Quakers believe their faith calls them to action, to address issues related to peace and social injustices.
Readers of this blog know of many of the things I’ve been involved with over the past several years, including the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, the Kheprw Institute (KI), Indiana Moral Mondays, Quaker Social Change Ministry, and the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance. Below, I share what I have learned with Iowa Quakers, partly in preparation for our annual meetings this summer at Scattergood Friends School and Farm.
Some of the things I’ve been concerned about are how many things are wrong with what is considered the status quo in the United States today. We have an economic system that is based upon increasing consumption, which is consuming energy and resources at rates many times greater than can sustainably be supplied by our Earth’s resources. A major consequence of which is global destruction of our natural environment. Our air, water and land are being polluted so badly that our future existence is threatened. Increasingly extreme weather patterns threaten food and water security, continue to destroy homes and infrastructure, and people’s very lives. The status quo is crumbling despite increasingly desperate efforts to prop it up.
The economy is based upon money, which increasing numbers of us have less and less of. Automation has replaced humans in manufacturing and other sectors, dramatically decreasing the number of jobs available to earn the money required to survive. Scarcity breeds fear and resentment against those who are different from us. A dominant White male culture has institutionalized racial, economic and environmental injustice.
The wealthy push for any means to protect their money and resist attempts to help those who have been impoverished by the very systems that created the wealth and the poverty. Corporate profits drive government legislation and regulations with no regard to the environmental or social impacts. Civil liberties, freedom of speech and dissent are violently suppressed. The current Republican administration and Congress are abusing their power and dismantling the systems of checks and balances. Domestic police forces have been militarized, and the prison pipeline now begins in grade school. Our immigration and deportation system is an atrocity.
• White privilege, diversity, racism and antagonism against “others”, including immigration issues
• Fossil fuel use and care of our environment
• Materialism and economic inequality
• Violence and militarism
• Changing the mission of Scattergood Friends School and Farm to help address these
This is in line with Martin Luther King’s emphasis on the root problems of racism, militarism and materialism. It is my feeling that we have become too comfortable, and have been seduced by many things in our current culture that we would be alarmed about if we paid them the attention that is needed. We too often forget many of the unjust aspects of living in this culture. Many of us fall into the categories of White and male, and are given so many advantages, as long as we go along.
How we go about our work for peace and social concerns has been on my mind a lot lately. I have been reminded of how deeply the Yearly Meeting was involved with resisting militarism and, specifically conscription, in the past. Of the powerful witness then, and how much that is needed today.
This is partly because I feel some responsibility as clerk of the Yearly Meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee. Partly because of our experience with the AFSC program, Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM), here in Indianapolis, including our partnership with the Kheprw Institute and their work with Black youth and community building. And being deeply affected by my experiences with Native Americans and their witness related to the Dakota Access pipeline. I was struck by how their lives are so deeply rooted in the Spirit, how they embody how to live spiritually today. That is also true of the Kheprw Institute (KI) community.
These experiences have taught me that creating Beloved community with our friends and neighbors is fundamental to divorcing ourselves from the White, male dominate culture. Our way forward is not through joining one movement or another, but in rejoining each other in community. Committee meetings are often the death of activism. Committee meetings are not social justice work. Being in community, working on shared projects, is.
What has really captured my attention lately has been studying “The Gandhian Iceberg” by Chris Moore-Backman. The book describes Gandhi’s nonviolence campaigns, and explores what we need to do to create a national nonviolence movement here, now. The book includes some discussion of the Possibility Alliance and Ethan Hughes. It uses the term, Integral Nonviolence.
One of the things I’ve found most useful is the extensive exploration of the spiritual basis necessary for effective social justice work. This has been particularly helpful to evaluate from a Quaker standpoint.
Governments, other than Germany, are making little progress in addressing the emerging environmental disasters. People are not changing their own environmental practices. Fossil fuel consumption continues to increase, rather than the dramatic curtailment that must occur to avoid human extinction.
The last true revolutionary act left to human beings in the twenty-first century is to turn out the lights. Other acts are possible—acts we may call revolutionary—but they do not meet the criteria of the word as it must necessarily be interpreted today. Nothing short of turning out the lights will lead to an overturning of the endgame global system that now has us in its thrall…
Turn out the lights—and leave them off—and we will experience a consciousness our minds have never known but our bodies still remember. Leave them on, and it scarcely matters what else we do or leave undone. We will not significantly alter our path through time. Nor will we alter the path of our species, which has taken a collective detour leading nowhere but oblivion and extinction. We persist perpetually in making all of this seem more complicated than it is… Let there be darkness
The Gandhian Iceberg; A Nonviolence Manifesto for the Age of the Great Turning
Some of you know I have been thinking about the future of Scattergood Friends School and Farm. My thinking is the school and farm could be the place where Iowa Friends and others explore how to live in the face of more extreme weather, multiple environmental disasters, food, water and energy shortages, and societal collapse. The ideas of Integral Nonviolence are very useful for this model. This is the radical Quakerism called for now.