Vision Session: A Convergence of Social Movements
This morning session spoke directly to the Radical Localist idea of using localist principles for social and political change from the grassroots up.
Merlyn returned to open the morning plenary with moving poetry. The power of his words brought tears to BALLE Executive Director Michelle Long’s eyes, earning a hug from Kimber Lanning. Once composed, Michelle launched a discussion of Economic Justice 2015.
By supporting dominant businesses today, we are supporting corporate domination. We need a different economy. Corporate controlled vs community control, money versus life. Wall Street is the number one cause of economic inequality. Quebec invests within the province, creating 87,000 new jobs. The status quo doesn’t work. Local supports global.
Then one of BALLE’s founders, David Korten, came to the stage. “This is an epic struggle between life and money. The Wall Street economy is a suicide economy. The financial sector should not be a profit center. Resist corporate rule by nurturing community based local living economies.” TTP (being temporarily voted down in the House as Korten spoke) would make it illegal to favor local businesses.
“Division of the many supports the rulers. “America is a nation born of empire, colonizing people far beyond its borders. Transnational corporations have become the colonizers, while being subsidized by American tax payers. We are now in a moment of awakening. Imperial structures will continue to reign as long as oppositional forces remain divided. We need not reform but a new system. BALLE is building the new system from the bottom up.” We seek:
- The earth must be in balance as we belong to the earth.
- Equitable sharing
- Economic democracy
Adrienne Marie Brown of Octavia’s Brood spoke next. She stressed that the work is hard, and we must be realistic. We must claim the future for it is on us to keep justice alive. Black and brown are our peers and innovators, not The Other. What will the world look like, she asked, when Black Lives Matter? Imagine this healing wholeness was her challenge. A complex system is emerging from simple rules.
Citing 99 year old Grace Lee Boggs (www.graceleeboggs.com), Brown asked for critical relationships more than critical mass. Grow the future through simple acts. Resilience comes from decentralization.
That set the stage for the always captivating Van Jones to bat cleanup with the bases full. Referencing the late Samora Machel, Jones stated that, “Solidarity is not charity; Solidarity is mutual aid between two forces seeking the same objective. That is a very different model than diversity.
“The Obama era of black silence on issues that critically matter to us is over! The black community is in free fall right now. We are ¼ of the world’s prison population in a hidden epidemic of solitary confinement. We can’t be quiet no more! We can no longer talk in racially neutral terms.”
Jones’ Dream Corps has a campaign called #Cut50 to reduce the prison population by 50%. “Liberty and justice for all means opposition of the penal system.”
“We have to work for unity. The struggle is to get the right unity. We can’t have unity without tough talk to make a place for the future to land.”
“BALLE’s time is coming, and it is coming fast! This organization gives me so much hope.”
Localist Policies Part A: The Localist Policy Agenda
Thus inspired I headed across downtown to the Cronkite Center once again for the Interactive Session: Localist Policies Part A: The Localist Policy Agenda, facilitated by BALLE’s Leanne Krueger-Bransky and Jamee Haley of Lowcountry Local First in South Carolina.
What are the policies that seem to be working? Some strategies
- Tax policies that are fair to local businesses
- Stop using public money to subsidize large corporations
- Adopt policies that support local businesses rather than TPP
- Restructure banking system to serve local living economies
- Adapt planning and zoning policies to create environments that promote local business
- Measure economic impact of local business
- Make targeted investments that support local business
Ted Howard of Democracy Collaborative stated That we need to develop inclusive policies. “Economic development for an inclusive city”
We have been moving jobs around rather than creating new jobs in “economic development blackmail.” $80 billion spent each year on incentives. Washington spent $8.7B to keep Boeing. Instead we need community wealth building. Inclusive, supporting local anchors working collaboratively. Community wealth building is about local control and ownership building new institutions.
Amarillo, Texas: has 2% unemployment now; 4% at the nadir of the recession. Yet, 2/3 of the workforce there lives in poverty.
People in western end of Cleveland have an average lifespan of 64. Those in affluent east Cleveland have a life expectancy of 88. Economic development is a life and death matter.
Richmond, Virginia opened the first municipal office of Community Wealth Building. Place matters. Local owners provide inclusive living wage jobs. “Systems change. We have a new normal.”
Burt Lauderdale of KFTC and Peter Hille of MACED then reported on lessons from their work in Kentucky. We need a new organizing strategy for a just transition in Appalachia. What eastern Kentucky lacks is a revised central organizing principles to build power and effect change.
Kentucky Just Initiative consists of:
- Vision based and vision oriented
- Place based
Accomplishing something makes a difference and builds hope.
Pump local business –ASSETS – Pump local investment
Central Appalachia coal cannot compete on price. One third of coal jobs lost in Eastern Kentucky. Coal price per ton: Central Appalachia $53.06; Illinois Basin $40.32; Powder River $11.55.
Appalachia has demonized a war on coal rather than building an economic transition. KFTC launched Kentucky’s Bright Future 2013 with particular attention to Arts & Culture.
MACED lends to Co-ops. Co-ops pay customers. Customers pay bills. Co-ops repay MACED.
20th Anniversary of When Corporations Rule the World
During lunch back at the Renaissance, David Korten discussed the 20th anniversary of his prescient bestseller When Corporations Rule the World. The interest in it “gives us a vehicle to end the 5000 year cycle of empire. 1995 was exactly the right time for When Corporations Rule the World. “People were just becoming aware. The book answered the questions people asking.”
“Economists know nothing about anything important as they are detached from realty.”
The vast majority of people of the world are pushed down by development. The Kortens went home to the USA to teach about the devastation in the third world.
“We are experiencing a global assault by corporate interests to retain control.
Since 1995 further consolidation of power created robots that turning against us. “Markets control corporations with money as the Blob turning life into money. Our life energy fuels this, causing us to do things we would not otherwise do.”
Paper money is used to acquire real things. They charge us a fee to get what we need. “You can only get money as a wage slave or a debt slave.” 1995 was the turning point when corporations took control and when we began to get the story out.
Localist Policies Part B: Unrigging the Game
David Levine of American Sustainable Business Council explained their opposition to TPP. The struggle is not over. TPP preempts legal structure shifting control to transnational corporations. ASBC, which was formed in 2009, wants to be the new voice for American business. ASBC website http://asbcouncil.org/ tracks the TPP.
Eric Henry of Burlington, NC’s TS Designs explained what NAFTA did to his business. Before NAFTA in 1994, TS had more than 100 employees. It dropped down to 14 employees. 98% of apparel today is produced outside the USA. This major shift in the apparel industry made millions on the back of cheap, unskilled labor. “We have lost transparency. Start by asking where products come from.”
Eric changed focus to doing good and producing high quality. Eric is working to create an NC Business Alliance. “TPP aims to fix something that is not broken.” https://www.govtrack.us/ reports status of bills.
Levine then lead the group in describing an alternative to TPP, soliciting the principles of a good trade bill for the group
- Environmental protection standards
- Protection of worker rights
- Country of origin
- Clarified adjudication
- Protection of national sovereignty
- Self-determination by national governments
- Protects and supports local economies
- Respects consumer rights
- Standardized definitions of key terms
- Limit scope to what is necessary
- Level playing field
- Not based solely on price
- No externalities
Closing Keynote: The Compassionate Way Forward
For the closing events, we explored another venue in downtown Phoenix, the Crescent Ballroom. Pam Chaloult, BALLE’s Chief Opportunity Officer, sounded the perfect note to start the session: “We are better together. We are a community.”
Michelle Long followed her. “Some sacred happened to cultivate our care for each other…. We need to tap into a deeper level of humanity, oneness.” Echoing her Wednesday comments, BALLE’s executive director stated that “We feel well when 1) we are connected to our inner voice; 2) we are connected deeply to humanity; 3) we are connected to nature; 4) we are connected to generosity.”
Tyler Norris of Kaiser Permanente then took the stage. The number one indicator of health is a sense of belonging. We need a compassionate path forward. When we allow ourselves to be compassionate with ourselves, we can be compassionate with others.
Tolulope Ilesanmi of Zenith System Cleaning then spoke with a powerful message of compassion, personal modesty, and service to others. Forgiving can be found in the act of sweeping, he told us. Compassion begins with seeing. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Labels, prejudice, stigma, and greed are all products of fear.
“Cleaning is the process of removing dirt from any space, surface, object, or subject, thereby exposing beauty, potential, and truth…. The process moves from the tangible to the intangible. We bear witness and take action.”
Seeing and practicing local and individual is transcendental, bringing compassion here and now. “Love creates and expands businesses and markets. Love is the all-purpose cleaner… The heart sees a lot more than the visible.
The next speaker was BALLE co-founder Judy Wicks. “When does compassion begin?,” she asked. Love is a place. The purpose of business is to serve. Maximize community and natural connections rather than profits. Take responsibility. Ask where does our food and our water come from and where does our waste go. Topophilia is the love of place. “Place matters in health. Zipcode is more important than genetic code to health.” Place, ownership, nature, and relationship shape health.
“Lead with love,” said Judy. “This will be the first generation to love with less than their parents. The health care system is confiscating the wealth of our people. Only ten percent is for improving health.”
Tyler then asked the speakers to describe what A Passionate Way Forward looks like.
Judy said her turning point was when she decided to share the suppliers for White Dog Café with her competitors. Tolu explained that he grew up in a loving family that allowed him to be a child. While still in his original career as a banker, his younger brother came to visit and unexpectedly died. Tolu then decided that he should do that which he wanted to be the last thing he did in life. He decided that love should be his business. Judy stated that “we will reach a critical mass one day when we sense our connectedness.”
With that the Crescent Ballroom quickly changed back into music venue and bar. Localists bought t-shirts and drinks, while a dinner buffet appeared where we had been seated. While a local band played, we celebrated and continued discussions in small groups.