Shock and awe and pushback

Shock and awe is the tac­tic of a bul­ly­ing invad­er who wants to demor­al­ize a coun­try into sur­ren­der­ing before a defense has been mount­ed. It a strat­e­gy you choose if you don’t think you can win in a long, drawn-out battle.

Trump has sur­round­ed him­self by a pro­tec­tive scrum of advi­sors who spend much of their time keep­ing him steady and mas­sag­ing his ego to assure him the peo­ple are all behind him. I don’t think he knows how to deal with the size of the oppo­si­tion so far. He turns to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry to try to con­vince him­self that what he wants to be true real­ly would be except for evil “dudes” out there — George Soros hir­ing actors to protest, mil­lions of undoc­u­ment­ed aliens vot­ing, etc., and of course the orig­i­nal Trump con­spir­a­cy that refused to think a black Amer­i­can could be a legit­i­mate president.


Movement for a New Society and the Old New Monastics

Robin wrote a lit­tle about the New Monas­tic move­ment in a plug for the Pen­dle Hill work­shop I’m doing with Wess Daniels this Fall. 

Here’s my work­ing the­o­ry: I think Lib­er­al Friends have a good claim to invent­ing the “new monas­tic” move­ment thir­ty years ago in the form of Move­ment for a New Soci­ety, a net­work of peace and anti-nuclear activists based in Philadel­phia that cod­i­fied a kind of “sec­u­lar Quak­er” decision-making process and trained thou­sands of peo­ple from around the world in a kind of engaged drop-out lifestyle that fea­tured low-cost com­mu­nal liv­ing arrange­ments in poor neigh­bor­hoods with part-time jobs that gave them flex­i­bil­i­ty to work as full-time com­mu­ni­ty activists. There are few activist cam­paigns in the 1970s and 1980s that weren’t touched by the MNS style and a less-ideological, more lived-in MNS cul­ture sur­vives today in bor­der­line neigh­bor­hoods in Philadel­phia and oth­er cities. The high-profile new monas­tics rarely seem to give any props to Quak­ers or MNS, but I’d be will­ing to bet if you sat in on any of their meet­ings the process would be much more inspired by MNS than Robert’s Rules of Order or any fif­teen cen­tu­ry monas­tic rule that might be cited.

For a decade I lived in West Philly in what I called “the ruins of the Move­ment for a New Soci­ety.” The for­mal struc­ture of MNS had dis­band­ed but many of its insti­tu­tions car­ried on in a kind of lived-in way. I worked at the remain­ing pub­lish­ing house, New Soci­ety Pub­lish­ers, lived in a land-trusted West Philly coop house, and was fed from the old neigh­bor­hood food coop and occa­sion­al­ly dropped in or helped out with Train­ing for Change, a revived train­ing cen­ter start­ed by MNS-co-founder (and Cen­tral Philadel­phia Meeting-member) George Lakey It was a tight neigh­bor­hood, with strong cross-connections, and it was able to absorb relat­ed move­ments with dif­fer­ent styles (e.g., a strong anar­chist scene that grew in the late 1980s). I don’t think it’s coin­ci­dence that some of the Philly emer­gent church projects start­ed in West Philly and is strong in the neigh­bor­hoods that have become the new ersatz West Philly as the actu­al neigh­bor­hood has gentrified.

So some ques­tions I’ll be wrestling with over the next six months and will bring to Pen­dle Hill:

  • Why haven’t more of us in the Reli­gious Soci­ety of Friends adopt­ed this engaged lifestyle?
  • Why haven’t we been good at artic­u­lat­ing it all this time?
  • Why did the for­mal struc­ture of the Quaker-ish “new monas­ti­cism” not sur­vive the 1980s?
  • Why don’t we have any younger lead­ers of the Quak­er monas­ti­cism? Why do we need oth­ers to remind us of our own recent tradition?
  • In what ways are some Friends (and some fel­low trav­el­ers) still liv­ing out the “Old New Monas­tic” expe­ri­ence, just with­out the hype and with­out the buzz?

It’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that the “new monas­ti­cism” isn’t sus­tain­able. At the very least Friends’ expe­ri­ences with it should be stud­ied to see what hap­pened. Is West Philly what the new monas­ti­cism looks like thir­ty years lat­er? The biggest dif­fer­ences between now and the hey­day of the Move­ment for a New Soci­ety is 1) the Internet’s abil­i­ty to orga­nize and stay in touch in com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent ways; and 2) the pow­er of the major Evan­gel­i­cal pub­lish­ing hous­es that are hyp­ing the new kids.

I’ll be look­ing at myself as well. After ten years, I felt I need­ed a change. I’m now in the “real world” – semi sub­ur­ban free­stand­ing house, nuclear fam­i­ly. The old new West Philly monas­ti­cism, like the “new monas­ti­cism” seems opti­mized for hip twenty-something sub­ur­ban kids who roman­ti­cized the grit­ty city. Peo­ple of oth­er demo­graph­ics often fit in, but still it was nev­er very scal­able and for many not very sus­tain­able. How do we bring these con­cerns out to a world where there are sub­urbs, fam­i­lies, etc?

RELATED READING: I first wrote about the sim­i­lar­i­ty between MNS and the Philadel­phia “New Monas­tic” move­ment six years ago in Peace and Twenty-Somethings, where I argued that Pen­dle Hill should take a seri­ous look at this new movement.

Trip to the Blue Hole

A few days ago my two-year old Theo and I took a mean­der­ing bike trip that brought us to the charmingly-named Piney Hol­low Road (alas, not quite as rus­tic as it sounds). We stopped on the unas­sum­ing bridge over the Great Egg Har­bor Riv­er and I looked for a trail into the woods. We found one about a hun­dred feet north of the riv­er, hiked in anoth­er hun­dred feet and pic­nicked along the riv­er. When I got back home I start­ed Googling around and dis­cov­ered that our sand trail was the Blue Anchor Fire­line Road and that we were on one of the main paths in to the famed Blue Hole.

The best sto­ries on Winslow’s Blue Hole come from Hen­ry Charl­ton Beck, whose folk his­to­ries of South Jer­sey are must-haves for any local’s library. He wrote news­pa­per columns pro­fil­ing old-timey local char­ac­ters on the back roads and deep woods of the area and his accounts have been col­lect­ed in vol­umes such as For­got­ten Towns of South Jer­sey and Jer­sey Gen­e­sis: The Sto­ry of the Mul­li­ca Riv­er. He wrote about the Blue Hole leg­ends in More For­got­ten Towns of South Jer­sey and one help­ful fel­low has bro­ken copy­right laws to scan in the rel­e­vant pages.

Trip to Winslow's Blue HoleToday my two-year old and I set out again for the Blue Hole (well, I did: he actu­al­ly napped half the way there). We start­ed on Piney Hol­low Road in Winslow Town­ship. About 100 feet north of the very unas­sum­ing Great Egg Har­bor Riv­er bridge is what the maps call the Blue Anchor Fire­line Road. The pic­ture on the left show the trail­head from Piney Hol­low Road.

Trip to Winslow's Blue HoleWe went into the woods along this sandy road. It curves right, par­al­lels Piney Hol­low Road for awhile, then curves left back into the woods. There are weird met­al bunker open­ings marked “con­fined space entry” in day-glow orange every so often: some water-related thing I sup­pose (though the conspiracy-minded might beg to dif­fer). About a mile in there’s an inter­sec­tion with the equally-sandy Inskeep Road (those want­i­ng an alter­na­tive path could take Inskeep from Piney Hol­low: it’s entry is about a half-mile north of the Great Egg Har­bor Riv­er bridge).

Make a left onto Inskeep and go left when it forks. With­in a quar­ter mile you’ll see a creek with the remains of a bridge. This is the Great Egg Har­bor Riv­er. Some of the trip reports I’ve seen end here with the sad report that the washed-out bridge pre­vent­ed the creek from being ford­ed (“Since the stream was too deep and too fast mov­ing to ford, we were forced to retreat. The Devil’s Hole was only 100 yards away, but it might as well have been 100 miles.”). Bah: it’s three feet deep in Sep­tem­ber, quit yap­ping and get your feet wet, okay? Just up the path on the oth­er side is the famed Blue Hole itself.

It’s always fun to retrace Hen­ry Charl­ton Beck’s foot­steps but the Blue Hole itself isn’t all that excit­ing. Yes, the water is kind of blue, under­neath the pond scum. It does look deep and it’s cer­tain­ly not a nor­mal geo­log­i­cal fea­ture. Some have won­dered if it’s an aster­oid hit, which is as good a the­o­ry as any oth­er. Here’s a close-up of the hole in all its blue’ness:
Trip to Winslow's Blue Hole

No, I didn’t see the Jer­sey Dev­il (wasn’t real­ly look­ing folks) but some sort of giant heron or crane did cir­cle the hole over­head twice when I got there. One the­o­ry of the Jer­sey Dev­il leg­end is that it was inspired by sight­ings of the Sand­hill Crane so our companion’s pres­ence was appro­pri­ate. I didn’t swim into the hole to test out the Dev­il leg-pulling reports, bot­tom­less depth or remark­able cold. I’ll leave that to more intre­pid souls.

My Links:

Route Map:

View Blue Hole, Winslow NJ in a larg­er map