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.
The notion for the “commonplace book” comes from Thomas Jefferson, who used just such a book to capture pretty much anything: passages from books he was reading, notes, sketches, you name it.
Wikipedia takes it further back in its entry on Commonplace books. The name comes from the latin locus communis and the form got its start in a new form of fifteen-century bound journal:
Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator\'s particular interests.
I really like this idea. I\'ve been thinking a lot about workflows recently (and listening to way too many geek podcasts on my commute). I\'ve been muddling my way toward something like this. I\'m currently using Evernote to log a lot of my life but there\'s scraps of interesting tidbits that have no home. An example from half an hour ago: I was listening to Pandora the train when along came an unfamiliar song I wanted to remember for later. A Commonplace book would be a natural place to record this information (First Aid Kit\'sLion\'s Roar if you must know, think Bonnie Raitt steps out with Townes van Zandt for a secret assignation at a Stockholm open mic night.)
Of course, being a twenty-first century digital native, my workflow would be electronic. What I imagine is a single Evernote page that holds a month\'s worth of the bits that come along. I have something similar with a log, a single file with one line entries (lots of Ifttt automations like logged Foursquare check-ins, along with notes-to-self of milestones like issues sent to press, etc.). I\'ll start setting this up.
Last night a huge thunderstorm front with a phenomenon called a derecho swept across South Jersey. Where I live in Hammonton the strangest part of it was a strobe-light effect caused by dozens of cloud-to-cloud lightning flashes per minute, punctuated by lightning strikes. Further east into Atlantic County winds took down incredible amounts of trees.
This morning traveled to Mays Landing, which was scheduled to host a street festival today. A few brave merchants like Brownies Squared opened without power and made the best of it, selling refrigerated goods at half-price. But most of the town was dealing with trees across downed power lines. According to NBC40 Weather 162,000 households are without power – considerably more than were out in last year’s hurricane.
People sometimes get pretty worked up about convincing each other of an matter of pressing importance. We think we have The Answer about The Issue and that if we just repeat ourselves loud enough and often enough the obviousness of our position will win out. It becomes our duty, in fact, to repeat it loud and often. If we happen to wear down the opposition so much that they withdraw from our companionship or fellowship, all the better, as we’ve achieved a patina of unity. Religious liberals are just as prone to this as the conservatives.
These are not the values we hold when talking about the natural world. There we talk about biodiversity. We don’t cheer when a species maladapted to the human-driven Anthropocene disappears into extinction. Just because a plant or animal from the other side of the world has no natural predators doesn’t mean our local species should be superseded.
Scientists tell us that biodiversity is not just a kind of do-unto-others value that satisfies our sense of nostalgia; having wide gene pools comes in handy when near-instant adaptation is needed in response to massive habitat stress. Monocrops are good for the annual harvest but leave us especially vulnerable when phytophthora infestans comes ashore.
It’s a good thing for different religious groups to have different values, both from us us and from one another. There are pressures in today’s culture to level all of our distinctives down so that we have no unique identity. Some cheer this monocropping of spirituality, but I’m not sure it’s healthy for human race. If our religious values are somehow truer or more valuable than those of other people, then they will eventually spread themselves – not by pushing other bodies to be like us, but by attracting the members of the other bodies to join with us.
God may have purpose in fellowships that act differently that ours. Let us not get too smug about our own inevitability that we forget to share ourselves with those with whom we differ.
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!
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 Nonviolence.org project that I had started to keep the organizing going.
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.
Just a little note to everyone that I’ve blogged a couple of posts over on Nonviolence.org. They’re both based on “peace mom” Cindy Sheeran’s “resignation” from the peace movement yesterday.
It’s all a bit strange to see this from a long-time peace activist perspective. The movement that Sheehan’s talking about and now critiquing is not movement I’ve worked with for the last fifteen-plus years. The organizations I’ve known have all been housed in crumbling buildings, with too-old carpets and furniture lifted as often as not from going out of business sales. Money’s tight and careers potentially sacrificed to help build a world of sharing, caring and understanding.
The movement Sheehan talks about is fueled by millions of dollars of Democratic Party-related money, with campaigns designed to mesh well with Party goals via the so-called “527 groups”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/527_group and other indirect mechanisms. Big Media likes to crown these organizations as _the_ antiwar movement, but as Sheehan and Amy Goodman discuss in today’s “Democracy Now interview”:http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07%2F05%2F30%2F1343232, corporate media will end up with much of the tens of millions of dollars candidates are now raising. Sheehan makes an impassioned plea for people to support those grassroots campaigns that aren’t supported by the “peace movement” but this reinforces the notion that its the moneyed interests that make up the movement. I’m sure she knows better but it’s hard to work for so long and to make so many sacrifices and still be so casually dismissed – not just me but thousands of committed activists I’ve known over the years.
There are a few peace organizations in that happy medium between toadying and poverty (nice carpets, souls still intact) but it mystifies me why there isn’t a broader base of support for grassroots activism. I myself decided to leave professional peace work almost a decade ago after the my Nonviolence.org project raised such pitiful sums. At some point I decided to stop whining about this phenomenon and just look for better-paying employment elsewhere but it still fascinates me from a sociological perspective.