work of FCNL: Many Quakers, Randall said, feel a motivation to make changes in the world, which could manifest itself in the choice to become a teacher, a social worker or a scientist.
My choice, from an early age, has been to engage in social change from the ground up, using the power of organized nonviolence. A distrust of the political process was firmly in place by the time I was 15. As a daughter of Quakers I pledged my allegiance not to a flag or a nation state but to humankind, the two often having little to do with each other.
Fascinating article breaking down the stats on alcohol use in the Washington Post in 2014.
Here are the two pieces that strike me: The “top 10 percent of drinkers account for over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year” and this top 10 represents people who drink an average of 10 drinks per day.
I’m not a teetotaler and I’m glad stats also show that most Americans are light on the alcohol — 30 percent don’t drink and another 30 percent are moderate. But 10 drinks per day average is a serious alcohol problem — with serious social implications and costs. Half of the industry profits come from these drinkers. The article quotes an expert:
If the top decile somehow could be induced to curb their consumption level to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile), then total ethanol sales would fall by 60 percent.”
Retweeted Annalees Mulligan (@leeflower):
Stalkers and abusers are often really good at social engineering. Don’t give out contact info that ain’t yours.
Mara Wilson on Twitter
Tony Abraham writes:The practice of making money while making a social impact is a business strategy largely thought to have originated on the brink of the 21st century with the rise of cleantech. But the seeds of social enterprise may have actually been sown in fertile Philadelphia soil two and half centuries ago.
“We’re here to bring people together”: Check out new album by West Philadelphia conscious acoustic duo. In the West Philly local:
West Philly-based duo City Love, comprised of Mantua and Belmont resident musicians Sterling Duns and Caselli Jordan, writes songs to spread the love, make people move, laugh, and foster dialogue about social issues.
Dr. Sa’ed Atshan: Teaching tolerance, promoting peace. The Philadelphia Gay News profiles a Friend and graduate of the Ramallah Friends School:
blockquote>I didn’t have a conventional coming-of-age there because I got to go to the Ramallah School, which emphasized non-violence and social justice and the light of God in every human being. It was also very rigorous academically. It allowed me to escape from a quite-harsh reality and gave me hope and promise for a future.</ blockquote>
From a 1956 issue of the then-newly rebranded Friends Journal, an explanation of the ethics behind providing a fixed price for goods:
Whether the early Quakers were consciously trying to start a social movement or not is a moot point. Most likely they were not. They were merely seeking to give consistent expression to their belief in the equality of all men as spiritual sons of God. The Quaker custom of marking a fixed price on merchandise so that all men would pay the same price is another case in point. Most probably Friends did this simply because they wanted to be fair to all who frequented their shops and give the sharp bargainer no advantage at the expense of his less skilled brother. It is unlikely that many Quakers adopted fixed prices in the hope of forcing their system on a business world interested only in profit. That part was just coincidence, the coincidence being that Friends hit upon it because of their convictions; the system itself was a natural success.
— Bruce L Pearson, Feb 4 1956
Liberal vs radical social witness. Another installment from Steven Davison’s Quaker-pocalypse series:
Liberal social action tends to be respectful, too, if not even a bit deferential. The liberal impulse in witness and outreach seeks not to turn away a seeker who might be made uncomfortable by un-reasonable words and actions, or to seem to disrespect the people with whom we disagree. This is not radical, and I question whether it is the path to renewal.
From Rebecca Onion in Slate, a great piece about inmates at America’s oldest women’s prison rewriting the history of its benevolent Quaker founders. Prisoners researching the history of the institution found that the common story didn’t line up with what they found:
“a feel-good story” about Quaker reformers rescuing women from abuse in men’s prisons and turned it into a darker, more complicated tale.
This article on the Quaker two Quaker women who started a prison in Indiana in 1873 who turn out not to be the benevolent figures handed down by history should not be terribly surprising.
A lot of 19th century Quaker reformist activity was equal parts interesting and horrid. There was a lot of condescension toward lower classes – Quaker scientists did some of the earliest eugenics studies and one working in South Jersey coined the word “moron” to label people of inferior genetics.
Another type of Quaker social work consisted of scrubbing the ethnicity and quirkiness out of social inferiors. There’s a great set of before and after pictures in Still Philadelphia: A Photographic History, 1890 – 1940 that shows an immigrant slum kitchen after the Quaker-connected Octavia Hill Association got through with it. They took down wallpaper and swept the place – as if mantlepiece clutter were to blame for the institutionalized poverty and racism these immigrants faced.
And yet… Some of these reformers’ work looks good on paper. The Octavia Hill renovation included adding a new window in the kitchen. Cleaning up ghettos and acclimatizing new immigrants to the unwritten norms of their new homeland is useful. I wonder if part of the problem is that these reformers weren’t asking the more radical questions – Why were immigrants fleeing here? Why were they being offered better jobs? Who profited by keeping them scared and desperate?
The twenty-first century inmates writing this new history have some perspective on this. They’re asking why women committing petty crimes were incarcerated while one of the prison’s co-founders lived off of the gains of an husband who embezzled large amounts of money.
In many ways this echoes the current discussions of white privilege. Crime was not then and is not now enforced equally. In Ferguson most of the town was literally classified as criminals based on the most subjective of broken laws. As pillars of the community Quakers were given a pass, both by outsiders and within our own ranks. We must ask hard questions about seemingly-neutral conflicts which result is ongoing patterns and we must constantly pay attention to who’s defining the definitions.
Also of interest: a long account of Rhonda Coffin (pictured), the prison co-founder whose husband lost the fortune (and who was later drummed out of Friends). She’s a fascinating and complicated figure at the forefront of the tectonic changes then occurring among Indiana Friends: wealthy, Evangelical, a social reformist and support of revivals. She argued for feminine values when establishing a prison and yet was stepping out of “traditional” female role herself by doing this work.