Apr 22, 2011

STOP FRACKING NOW! Tell Congress to pass the FRAC Act

It's time to hold the oil and gas production industry to the same standards as any other industry to ensure the safe protection of America's drinking water.

Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial drilling technique which injects millions of tons of highly toxic chemical fluids into the ground to break apart shale and release natural gas. Even while scientists believe these chemicals may already be poisoning America's drinking water, the natural gas industry has unleashed a massive 34-state drilling campaign.

See http://stopfrackingnow.com/sign2

Apr 20, 2011

LinkedIn Speaker Series Salman Khan

Salman speaking with LinkedIn CEO and employees on April 15, 2011

Salman Khan has broken the code on teaching and learning...! Monte

Apr 19, 2011

Obama Returns to His Moral Vision | Truthout

Monday 18 April 2011
by: George Lakoff, Truthout

Last week, on April 13, 2011, President Obama gave all Democrats and all progressives a remarkable gift. Most of them barely noticed. They looked at the president's speech as if it were only about budgetary details. But the speech went well beyond the budget. It went to the heart of progressive thought and the nature of American democracy and it gave all progressives a model of how to think and talk about every issue.

It was a landmark speech. It should be watched and read carefully and repeatedly by every progressive who cares about our country - whether Democratic officeholder, staffer, writer or campaign worker - and every progressive blogger, activist and concerned citizen. The speech is a work of art.

The policy topic happened to be the budget, but he called it "The Country We Believe In" for a reason. The real topic was how the progressive moral system defines the democratic ideals America was founded on and how those ideals apply to specific issues. Obama's moral vision, which he applied to the budget, is more general: it applies to every issue. And it can be applied everywhere by everyone who shares that moral vision of American democracy.

Discussion in the media has centered on economics - on the president's budget policy compared with the Republican budget put forth by Paul Ryan. But, as Robert Reich immediately pointed out, "Ten or twelve-year budgets are baloney. It's hard enough to forecast budgets a year or two into the future." The real economic issues are economic recovery and the distribution of wealth. As I have observed, the Republican focus on the deficit is really a strategy for weakening government and turning the country conservative in every respect. The real issue is existential: what is America at heart and what is America to be.

In 2008, candidate Obama laid out these moral principles as well as anyone ever has and roused the nation in support. As president, as he focused on pragmatics and policy, he let moral leadership lapse, leaving the field of morality to radical conservatives, who exploited their opposite moral views effectively enough to take over the House and many state offices. For example, they effectively attacked the president's health care plan on two ideas taken from the right-wing version of morality: freedom ("government takeover") and life ("death panels"). The attacks were successful even though Americans preferred the president's health care policies (no preconditions, universal affordable coverage). The lesson: morality at the general level beats out policy at the particular level. The reason: voters identify themselves as moral beings, not policy wonks.

All politics is moral. Political leaders put forth proposals on the assumption that their proposals are the right things to do, not the wrong things to do. But progressives and radical conservatives have very different ideas of right and wrong.

With his April 13, 2011, speech, the president is back with the basic, straightforward idea of right and wrong that he correctly attributes to the founding of the country - as UCLA historian Lynn Hunt has observed in her important book "Inventing Human Rights."

The basic idea is this: Democracy is based on empathy, that is, on citizens caring about each other and acting on that care, taking responsibility not just for themselves but for their families, communities and their nation. The role of government is to carry out this principle in two ways: protection and empowerment.

Obama quotes Lincoln: "to do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves." That is what he calls patriotism. He spotlights "the American belief ... that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security... that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard time or bad luck, crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us." He cites the religious version of this moral vision: "There but for the grace of God go I." The greatness of America comes from carrying out such moral commitments as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

Analogous moral arguments can, and should, be given constantly for all progressive policies at all levels of government on all issues: the environment, education, health, family planning, organizing rights, voting rights, immigration, and so on. It is only by repetition of the across-the-board moral principles that the voting public gets to hear how all these ideas fit together as realizations of the same basic democratic principles.

Systems Thinking

President Obama, in the same speech, laid the groundwork for another crucial national discussion: systems thinking, which has shown up in public discourse mainly in the form of "systemic risk" of the sort that led to the global economic meltdown. The president brought up systems thinking implicitly, at the center of his budget proposal. He observed repeatedly that budget deficits and "spending" do not occur in isolation. The choice of what to cut and what to keep is a matter of factors external to the budget per se. Long-term prosperity, economic recovery and job creation, he argued, depend on maintaining "investments" - investments in infrastructure (roads, bridges, long-distance rail), education, scientific research, renewable energy, and so on. The maintenance of American values, he argued, is outside of the budget in itself, but is at the heart of the argument about what to cut. The fact is that the rich have gotten rich because of the government - direct corporate subsidies, access to publicly-owned resources, access to government research, favorable trade agreements, roads and other means of transportation, education that provides educated workers, tax loopholes and innumerable government resources taken advantage of by the rich, but paid for by all of us. What is called a "tax break" for the rich is actually a redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle class, whose incomes have gone down to those who have considerably more money than they need, money they have made because of tax investments by the rest of America.

The president provided a beautiful example of systems thinking. Under the Republican budget plan, the president would get a $200,000 a year tax break, which would be paid for by cutting programs for seniors, with the result that 33 seniors would be paying $6,000 more a year for health care to pay for his tax break. To see this, you have to look outside of the federal budget to the economic system at large, in which you can see what budget cuts will be balanced by increases in costs to others. A cut here in the budget is balanced by an increase outside the federal budget for real human beings.

What Is a "System?"

Systems have the following properties:

Homeostasis: Stable systems are self-correcting or are correctable; they have indicators that have to stay within a certain range for the system to be stable. In an economy, there are indicators like unemployment, GDP, and so on. In global ecology, the temperature of the earth is a major indicator.

Feedback: Feedback can be controllable or uncontrollable. In our economy, the Federal Reserve uses indicators as feedback in an attempt to control certain aspects of the economy, using interest rates and the money supply. In the global environment, the global ice caps are an uncontrollable feedback mechanism. They reflect sunlight and heat, which has a cooling effect. As the earth gets warmer, they melt and get smaller, which lowers their ability to reflect and to cool, which makes the earth get warmer, which melts them more, which heats the earth more and on and on.

Non-Local and Network Effects: Global warming in the Pacific increases ocean evaporation. Winds blow the additional water vapor toward the northeast, pushing cold arctic air down over the East coast of the US and the excess water vapor falls as a huge snowstorm. Warming in the Pacific can produce huge snowstorms on the East Coast of the US via such non-local effects.

Nonlinear Effects: A small cause can produce a large effect. A few percentage points lowered in the tax rates of the wealthiest percent or two of Americans can produce a trillion dollars of debt over the whole country over a decade.

When a system has causal effects, as in the above cases, we speak of "systemic causation." "Systemic risks" are the risks created when there is systemic causation. Systemic causation contrasts with direct causation, as when, say, someone lifts something, or throws something or shoots someone.

Linguists have discovered that every language studied has direct causation in its grammar, but no language has systemic causation in its grammar. Systemic causation is a harder concept and has to be learned either through socialization or education.

Progressives tend to think more readily in terms of systems than conservatives. We see this in the answers to a question like, "What causes crime?" Progressives tend to give answers like economic hardship, or lack of education, or crime-ridden neighborhoods. Conservatives tend more to give an answer like "bad people - lock 'em up, punish 'em." This is a consequence of a lifetime of thinking in terms of social connection (for progressives) and individual responsibility (for conservatives). Thus, conservatives did not see the president's plan, which relied on systemic causation, as a plan at all for directly addressing the deficit.

Differences in systemic thinking between progressives and conservatives can be seen in issues like global warming and financial reform. Conservatives have not recognized human causes of global warming, partly because they are systemic, not direct. When a huge snowstorm occurred in Washington, DC, recently, many conservatives saw it as disproving the existence of global warming - "How could warming cause snow?" Similarly, conservatives, thinking in terms of individual responsibility and direct causation, blamed homeowners for foreclosures on their homes, while progressives looked to systemic explanations, seeking reform in the financial system.

A Golden Opportunity

It is rare that a presidential speech provides such opportunities for Democrats, whether in office or not. The president has made overt the moral system that lies behind every progressive position on every issue. He has done it with near perfection. He went on offense, not defense. He didn't use conservative language tied to conservative ideas. He correctly tied his moral vision to the American moral vision and the very idea of American democracy - and patriotism. He used systems thinking throughout. He tied every part of his budget proposal to the American moral vision. And he showed clearly how the Republican budget rejected those American moral ideals in every case. It was not merely high political art. It is a model to be studied and followed.

There is one big problem with the speech that he apparently felt he could not avoid: He stayed within Republican issue framing, keeping to the Republican's definition of the issue as the deficit and the budget - even while the main features of the talk were his moral vision and systems thinking. The media and the politicos have mostly not been able to get beyond issue thinking, that the speech was about the deficit and the budget, missing the larger themes. And the president, since the speech, hasn't pressed the political public on those major themes. He needs help. He needs progressives to start talking publicly about that moral vision and about the importance of systems in our lives and in our politics.

Finally, Democrats need to understand why expressing their moral views is so vital. The crucial voters in recent elections have been misleadingly called "independents," "moderates" and "the center." In reality, they are what I will call the "duals" - people who are conservative on some issues and progressive on others, in all kinds of combinations. They have both moral systems in the neural networks of their brains, but applied to different issues. When one moral network is activated, the other is inhibited - shut down. The more one moral network is active, the stronger it gets and the weaker the other gets. In 2008, the Obama campaign activated and strengthened the network for the progressive moral system - and won over the duals. In 2010, the Democrats stopped talking morality and kept on talking policy, ceding morality to the conservatives, especially the Tea Party radical conservatives. In doing this, they ceded the election. Policy without an understandable moral basis loses.

Democrats need to both activate their base and activate the progressive moral vision dormant in the duals among the voters. They can only do this with an overt appeal to the progressive moral vision inherent in our democracy. It's time for the Democrats to shout their patriotism out loud.

Details and Vision

Many progressives are skeptical about the president's ability - or even his desire - to live up to his moral vision. For example, the Progressive Caucus in the House has produced its own People's Budget, put forth as an alternative to both the president's and the Republicans'. But the People's Budget is an instance of the same moral vision articulated by the president. In short, progressives should look at this speech separating out the necessary budget details from the moral vision they all need to be expressing on every issue.

In addition, all progressives need to start thinking and talking in terms of systems. The nature of systems is central to understanding what is going wrong in ecosystems, financial systems, social systems, educational systems and even in particular systemic enterprises like deep-water drilling, fracking, nuclear energy, food production, and so on.

I would like finally to thank President Obama for bringing these issues to the fore.

Apr 18, 2011

Peak Oil: Insulating Windows

Insulate your windows to save money and energy. Using a shade with several air pocket layers works better than a single layer. Insulating curtains also produce energy saving benefits. NEAT SHADE IDEA ... Monte

Target is Clear in Wisconsin

Soaring Inflation Poses Risks Beyond China’s Borders - NYTimes.com

Fishermen and sellers in a fishing port in Sanya City of Hainan Province, China.

Published: April 17, 2011

SHANGHAI — As the United States and Europe struggle to get their economies rolling again, China is having the opposite problem: figuring out how to keep its revved-up growth engine from generating runaway inflation.

The latest sign that things were moving too fast came on Sunday, when China’s central bank ordered the biggest banks to set aside more cash reserves.

The move essentially reduces the amount of money available for loans, and is an attempt to cool down the economy. It follows the government announcement on Friday that China’s economy was growing at an annual rate of 9.7 percent, by far the strongest performance by any of the world’s biggest economies.

Because China is now the world’s second largest economy, after the United States, and because the country has been a leading source of global growth during the last two years, money problems here can reverberate from Wal-Mart to Wall Street and the world beyond.

High inflation endangers China’s status as the low-cost workshop for the world. And if the government’s efforts to fight inflation cause the economy to stumble, that will cloud the outlook for international businesses — whether multinationals like General Electric or copper miners in Chile — that have been counting on China for growth.

Inside China, inflation also poses a threat to social stability, a particular worry for Beijing, especially since authoritarian governments in North Africa and the Middle East have become the focus of popular uprisings.

“China’s inflation is a big concern, and actual numbers are worse than officially reported,” said Carmen M. Reinhart, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

She says Beijing is engaged in an economic tug of war, trying to encourage sustainable growth while struggling to control inflation.

Food prices are soaring, and the government said on Friday that the consumer price index in March had risen 5.4 percent, its sharpest increase in nearly three years. Hoping to tame inflation, in the last six months Beijing has tightened restrictions on bank lending and raised interest rates on loans (to discourage borrowing) and deposits (to encourage savings).

The decision on Sunday to raise the capital reserve ratio for banks, to 20.5 percent of their cash, was the fourth such increase this year.

The government has also increased agricultural subsidies to curb food prices, and tried to forbid some Chinese companies from raising consumer prices. These efforts stand in contrast to those in the United States, where inflation is low (the underlying annual inflation rate was 1.2 percent last month) and where the debate centers on how much to stimulate the economy given the size of the deficit. Inflation is also running low in Europe, where some countries are imposing harsh austerity measures to pare their budget gaps.

But analysts say the results of this economic management have been mixed. Growth has begun to moderate from its torrid pace of about 10 percent annual growth but inflation has become worse.

For example, housing prices continue to climb even though Beijing has long promised to curb the property market and to spend billions of dollars over the next few years on affordable housing.

The average apartment in central Shanghai now costs more than $500,000. Even in second-tier cities like Chengdu, in central China, the price of a typical home costs about 25 times the average annual income of residents.

Analysts say too much of the country’s growth continues to be tied to inflationary spending on real estate development and government investment in roads, railways and other multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects.

In the first quarter of 2011, fixed asset investment — a broad measure of building activity — jumped 25 percent from the period a year earlier, and real estate investment soared 37 percent, the government said on Friday.

Some of the inflationary factors, like global commodity and food prices, may be beyond Beijing’s ability to influence. Gasoline prices have also jumped sharply, in line with global oil prices. As the world’s largest car market, China’s demand for fuel is soaring, and gasoline prices are close to $4.50 a gallon, up from $3.82 a gallon in late 2009.

Rising food prices, meanwhile, are showing up in various ways — including higher prices at fast-food chains, like Master Kong, which in January raised the price of its popular instant noodles by about 10 percent.

China’s current supercharged boom began in early 2009, during the global financial crisis, when Beijing moved aggressively to increase growth with a $586 billion stimulus package and record lending by state-run banks.

The loose monetary policy, and big investments in local government projects, did revive economic growth. But even at the time there were already concerns about soaring property prices, undisciplined bank lending and the huge debts being amassed by local governments.

The fear among some experts is that the bubble will eventually burst, leading to a wave of nonperforming loans at the big state-owned Chinese banks, which have been the main financiers of the nation’s phenomenal growth dating to the economic reforms in the 1980s.

Some economists have begun to argue that high inflation may be around for some time. Here again, the tug of war is evident.

To encourage the growth of a consumer market that will help meet the Chinese people’s demand to share the nation’s wealth, Beijing and many municipal governments have required employers to raise wages.

The government has raised minimum wages in the hope of reducing the big income gap between the rich and the poor, and the urban and rural. But higher wages drive up the costs of production, leading to higher prices. Some experts say rising wages may be an unavoidable inflationary force for years to come.

“China is moving into a new era, a new norm,” said Dong Tao, an economist at Credit Suisse in Hong Kong. “In the previous decade, inflation was about 1.8 percent a year; in the next decade, it may be closer to 5 percent.”

The implications of such a shift are huge, not just for domestic consumers but perhaps even more so for exports. As wages and production costs rise, coastal factories are demanding higher prices for the goods they ship overseas. That means Americans, Europeans and other buyers will have to pay more for those goods or seek lower-cost suppliers elsewhere. In some cases, retailers are bidding for goods at prices the exporters consider too low.

“I hear that many Chinese exporters are rejecting orders from Wal-Mart and other Western retailers,” Mr. Tao said. “I’ve been covering the Chinese economy for a long time, and I’ve never heard that before.”

Many analysts say the government is going to have to do even more to slow the economy, through measures like placing additional restrictions on lending and continuing to raise interest rates, the textbook methods of fighting inflation by tightening the nation’s money supply.

But the mixed results so far do not inspire widespread confidence. In fact, some experts say that despite the Communist Party’s efforts to manage the economy by committee, the absence of a top autonomous central banker — Beijing has no equivalent of the United States Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke — means no one actually has a hand on the growth throttle.

“The roots of inflation were laid down after the financial crisis, with the stimulus policy,” said Zhang Weiying, a professor of economics at Peking University.

After a big stimulus, stamping out inflation is not easy, Professor Zhang said. “It may take a long time.”

Citizens like Wang Jianren, 56, a retiree in Shanghai, a bustling city of 20 million, say that over the years China has benefited from its rapid economic growth. But like so many here, he complains that inflation is beginning to erode those gains.

“Prices have gone up a lot,” Mr. Wang said at an indoor vegetable market on Friday. “Unstable prices make people nervous and make society unstable. In this sense, our generation even has some nostalgia for Mao’s era.”

Xu Yan contributed research from Shanghai.

Apr 17, 2011

The Next American Revolution (excerpt) - Grace Lee Boggs. With Scott Kurashige - University of California Press


Grace Lee Boggs -  95 years old, with lots of good marbles left ... making a big difference ... there is hope for us all ... goes to show you cannot discount experience, wisdom, and pursuit of justice ...  she is one impressive gal ... who has been through a lot (Great Depression, fascism and Nazism, the Holocaust, World War II, the A-bomb and the H-bomb, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cold war, the Korean War, McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, 9/11, and the "taking the law into our own hands" response of the Bush administration. Perhaps eighty million people have being killed in wars ) ... she has my total respect... we can learn from her ... Monte

Amazon.com- Next-American-Revolution-Sustainable Review:
If you are watching or participating in the events in Wisconsin, NJ, Ohio or Michigan, this book will challenge you to think about becoming a leader rather than a cheerleader. In the book, The Next American Revolution:Sustainable Activism in the 21 Century, Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige help us move from defensive protest thinking to the work of creating a cultural revolution and to creating parallel structures for an American Dream of the 21 Century. [...] Too many on the left and among progressive forces are on the defensive. Fighting Back is not enough...This short book will become a foundation for thinking to guide movements in the 21 Century. Grace develops theory from practice and puts forward a vision to transform ourselves and our society. What can we learn from Martin and Malcom? These are the times to grow our souls? What can we learn from the crisis and pioneering practice in Detroit? What does a paradigm shift in education mean for our children and our communities? Grace and Scott end with a chapter entitled: "We are the Leaders we've been looking for! [...]
This book is the basis for study circles in our unions, churches, community organizations, family circles and in our highschools and our colleges. In times of movement and great change, we need to think as well as act. This book unites thinking, reflection and doing.

Chapter 1

These Are the Times to Grow Our Souls

On June 27, 2010, I celebrated my ninety-fifth birthday. Over the past few years I have become much less mobile. I no longer bound from my chair to fetch a book or article to show a visitor. I have two hearing aids, three pairs of glasses, and very few teeth. But I still have most of my marbles, mainly because I am good at learning, arguably the most important qualification for a movement activist. In fact, the past decade-plus since the 1998 publication of my autobiography, Living for Change, has been one of the busiest and most invigorating periods of my life.

I have a lot to learn from. I was born during World War I, above my father's Chinese American restaurant in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. This means that through no fault of my own, I have lived through most of the catastrophic events of the twentieth century-the Great Depression, fascism and Nazism, the Holocaust, World War II, the A-bomb and the H-bomb, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cold war, the Korean War, McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, 9/11, and the "taking the law into our own hands" response of the Bush administration. Perhaps eighty million people have been killed in wars during my lifetime.

But it has also been my good fortune to have lived long enough to witness the death blow dealt to the illusion that unceasing technological innovations and economic growth can guarantee happiness and security to the citizens of our planet's only superpower.

Since I left the university in 1940, I have been privileged to participate in most of the great humanizing movements of the past seventy years-the labor, civil rights, Black Power, women's, Asian American, environmental justice, and antiwar movements. Each of these has been a tremendously transformative experience for me, expanding my understanding of what it means to be both an American and a human being, while challenging me to keep deepening my thinking about how to bring about radical social change.

However, I cannot recall any previous period when the issues were so basic, so interconnected, and so demanding of everyone living in this country, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, age, or national origin. At this point in the continuing evolution of our country and of the human race, we urgently need to stop thinking of ourselves as victims and to recognize that we must each become a part of the solution because we are each a part of the problem.

What is our response to the economic crisis and financial meltdown? Will we just keep scrambling to react to each new domino that falls (e.g., Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie/Freddie, AIG, Citigroup)? Or are we prepared to develop a whole new form of solidarity economics emphasizing sustainability, mutuality, and local self-reliance?

How are we going to make our living in an age when Hi-Tech (high technology) and the export of jobs overseas have brought us to the point where the number of workers needed to produce goods and services is constantly diminishing? Where will we get the imagination, the courage, and the determination to reconceptualize the meaning and purpose of Work in a society that is becoming increasingly jobless?

What is going to happen to cities like Detroit, which was once the "arsenal of democracy," and others whose apex was tied to manufacturing? Now that they've been abandoned by industry, are we just going to throw them away? Or can we rebuild, redefine, and respirit them as models of twenty-first-century self-reliant and sustainable multicultural communities? Who is going to begin this new story?

How are we going to redefine Education so that half of all inner-city children do not drop out of school, thus ensuring that large numbers will end up in prison? Is it enough to call for "Education, not Incarceration"? Or does our top-down educational system, created a hundred years ago to prepare an immigrant population for factory work, bear a large part of the responsibility for the atrocity that even though the United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world's total population, we are responsible for nearly 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population?

How are we going to build a twenty-first-century America in which people of all races and ethnicities live together in harmony, and European Americans in particular embrace their new role as one among many minorities constituting the new multiethnic majority?

What is going to motivate us to start caring for our biosphere instead of using our mastery of technology to increase the volume and speed at which we are making our planet uninhabitable for other species and eventually for ourselves?

And, especially since 9/11, how are we to achieve reconciliation with the two-thirds of the world that increasingly resents our economic, military, and cultural domination? Can we accept their anger as a challenge rather than a threat? Out of our new vulnerability can we recognize that our safety now depends on our loving and caring for the peoples of the world as we love and care for our own families? Or can we conceive of security only in terms of the Patriot Act and the exercising of our formidable military power?

Where will we get the courage and the imagination to free ourselves from the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan, the wars that have killed tens of thousands while squandering hundreds of billions of dollars? What will help us confront our own hubris, our own irresponsibility, and our own unwillingness, as individuals and as a nation, to engage in seeking radical solutions to the growing inequality between the nations of the North and those of the South? Can we create a new paradigm of our selfhood and our nationhood? Or are we so locked into nationalism, racism, and determinism that we will be driven to seek scapegoats for our frustrations and failures as the Germans did after World War I, thus aiding and abetting the onset of Hitler and the Holocaust?

We live at a very dangerous time because these questions are no longer abstractions. As we embrace the challenges and opportunities awaiting us in the age of Obama, we must be mindful of the mess we are in and the damage we must undo. Our political system became so undemocratic and dysfunctional that we were saddled with a president unable to distinguish between facts and personal fantasies. Eight years of George W. Bush left us stuck in two wars. Under the guise of defense against terrorism, our government violated the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Constitution, torturing detainees, suspending habeas corpus, and instituting warrantless domestic spying. Meanwhile, our media are owned and controlled by huge multinational corporations who treat the American people as consumers and audience rather than as active citizens.

Our heedless pursuit of material and technological growth has created a planetary emergency. With places such as the Maldives-the islands that scientists warn may be engulfed by rising seas-confronting a threat to their existence and the livelihoods of millions more being undermined, "climate justice" promises to be the defining issue of the twenty-first century. The physical threat posed by climate change represents a crisis that is not only material but also profoundly spiritual at its core because it challenges us to think seriously about the future of the human race and what it means to be a human being. Our lives, the lives of our children and of future generations, and even the survival of life on Earth depend on our willingness to transform ourselves into active planetary and global citizens who, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, "develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies."

The time is already very late and we have a long way to go to meet these challenges. In the decades following World War II, the so-called American Century gave rise to an economic expansion that has ultimately driven us further apart rather than closer together. Growing inequality in the United States, which is now the most stratified among industrialized nations, has made a mockery of our founding ideals. CEOs of failed financial institutions have walked away with ill-gotten fortunes. Millions of children in the Global South die each year of starvation while diabetes as a result of obesity is approaching epidemic levels in the United States.

Yet rather than wrestle with such grim realities, too many Americans have become self-centered and overly materialistic, more concerned with our possessions and individual careers than with the state of our neighborhoods, cities, country, and planet, closing our eyes and hearts to the many forms of violence that have been exploding in our inner cities and in powder kegs all over the rest of the world. Because the problems seem so insurmountable and because just struggling for our own survival consumes so much of our time and energy, we view ourselves as victims rather than embrace the power within us to change our reality.

Over the past seventy years the various identity struggles have to some degree remediated the great wrongs that have been done to workers, people of color, Indigenous Peoples, women, gays and lesbians, and the disabled, while helping to humanize our society overall. But they have also had a shadow side in the sense that they have encouraged us to think of ourselves more as determined than as self-determining, more as victims of "isms" (racism, sexism, capitalism, ableism) than as human beings who have the power of choice. For our own survival we must assume individual and collective responsibility for creating a new nation-one that is loved rather than feared and one that does not have to bribe and bully other nations to win support.

These are the times that try our souls. Each of us needs to undergo a tremendous philosophical and spiritual transformation. Each of us needs to be awakened to a personal and compassionate recognition of the inseparable interconnection between our minds, hearts, and bodies; between our physical and psychical well-being; and between our selves and all the other selves in our country and in the world. Each of us needs to stop being a passive observer of the suffering that we know is going on in the world and start identifying with the sufferers. Each of us needs to make a leap that is both practical and philosophical, beyond determinism to self-determination. Each of us has to be true to and enhance our own humanity by embracing and practicing the conviction that as human beings we have Free Will.

Despite the powers and principals that are bent on objectifying and commodifying us and all our human relationships, the interlocking crises of our time require that we exercise the power within us to make principled choices in our ongoing daily and political lives-choices that will eventually although not inevitably (since there are no guarantees) make a difference.

An End to Politics as Usual

How are we going to bring about these transformations? Politics as usual-debate and argument, even voting-are no longer sufficient. Our system of representative democracy, created by a great revolution, must now itself become the target of revolutionary change. For too many years counting, vast numbers of people stopped going to the polls, either because they did not care what happened to the country or the world or because they did not believe that voting would make a difference on the profound and interconnected issues that really matter. Now, with a surge of new political interest having give rise to the Obama presidency, we need to inject new meaning into the concept of the "will of the people."

The will of too many Americans has been to pursue private happiness and take as little responsibility as possible for governing our country. As a result, we have left the job of governing to our elected representatives, even though we know that they serve corporate interests and therefore make decisions that threaten our biosphere and widen the gulf between the rich and poor both in our country and throughout the world. In other words, even though it is readily apparent that our lifestyle choices and the decisions of our representatives are increasing social injustice and endangering our planet, too many of us have wanted to continue going our merry and not-so-merry ways, periodically voting politicians in and out of office but leaving the responsibility for policy decisions to them. Our will has been to act like consumers, not like responsible citizens.

Historians may one day look back at the 2000 election, marked by the Supreme Court's decision to award the presidency to George W. Bush, as a decisive turning point in the death of representative democracy in the United States. National Public Radio analyst Daniel Schorr called it "a junta." Jack Lessenberry, columnist for the MetroTimes in Detroit, called it "a right-wing judicial coup." Although more restrained, the language of dissenting justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Souter, and Stevens was equally clear. They said that there was no legal or moral justification for deciding the presidency in this way.

That's why Al Gore didn't speak for me in his concession speech. You don't just "strongly disagree" with a right-wing coup or a junta. You expose it as illegal, immoral, and illegitimate, and you start building a movement to challenge and change the system that created it. The crisis brought on by the fraud of 2000 and aggravated by the Bush administration's constant and callous disregard for the Constitution exposed so many defects that we now have an unprecedented opportunity not only to improve voting procedures but to turn U.S. democracy into "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" instead of government of, by, and for corporate power.

We may take some brief solace in the fact that George W. Bush's terms in office, while wreaking national and global havoc, aroused heightened political awareness and opposition. Tens of thousands in Washington, DC, and other cities across the country denounced him through a counterinaugural. Then beginning in 2002, millions more took to the streets at home and abroad to denounce the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, the needless death and suffering that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina exposed the true depths of corruption, incompetence, and arrogance within the administration.

Still, it becomes clearer every day that organizing or joining massive protests and demanding new policies fail to sufficiently address the crisis we face. They may demonstrate that we are on the right side politically, but they are not transformative enough. They do not change the cultural images or the symbols that play such a pivotal role in molding us into who we are.

Growing Our Souls

Art can help us to envision the new cultural images we need to grow our souls. As the labor movement was developing in the pre-World War II years, John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath transformed the way that Americans viewed themselves in relationship to faceless bankers and heartless landowners. In the 1970s and 1980s artist Judy Chicago's exhibits, The Dinner Party and Birth Project, reimagined the vagina, transforming it from a private space and site of oppression into a public space of beauty and spiritual as well as physical creation and liberation. In this period, we need artists to create new images that will liberate us from our preoccupation with constantly expanding production and consumption and open up space in our hearts and minds to imagine and create another America that will be viewed by the world as a beacon rather than as a danger.

This need has become more urgent since September 11, 2001. The activist, organizer, and writer Starhawk writes that "911 threw us collectively into a deep well of grief." "The movement we need to build now," she argues, "the potential for transformation that might arise out of this tragedy, must speak to the heart of the pain we share across political lines. A great hole has been torn out of the heart of the world." This potential can be realized only when we summon the courage to confront "a fear more profound than even the terror caused by the attack itself. For those towers represented human triumph over nature. Larger than life, built to be unburnable, they were the Titanic of our day."

"Faced with the profundity of loss, with the stark reality of death, we find words inadequate," Starhawk further notes. "The language of abstraction doesn't work. Ideology doesn't work. Judgment and hectoring and shaming and blaming cannot truly touch the depth of that loss. Only poetry can address grief. Only words that convey what we can see and smell and taste and touch of life, can move us." "To do that," she concludes, "we need to forge a new language of both the word and the deed."

The America that is best known and most resented around the world pursues unlimited economic growth, technological revolutions, and consumption, with little or no regard for their destructive impact on communities, on the environment, and on the billions of people who live in what used to be called the "Third World."

However, the end of the Bush regime provides an opening to build national and international recognition of the movement to "grow our souls," which began emerging organically in the United States in the aftermath of World War II. The dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrated the enormous power and the enormous limitations of viewing human beings primarily as producers and as rational beings in the scientific sense. At the time, Einstein remarked, "The unleashed power of the atom bomb has changed everything except our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophes." Thus, he recognized the urgent need for us to redefine what it means to be a human being. Warning about the danger of unfettered technological progress, Einstein asserted that the solution of world peace could arise only from inside the hearts of humankind. That is why "imagination is more important than knowledge."

"A human being," Einstein concluded, "is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

The nuclear bomb created a Great Divide in theories and strategies for social change. Henceforth, human beings could no longer pretend that everything that happened to us was determined by external or economic circumstances. Freedom now included the responsibility for making choices. Radical social change could no longer be viewed in terms of transferring power from the top to the bottom or of simple binary oppositions-us versus them, victims versus villains, good versus evil. We could no longer afford a separation between politics and ethics. Within the Marxist-Leninist paradigm, consciousness and self-consciousness and ideas and values were mere "superstructure." Now they had to become integral, both as end and as means, to social struggle. Radical social change had to be viewed as a two-sided transformational process, of ourselves and of our institutions, a process requiring protracted struggle and not just a D-day replacement of one set of rulers with another.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56 was the first struggle by an oppressed people in Western society from this new philosophical/political perspective. Before the eyes of the whole world, a people who had been treated as less than human struggled against their dehumanization not as angry victims or rebels but as new men and women, representative of a new more human society. Practicing methods of nonviolence that transformed themselves and increased the good rather than the evil in the world and always bearing in mind that their goal was not only desegregating the buses but creating the beloved community, they inspired the human identity and ecological movements that over the past forty years have been creating a new civil society in the United States.

The sermons of Martin Luther King Jr. and other religious leaders, produced in the heat of struggle, played a critical role in the success of the Montgomery boycott and ensuing civil rights struggles. But as my friend the late Rosemarie Freeney Harding, who worked closely with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activists in the 1960s, pointed out, "Another vital source of support was music, particularly the sacred music of the black experience, which has long been an alchemical resource for struggle: a conjured strength." Harding concluded, "The songs changed the atmosphere, becoming an almost palpable barrier between demonstrators and police, giving the marchers an internal girding that allowed them to move without fear."

I recall how activists popularized songs like "Joe Hill" and "Solidarity Forever" in the decades before the civil rights movement, thus demonstrating the link between music and social action. But the songs of the civil rights movement, such as "We Shall Overcome" and "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," did more than energize those on the frontlines. They helped grow the souls of their supporters all over the world.

The publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962 added another dimension to the evolving movement toward inner and outer transformation initiated by the civil rights movement. By helping us to see how the widespread use of chemicals and hazardous technologies in post-World War II America was silencing "robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens and scores of other bird voices," Carson awakened millions of Americans to the sacredness of Nature and to the need, expressed by Einstein, for "widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

The next year Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique brought small groups of women together in consciousness-raising groups all over the country. Laughing and crying over stories of growing up female in a patriarchal society, women turned anger into hope and created a social and political movement much more participatory and closer to daily life than just going to the polls and voting. The transformative power of women's storytelling has been captured by playwright Eve Ensler in The Vagina Monologues, a dramatic compilation of women's soliloquies. Every year, to raise both funds and consciousness, thousands of women's groups all over the country and the world reproduce-or produce their own version of-these monologues, turning the monologue art form itself into a movement.

As the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the women's movement were gaining momentum, small groups of individuals, especially on the West Coast, were coming together in workshops to open themselves up to new more spiritual ways of knowing, consciously decentering the scientific rationalism that had laid the philosophic foundation for the modern age. To become truly human and to really know Truth, people discovered, we need to summon up all our mental and spiritual resources, constantly expanding our imaginations, sensitivities, and capacity for wonder and love, for hope rather than despair, for compassion and cooperation rather than cynicism and competition, for spiritual aspiration and moral effort. Instead of either/or, reductive, dualistic, and divisive or "blaming the other" thinking, the movement affirmed the unity of mind and body and of the spiritual with the material. It advocated a consciousness that rejects determinism-the belief that we are limited by the past-and repudiates all absolutes. Instead, the movement promoted a consciousness that finds joy in crossing boundaries, is naturalistic instead of supernatural, and strives for empowerment rather than power and control.

Toward the Great Turning

All over the world, local groups are struggling, as we are in Detroit, to keep our communities, our environment, and our humanity from being destroyed by corporate globalization. In his book Blessed Unrest, environmentalist Paul Hawken estimates that there may be more than one million of these self-healing civic groups across every country around the world. Most of them are small and barely visible, but together they are creating the largest movement the world has ever known. Many of these groups are inspired by a philosophy that replaces the scientific and reductive rationalism of seventeenth-century Western male philosophers (such as Descartes and Bacon) with the ways of knowing of Indigenous Peoples (which includes the perceptions of trees and animals) and of women, based on intimate connections with Nature and ideas of healing and caring that were part of European village culture prior to the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century witch hunts.

This movement has no central leadership and is not bound together by any ism. Its very diverse and widely scattered individuals and groups are connected mainly by the Internet and other information technologies. But they are joined at the heart by their commitment to achieving social justice, establishing new forms of more democratic governance, and creating new ways of living at the local level that will reconnect us with the Earth and with one another. Above all, they are linked by their indomitable faith in our ability to create the world anew.

Millions of people in the United States are part of this organically evolving cultural revolution. Because we believe in combining spiritual growth and awakening with practical actions in our daily lives, we are having a profound effect on American culture. For example, most of us reject the getting and spending that not only lay waste to our own powers but also put intolerable pressures on the environment. We try to eat homegrown rather than processed foods and to maintain our physical well-being through healthful habits rather than by dependence on prescription drugs. Overall, we try to make our living in ways that are in harmony with our convictions.

Depending on skills, interests, and where we live, most of us carry on this cultural revolution in our own way. For example, a doctor may decide to practice alternative medicine. A teacher will try to create a more democratic classroom. A businessperson will try to replace competition with cooperation in his firm or may quit the business altogether to act as a consultant to community organizations. Whatever our line of work, we participate in a lot of workshops because we view our selves and the culture as works in progress.

The social activists among us struggle to create actions that go beyond protest and negativity and to build community because community is the most important thing that has been destroyed by the dominant culture. For example, at mass demonstrations against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or corporate globalization, Starhawk organizes small affinity groups to promote democratic decision making and to combine community building with protest.

What unites us is not an organization or leaders but the sense that we are in the middle of what Buddhist writer Joanna Macy calls a "Great Turning." We need to recognize that we are coming to the end of ten thousand years of agricultural and industrial society, both of which are patriarchal. Many of my European friends viewed George W. Bush as the last gasp of industrial society because he was so determined to pursue economic growth even at the risk of destroying our biosphere. We must see the need to confront the crises we face today as part of a broader challenge to make the transition to a new postindustrial world based on partnership among ourselves and with our environment rather than patriarchal and bureaucratic domination.

Whether the media recognize it, the Great Turning is a reality. Although we cannot know yet if it will take hold in time for humans and other complex life forms to survive, we can know that it is under way. And it is gaining momentum, through the actions of countless individuals and groups around the world. To see this as the larger context of our lives clears our vision and summons our courage.

The writings of Karen Armstrong can help us put this notion of a Great Turning into further perspective. I discovered her work after 9/11, when I wanted to know more about Islam. Often called the "runaway nun," Armstrong left the convent in her early twenties, turning her back on the "narrow gate" of religion. Fifteen years later, while working on a film on Jerusalem, she started investigating the origins of Judaism. This led to her studying and writing readable books on the history of different religions.

In her book, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, Armstrong explains how the great faiths (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism) emerged during the seven hundred years from 900 to 200 B.C. in countries like China and India. In this period, sometimes called the "Axial Age," societies on the Eurasian continent were undergoing a great transition: from tribalism, in which individuals were submerged in the community, to urban ways of living that challenged individuals to figure things out for themselves. It was also a period of great violence in which destructive weapons, made possible by new Iron Age technologies, encouraged rulers to expand their turf by warring against one another.

The result was a profound social crisis in which old gods and old religions no longer provided satisfactory answers to new questions. Looking into their own hearts and minds, people felt the need for a leap in faith in what it means to be human. Prophetic voices began urging people to recognize a divinity and sacredness, both in themselves and in others, and to practice compassion by surrendering their egos. In each of these faiths the rejection of violence was linked to the practice of compassion.

Thus, all the great religions that emerged during the Axial Age include some form of the Golden Rule. For example, Confucius said that we should not act toward others as we would not want others to act toward us. In China the ideal ruler was no longer a warrior but someone whose deeds brought spiritual benefits to the people.

This new awakening to the divinity or sacredness within every human being is what Armstrong means by spirituality-a leap of faith, a practice of compassion based on a new belief in the sacredness of our selves and other selves. We need to see the distinction between this concept of spirituality and what many practice as religion. Religion is belief in a body of ideas. Religious people, Armstrong argues, tend to be doctrinaire; they often prefer being right to being compassionate.

Armstrong is convinced that as a result of urbanization, globalization, and rapidly changing technology the whole world is now in the midst of a social crisis as profound as that of the Axial Age. We are therefore called on to make a similar leap in faith, to practice a similar compassion. Native Peoples' view of the Earth as a sacred entity rather than only as a resource, she believes, provides us with a model.

To me, as a movement activist, this suggests that to grapple with the interacting and seemingly intractable questions of today's society, we need to see ourselves not mainly as victims but as new men and women who, recognizing the sacredness in ourselves and in others, can view love and compassion, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., not as "some sentimental and weak response" but instead as "the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality."

Transformational Organizing

The older I grow, the more I realize how lucky I am to have lived so long and been part of so many historic changes. When I became a radical nearly seventy years ago, we ran the "risk of seeming ridiculous," as Che Guevara put it, if we thought Love had anything to do with Revolution.

Being revolutionary meant being tough as nails, committed to agitating and mobilizing angry and oppressed masses to overthrow the government and seize state power by any means necessary in order to reconstruct society from the top down.

In the past fifty years this top-down view of revolution has been discredited by the demise of the Soviet Union. At the same time our approach to revolution has been humanized by the modern women's movement, which informs us that the political is personal; the ecological movement, which emphasizes loving Mother Earth and the places where we live; and Martin Luther King Jr.'s call for a radical revolution in our values and his concept of "beloved community."

In the past fifteen years tens of thousands of very diverse community groups have sprung up all over the world to resist the commodifying by global corporations of our relationships to one another. On January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA took effect, the Zapatistas dramatized this new movement by first taking over six Mexican cities militarily, and then retiring to Chiapas and other indigenous communities to engage the people at the grassroots in nonviolent struggles to create new forms of participatory democracy.

Nearly six years later, in the November 1999 "Battle of Seattle," fifty thousand members of labor, women, youth, and peace groups closed down the World Trade Organization to inform the world that the time has come to create alternatives to corporate globalization.

In 2001 a series of "Another World Is Possible" World Social Forums began in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to help movement activists around the world recognize that it is futile to keep calling on elected officials to create a more just, caring, and sustainable world. We ourselves must begin practicing in the social realm the capacity to care for each other, to share the food, skills, time, and ideas that up to now most of us have limited to our most cherished personal relationships.

As part and parcel of this new approach to revolution, the first United States Social Forum was held in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2007. The second inspired over eighteen thousand diverse activists to convene in Detroit in June 2010.

Normally it would take decades for a people to transform themselves from the hyperindividualist, hypermaterialist, damaged human beings that Americans in all walks of life are today, to the loving, caring people we need in the deepening crises. But these are not normal times. If we don't speed up this transformation, the likelihood is that, armed with AK-47s, we will soon be at each other's throats.

That is why linking Love and Revolution is an idea whose time has come.

We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other. We urgently need to bring the neighbor back into our hoods, not only in our inner cities but also in our suburbs, our gated communities, on Main Street and Wall Street, and on Ivy League campuses.

We are in the midst of a process that is nothing short of reinventing revolution. For much of the twentieth century the theory and practice of revolution have been dominated by overarching ideologies, purist paradigms, and absolutist views of a static Paradise; arguments over which class, race, or gender was the main revolutionary social force; and binary oppositions between Left and Right. Big victories have been prioritized over small collaborative actions that build community and neighborhoods: the end has been valued over the means. We rarely stopped to wonder how much this view of revolution reflected the capitalist culture that was dehumanizing us.

Now, in the light of our historical experiences and thanks especially to the indigenous cultures that the Zapatistas have revealed to us, we are beginning to understand that the world is always being made and never finished; that activism can be the journey rather than the arrival; that struggle doesn't always have to be confrontational but can take the form of reaching out to find common ground with the many "others" in our society who are also seeking ways out from alienation, isolation, privatization, and dehumanization by corporate globalization.

This is the kind of transformational organizing we need in this period. Instead of putting our organizational energies into begging Ford and General Motors to stay in Detroit-or begging the government to keep them afloat-so that they can continue to exploit us, we need to go beyond traditional capitalism. Creating new forms of community-based institutions (e.g., co-ops, small businesses, and community development corporations) will give us ownership and control over the way we make our living, while helping us to ensure that the well-being of the community and the environment is part of the bottom line.

Instead of buying all our food from the store, we need to be planting community and school gardens and creating farmers markets that will not only provide us with healthier food but also enable us to raise our children in a nurturing relationship with the Earth.

Instead of trying to bully young people to remain in classrooms isolated from the community and structured to prepare them to become cogs in the existing economic system, we need to recognize that the reason why so many young people drop out from inner-city schools is because they are voting with their feet against an educational system that sorts, tracks, tests, and rejects or certifies them like products of a factory because it was created for the age of industrialization. They are crying out for another kind of education that gives them opportunities to exercise their creative energies because it values them as whole human beings.

This kind of organizing takes a lot of patience because changing people and people changing themselves requires time. Because it usually involves only small groups of people, it lacks the drama and visibility of angry masses making demands on the power structure. So it doesn't seem practical to those who think of change only in terms of quick fixes, huge masses, and charismatic leaders.

But as Margaret Wheatley puts it in Leadership and the New Science, we need a paradigm shift in our understanding of how change happens. "From a Newtonian perspective," Wheatley argues, "our efforts often seem too small, and we doubt that our actions will make a difference. Or perhaps we hope that our small efforts will contribute incrementally to large-scale change. Step by step, system by system, we aspire to develop enough mass or force to alter the larger system."

What the most advanced researchers and theoreticians in all of science now comprehend is that the Newtonian concept of a universe driven by mass force is out of touch with reality, for it fails to account for both observable phenomena and theoretical conundrums that can be explained only by quantum physics:

A quantum view explains the success of small efforts quite differently. Acting locally allows us to be inside the movement and flow of the system, participating in all those complex events occurring simultaneously. We are more likely to be sensitive to the dynamics of this system, and thus more effective. However, changes in small places also affect the global system, not through incrementalism, but because every small system participates in an unbroken wholeness. Activities in one part of the whole create effects that appear in distant places. Because of these unseen connections, there is potential value in working anywhere in the system. We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness.

In what Wheatley calls "this exquisitely connected world," the real engine of change is never "critical mass"; dramatic and systemic change always begins with "critical connections."

So by now the crux of our preliminary needs should be apparent. We must open our hearts to new beacons of Hope. We must expand our minds to new modes of thought. We must equip our hands with new methods of organizing. And we must build on all of the humanity-stretching movements of the past half century: the Montgomery Bus Boycott; the civil rights movement; the Free Speech movement; the anti-Vietnam War movement; the Asian American, Native American, and Chicano movements; the women's movement; the gay and lesbian movement; the disability rights/pride movement; and the ecological and environmental justice movements. We must find ourselves amid the fifty million people who as activists or as supporters have engaged in the many-sided struggles to create the new democratic and life-affirming values that are needed to civilize U.S. society.

The transition to a better world is not guaranteed. We could destroy the planet, as those chanting "Drill, baby, drill!" seem determined to do. We could end up in barbarism unless we engage in and support positive struggles that create more human human beings and more democratic institutions. Our challenge, as we enter the third millennium, is to deepen the commonalities and the bonds between these tens of millions, while at the same time continuing to address the issues within our local communities by two-sided struggles that not only say "No" to the existing power structure but also empower our constituencies to embrace the power within each of us to create the world anew.

We must have the courage to walk the talk but we must also engage in the continuing dialogues that enable us to break free of old categories and create the new ideas that are necessary to address our realities, because revolutions are made not to prove the correctness of ideas but to begin anew.

In this scenario everyone has a contribution to make, each according to our abilities, our energies, our experiences, our skills and where we are in our own lives. When I was much younger, I used to recite a poem that goes: "So much to do, so many to woo, and, oh, we are so very few." As I go around the country these days, making new friends and talking to people about the challenges of the new millennium, I still recognize that we have much to do and many to woo, but I no longer feel that we are so very few.

Grace Lee Boggs on Detroit, Gardens, and Revolution | Mother Jones

Grace Lee Boggs is a ninety-five-year-old veteran activist who is redefining what revolution means in the Motor City. Boggs' new book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century is both a memoir and a manifesto—a portrait of a young woman's journey through several major social movements, and the lessons she hopes to share with a new generation of activists.

In the early 1940's the young Chinese-American woman finished her doctorate in philosophy and began looking for a professorship. She quickly found herself facing departments that unblinkingly told her, "We don't hire orientals." As if dealing with that racism wasn't enough, she bucked the prejudices of the Civil Rights era and married Black Power and labor activist, Jimmy Boggs, in the early 1950's. At the height of the McCarthy era, she was "radicalized" by hanging around Marxist leaders such as A. Phillip Randolph and C.L.R. James. Those influences stayed with her when she moved to Detroit, where she joined the race and labor movements during the city's most riotous years.

Boggs encourages readers to redefine their own ideas about current efforts towards social justice. When I asked her what she thought about today's class warfare: "We tend to think in terms of how to carry on the class struggle—how to reduce the scandalous and shamelss disparity from the wealth on the top and poverty on the bottom. We have to get outside of that particular paradigm. We have gotten used to the paradigm that allowed us to enjoy the comforts and conveniences that were won at the expense of other people and the Earth." When pressed on whether it's realistic to expect a complete overhaul of our institutions, without experiencing a major collapse, she piped,"We have experienced a major collapse in Detroit."

And Boggs is no armchair revolutionary. At 95-years-old, she is one of Detroit's citizens who is attempting to recreate the city and pass along her hard-earned wisdom to a population that suffers from 11.8 percent unemployment. In 1995, she and her now-deceased husband started the Boggs Center, which includes the Detroit Summer program, where urban kids learn how to garden, renovate Detroit's dilapidated properties, and tackle crime through restorative justice training. Also, Detroit Summer's Live Art Media Project produced a documentary called Rising Up from the Ashes: Chronicles of a Dropout that exposed the failures of the city's school system."We realized," says Boggs, "the young people were part of the solution instead of the problem." She hopes that Detroit can be rebuilt from the ground up—by the forgotten youth of a city notorious for despair. "Revolutions aren't created by governments," she smiled big, eyebrows raised in bright anticipation.

Hip-hop artist Invincible features Grace Lee Boggs and other youth participants in her video "Detroit Summer," a duet with artist Waajeed that celebrates a cultural renaissance bubbling up in the city:

Young Leaders Meet Barack Obama at Powershift | 350.org

Yesterday was full of highlights at Powershift. Meeting hundreds of young people from all over the country, hugging old friends, listening to Mary Anne Hitt detail how many campus coal plants have been shut down. But one piece of news really stands out as a victory: yesterday, young leaders from Energy Action Coalition were asked to meet at the White House. For more than a year, Energy Action has been issuing a challenging call to the President, seeking action in line with the concerns of so many of the young people who turned out in record numbers to elect him. And guess what happened: in the middle of the meeting, the President walked into the room! Early reports indicate that the President spent 25 minutes in the room. Key points raised included a definition of clean energy that matches one our movement shares. It goes to show that when you push, you get results. This is just the beginning of a more sustained effort to demand meaningful action from our elected leaders.