New Blog

Hello friends. I started a new blog Quakers and Religious Socialism as explained below.
I will still write on this blog on things related to #LANDBACK.

I first heard about Religious Socialism at the end of 2020, when my friend Fran Quigley wrote in response to the blog post I had written, The Evil of Capitalism. Fran is the director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law and a editorial team member. He wrote “This post of yours struck me close to home. I too have become fully convinced of the evils of capitalism. Moreover, I have come to the conclusion that my faith dictates that I work to replace it.”

He told me about his involvement with the Democratic Socialists of America’s (DSA) Religion and Socialism Committee. I was interested in what I learned, but was involved in other things at the time, primarily Mutual Aid.

I’ve had trouble getting Quakers interested in being involved in Mutual Aid. And I haven’t often raised religion when with my Mutual Aid friends, some of whom are Indigenous. The horrors of the institutions of forced assimilation, which some Quakers were involved in, are receiving much needed attention now.

I have also been involved in the Quakers for Abolition Network. So, when I saw the Central Iowa DSA event related to their prison letter writing project, I became involved. Not surprisingly several of my Mutual Aid friends were involved as well. I joined the Democratic Socialists of America.

A few days ago, our prison letter writing group met via Zoom to discuss additional things we could do related to incarceration. I mentioned Fran and the DSA’s Religious Socialism group and suggested that might be a way to get faith communities involved.

I’ve begun reading Fran’s book, Religious Socialism: Faith in Action for a Better World.

I created a WordPress site, Quakers and Religious Socialism.

And the Facebook group, Quakers and Religious Socialism.

Americans Don’t Understand What Violence Really Is

Racism Made America a Failed State, Just Like Its Greatest Mind Predicted. Americans Don’t Understand What Violence Really Is — And So They’re Stuck in a Vicious Cycle of It is the title of an article, published on Martin Luther King Day, by umair haque, an author I follow.

I often wonder to myself on days like this, and I try to talk about this every year on this day: what might an America that really understood MLK’s message have been like? What kind of country would that have been and become?

The answer is: it would have been a better place for everyone. A more prosperous country, in every way imaginable.

How so? MLK’s central messages were twofold: nonviolence and love. And yet Americans are such violent people — they fetishize and worship violence at such a deep level — that even “leftists” today roll their eyes and laugh at such a message. Love! Lol!!!

But they shouldn’t.

Americans Don’t Understand What Violence Really Is by umair haque, Eudaimonia and Co, January 17, 2022

The article is an interesting discussion of violence, which isn’t usually part of the discussion of nonviolence.

MLK understood — or would have — that all the following things are forms of violence. People forced to “crowdfund” healthcare — to beg their neighbors for pennies for medicine. A workplace culture where being abused and berated by your boss is totally normal. Incomes not rising for half a century — while costs skyrocket to absurd levels. The average American dying in debt. Being forced to choose between healthcare and your life savings. Having to give up your home because you want to educate your kids.

All these things are forms of violence. Violence runs deep. It isn’t just mobs of fascists smearing feces on the walls — though it is also that. It’s what Americans do to one another as everyday interaction — and shrug off as normal. Mental, emotional, social, cultural violence makes up the very fabric of everyday American life. It’s the poisonous residue of slavery. And it’s profoundly traumatic. It has lacerated the American mind, and made violence a legitimate solution to every social problem. But these forms of all-pervasive violence are what a capitalist society is limited to, because everything is competition, rivalry, and ultimately, domination and subjugation.

Americans Don’t Understand What Violence Really Is by umair haque, Eudaimonia and Co, January 17, 2022
This makes me realize Mutual Aid is an expression of nonviolence.

What we have is each other. We can and need to take care of each other. We may have limited power on the political stage, a stage they built, but we have the power of numbers.

Those numbers represent unlimited amounts of talents and skills each community can utilize to replace the systems that fail us.  The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution. The more we take care of each other, the less they can fracture a community with their ways of war.

Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutual Aid
This is a video I made years ago.

The eyes of the future are looking back at us

There is a native concept of considering what the effects of decisions made today will be on seven generations into the future.

The following quotation makes a two-way connection between us and future generations. Looking at each other over the generations.

The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.

― Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Similarly, can we not look back at our ancestors? We are our ancestors’ future generation looking back.

I think about this a lot these days. As stories of the remains of native children on the grounds of the institutions of forced assimilation continue. Thousands of children never returned home.

I’ve been praying about what we are doing now and how much harm this is doing to future generations. My Spirit recoils from the likelihood there probably will not be a seventh, or sixth, or fifth generation because of the accelerating rate of environmental collapse.

What have we done?

What will we do?

As we work for change, we are admonished that we need to tell new stories. This morning I found this story Nico Santos tells, from the movie Dragon Rider.


Oh, I’ve been lost in the darkness
I heard your voice from afar
You weren’t my callin’
You weren’t my callin’
Whenever the night was starless
And I couldn’t see anymore
You showed me the mornin’
You showed me the mornin’

So I-I-I wanna let you know
When life has got you low

I’ll be your wings to fly
When there’s trouble on your mind
Whenever you’re ’bout to fall
There’s nothin’ I won’t try
‘Cause I’ll be your wings to fly
When you’re sufferin’ inside
Come hell or high water
Got you covered all my life
Let these wings take you
High, high
There’s nothin’ I won’t try

We built our own kinda fortress
Nothing can break us apart
Walls won’t be fallin’
These walls won’t be fallin’
I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for you
I wouldn’t speak if it wasn’t the truth
You are my callin’
You are my callin’

So I-I-I wanna let you know
When life has got you low

I’ll be your wings to fly
When there’s trouble on your mind
Whenever you’re ’bout to fall
There’s nothin’ I won’t try
‘Cause I’ll be your wings to fly
When you’re sufferin’ inside
Come hell or high water
Got you covered all my life
Let these wings take you
High, high
There’s nothin’ I won’t try

You were my eyes, oh, when I couldn’t see
Were my voice, oh, when I couldn’t speak
Can I give it back to you?
Let me give it back to you
You were my legs, oh, when I couldn’t run
Were my heart when my own went numb
I’ll do what I have to do
Everything to get you through

I’ll be your wings to fly
When there’s trouble on your mind
Whenever you’re ’bout to fall
There’s nothin’ I won’t try
‘Cause I’ll be your wings to fly
When you’re sufferin’ inside
Come hell or high water
Got you covered all my life
Let these wings take you
High, high
There’s nothin’ I won’t try
Let these wings take you
High, high
There’s nothin’ I won’t try
Let these wings take you high

Nico Santos, WINGS from the movie Dragon Rider

Not Only Food

I would normally be going to Des Moines this morning to help put together boxes of food with my Des Moines Mutual Aid friends. I won’t because predictions for heavy snow overnight would make travel hazardous. The predictions were accurate. And my brother is visiting.

The Des Moines Mutual Aid’s (DMMA) Points of Unity expresses what Mutual Aid is about. DMMA has several projects. One is the free food distribution, which the following describes. This continues the Black Panther Party school breakfast program.

A principle of Mutual Aid is to invite others into the work, mobilizing people and building movements. The statement above is given to those who come to us for food, inviting anyone to join.

One of my Mutual Aid friends asked how I became involved (long story). Then she told me she used to come because she needed food. Now she is happy she can join in the work of distributing the food.

There are three key elements of Mutual Aid.

  1. Mutual aid projects work to meet survival needs and build shared understanding about why people do not have what they need.
  2. Mutual aid projects mobilize people, expand solidarity, and build movements.
  3. Mutual Aid projects are participatory, solving problems through collective action rather than waiting for saviors.

    Mutual Aid, Building Solidarity during this Crisis (and the next) by Dean Spade, Verso, 2020

Now all of us are facing food insecurity as we see grocery stores beginning to have trouble stocking their shelves. I hope this will result in more Mutual Aid projects.

A recent article reminded me about Food Not Bombs.

Every Wednesday, a mix of New Paltz college students and locals congregate in a small workspace just outside of town. It may look like they’re just cooking and packing food to deliver to needy families, but it’s really more than that.

“Like when people say, ‘serving the community,’ well, we want to build a community,” said Katari Sisa, a volunteer for Food Not Bombs New Paltz.

Sisa, a recent graduate of SUNY New Paltz, has been involved at the organization for the last four years now. Sisa says that giving back is necessary right now, with a pandemic raging and, according to data collected by the University of Southern California, nearly 37% of Americans are dealing with food insecurity.

“This is part of a larger project, kind of like a larger vision for a community center and having a kind of consistent spot to do stuff like this from,” Sisa said.

The ultimate goal, organizers say, is to build unity between people and create a more equitable community.

FOOD NOT BOMBS AIMS TO BRING MORE THAN JUST FOOD By John Camera, Spectrum Local News, February 3, 2021

Randomly passing an accomplice on the street and throwing up a fist at each other as we go our separate ways to destroy all that is rotten in this world will never fail to give me extra energy and a single tear of gratitude for what this city is creating.

my friend Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutua Aid

The Tipping Point that will destroy the world

George Monbiot is known for his environmental and political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian and is the author of a number of books. Popular culture is finally beginning to be alarmed by environmental devastation. The movie Don’t Look Up being a current example.

I’m not promoting the reference to Double Down News at the end of the video, but here is a link to that website. Double Down News, The Future of Journalism.

A new study about the power of committed minorities to shift conventional thinking offers some surprising possible answers. Published this week in Science, the paper describes an online experiment in which researchers sought to determine what percentage of total population a minority needs to reach the critical mass necessary to reverse a majority viewpoint. The tipping point, they found, is just 25 percent. At and slightly above that level, contrarians were able to “convert” anywhere from 72 to 100 percent of the population of their respective groups. Prior to the efforts of the minority, the population had been in 100 percent agreement about their original position.

The 25% Revolution – How big does a minority have to be to reshape society? by David Noonan, Scientific American, June 8, 2018

Many people have heard the following Margaret Mead quote. She was referring to a small percentage of people I think.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

Auto-generated transcript of the video above, the tipping point that will destroy the world.

I doubt that 1% of people really understand what we’re facing here,
the prospect of systemic environmental collapse.
The collapse of the whole thing our life support systems in total.
Human beings alongside most of the life on earth today
evolved in particular environmental circumstances which is the earth
in what’s called its holocene state.
That state is kept in a sort of stable equilibrium by the ocean
the atmosphere, the biosphere which means all the life on earth,
the soil the water all of these are complex systems
which come together to create this amazingly complex system
called the earth system.
Complex systems have a set of interesting characteristics
through their self-regulating properties they can absorb
quite a lot of stress and still maintain an equilibrium state.
So if you think about your body you can run a mile
on a hot day really go for it and your body temperature remains
exactly the same as it was before you started.
You can go and have a snowball fight on a really cold day
and stay out for a couple of hours and your body temperature
is still exactly the same as when you started.
And what you’ve got is this system just constantly regulating itself,
and maintaining that body temperature.
But if you are subject to too much cold stress
or too much heat stress things spiral out of control.
And you can spiral into hypothermia
where you get colder and colder and then you die,
or into hyperthermia where you get hotter and hotter
and then you die.
We face quite a similar problem with our earth systems.
they reach a tipping point and once they pass that tipping point they collapse
into a completely different state and when you’ve collapsed when that tipping point has been crossed
there is no going back we’re trying to tell you that the entire planet is about to be destroyed
the way we know whether we are approaching a tipping point is that the outputs from a
system begin to flicker you get more and more fluctuations and what we’ve seen has been what
looks like a great global flickering these extreme weather events droughts heat domes
floods fires and the rest of it you do understand that this is an apocalyptic event i hear you
i hear you far more extreme than anything in the historical record and indeed anything in
the recent prehistorical record either this looks like the flickering which precedes
a tipping point we should be hostile to human life and indeed to most of the life on earth today
i say we sit tight and assess am i to understand correctly that after all of the information you’ve
received today the decision you’re making is to sit tight and assess if you were to take this
seriously you would be throwing at it everything we’ve got much as they did when a different
system the financial system came close to collapse in 2008. it didn’t quite pass its tipping point
but it came pretty close to that started with mortgage defaults in the u.s really quite small
but that was enough to destabilize this already quite fragile system and push the whole thing
until it came very near to total collapse when lehman brothers collapsed that nearly brought
the whole thing down and governments moved with extraordinary speed and decisiveness and poured
altogether trillions of dollars into the global financial system to try to shore it back and
push it back into its safe space into its safe equilibrium state now we can argue about whether
they did the right thing or the wrong thing and the way that they did it bailouts going
to the major criminals in the system and the rest of it we can argue about all that
but there is absolutely no doubt about the need for very rapid and decisive action if
we don’t stop the bleeding in three days half the banks in this room are out of business
in five days we’re all gone if we were to take the same attitude to the tipping point of our
earth systems that’s what we would be doing we’ll be moving in with extraordinary speed and effect
to make that decisive change right here right now rather than saying yeah let’s aim for net
zero by 2050 and we’ll reduce emissions by two percent every year it’s just not
going to work the president’s plan to save earth and make it so we can all have a home
is going to work right every single man woman and child on this planet is going to die i don’t like
him he makes me sad i’m sorry about that yeah kids listen to me you tell your parents if you’re going
to prevent a tipping point you have to push them back into their safe equilibrium state before they
reach that point if governments want things to happen they can make things happen if they choose
to but most of the time they just don’t what’s missing is not the money it’s not the technology
it’s the political will and how come they were ready to bail out the financial sector
but they’re not ready to bail out the planet is it because the planet isn’t paying them
to win the next election it’s not producing their campaign funds for them is it because
the oceans aren’t whispering into their ear is it because the forests don’t own the media
of course there’s only one story everyone’s talking about tonight
topless urgent care centers they are so hooked on the short-term interests of their corporate
sponsors or their oligarch sponsors that they’ll do whatever they want but they won’t do what it
takes to prevent the collapse of life on earth and i’m sure many of the people out there aren’t even
going to listen to what i just said because you know they have their own political ideology but
i i assure you i am not on one side or the other i i’m just telling you the [ __ ] truth now the
hopeful side of the story is this that just as earth systems are complex systems and they can tip
into a different state the same applies to human systems the same applies to society and we can
tip society into a different state and in fact there’s quite a lot of science being done on this
now both observational and experimental science once you get a committed minority of around 25
then the whole of society can tip most people most of the time side with the status quo for
good or for real very often for ill and once you reach that 25 that threshold
that seems to be where the tipping point is and then suddenly people look around and say oh things
have changed i better change with it and they tack round to catch that wind you’ve finally seen it
and that’s what we need to do that’s what we can do we just need to reach that 25
committed minority and society will change and so we need to get together in our millions
to demand the changes required to prevent systemic environmental collapse to demand
that we retain a habitable planet all effective movements are an ecosystem they
need lots of people using their different skills bringing those skills together
do what they do best the alternative media is absolutely essential it’s a crucial component
of that ecosystem of change so please support double down news become a sponsor on patreon

CALLIGRAPHY – A Sacred Tradition

What an extraordinary way the reed pen has of drinking darkness and pouring out light!

– Abu Hafs Ibn Burd Al-Asghar –

As usual, I had no idea what I would be writing about this morning. I most often write about injustice, activism, and/or faith. These days are filled with so much injustice and disaster it’s nearly overwhelming. I appreciate the Spirit telling me the topic of the day.

There are two meanings for writing. To compose, or to put pen to paper. When I talk about writing I mean to compose. Calligraphy is about putting pen to paper, of course.

Calligraphy is a real surprise for today’s subject. But a welcome relief from the usual subjects. Art can be a more effective way to speak of injustice than writing about it, I think.

Maybe I should stop writing (composing). Or start writing (calligraphy). Or use calligraphy to record what I compose.

There are calligraphy fonts, but to use them almost seems dishonest. I’m just realizing typing in a calligraphy font would provide an example to copy, learn to write that way.

Calligraphy is one of those things that interest me, but I haven’t gotten around to doing/learning. I got as far as putting the calligraphy pen to paper and watching the thickness of the line change.

The quote above, and the title of the article, Calligraphy-A Sacred Tradition, caught my attention this morning. Ann Hechle, the distinguished calligrapher, talks to Barbara Vellacott about her work and her lifelong quest to understand the underlying unity of the world.

Calligraphy is more than fine writing

Calligraphy in the East, the Middle East and the West has always been a spiritual discipline, deeply embodied in the gestures of the body, the pressure of the pen and flow of the ink onto the open space of the page. It requires a quality of attention that is meditative. The demands of the words – both as letterforms and as meanings – can bring the wandering mind back to the moment, and when this kind of focus is found, the writing flows. The meditative practice involved is emphasised particularly in Buddhism, though it is present as an important strand in all spiritual traditions.

The role of calligraphers is often distinct from that of other visual artists, as they are frequently called upon to engage with significant events in human life where words are wanted to express deeply felt experience and emotion – birth, death, friendship, to enshrine memory, to celebrate achievements. The words chosen are full of meaning, and in contemplating and expressing them in writing, the calligrapher is performing a spiritual service to the community. A truthful engagement with words is absolutely required; it is said that “good writing makes the truth stand out” (a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad).

Calligraphy-A Sacred Tradition

the calligrapher is performing a spiritual service to the community

Barbara Vellacott

Getting started with calligraphy this morning was frustrating. I found the calligraphy set and then found the paper. Thank goodness for YouTube to help me get started. Loading the pen with ink wasn’t what I was used to with cartridge filled pens in the past.

Then there was the frustration I remembered from the past of getting the ink to flow. Lots of pounding my wrist that was holding the pen. And the flow was intermittent. As it says below, calligraphy requires a quality of attention that is meditative. Frustration won out over mediation this morning. I plan to work on that. Here’s what I was able to do as a beginner.

Introduction to Mutual Aid and hierarchies

As I’ve been talking and writing about Mutual Aid, I’m not surprised that most of the questions relate to hierarchies. Mutual Aid is founded on a flat or horizontal hierarchy, where everyone has a voice in decisions.

I would highly recommend Dean Spade’s book , “Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next)”. Two of the videos he has produced are very helpful. [See below]

My practical experience related to hierarchies comes from the past two years with Des Moines Mutual Aid. My friend Ronnie James is an Indigenous organizer with twenty years of experience and has been my Mutual Aid mentor.

It is widely acknowledged that it takes time to learn how to be in a mutual aid community. We are so entrenched in vertical hierarchies in our society.

By participating in groups in new ways and practicing new ways of being together, we are both building the world we want and becoming the kind of people who could live in such a world together.

Dean Spade

Here are a few examples of my mutual aid education. One day we had to set up tables in the school yard because the basement of the church we normally use was holding a vaccination clinic that day. Our routine was somewhat interrupted. I was arranging the tables to put the food on. Ronnie came and asked me what I wanted him to do. Even though he had been working with mutual aid for years, he didn’t suggest that I should look to him for decisions in that situation.

Because the vaccination clinic was using the tables we usually used to setup the food boxes, we needed to find other tables.  Ronnie said he was going to go upstairs to look for some. He didn’t say I should go with him, left that decision up to me. I chose to go which turned out to be good because we did find some tables to use. Which were on the third floor. Someone said that was the day Jeff got the tables. There is a lot of humor when we’re together.

I often hear people asking questions, and most commonly someone will say “I would do … but do what you think is best”.

Or when the van of food arrived, someone will say “the van is here.”  Then all who aren’t busy go out to unload it. No one tells certain people to “go unload the van”.

When we’re done, the tables and floor need to be cleaned. Whoever is free just does that.

On the other hand, when there are things we just don’t know, we gravitate to asking Ronnie because of his experience. And there are certain people who routinely go to Hy-Vee to pick up the food, because they know how to do that.

So, Ronnie is accorded respect, but as I said above, he doesn’t tell people what to do. I don’t think that represents a vertical hierarchy.

The people involved in Mutual Aid, with a flat or horizontal hierarchy, all bring different, valuable skills or perspectives, which is used to inform decisions made by the Mutual Aid group.

Most people work or go to school inside hierarchies where disobedience leads to punishment or exclusion. We bring our learned practices of hierarchy with us even when no paycheck or punishment enforces our participation, so even in volunteer groups we often find ourselves in conflicts stemming from learned dominance behaviors. But collective spaces, like mutual aid organizing, can give us opportunities to unlearn conditioning and build new skills and capacities. By participating in groups in new ways and practicing new ways of being together, we are both building the world we want and becoming the kind of people who could live in such a world together.

Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 208-212). Verso.
Horizontalist and Participatory Characteristics of Mutual Aid ProjectsCharacteristics of Hierarchical, Charitable Non-Profits and Social Service Programs (or what tends to change about mutual aid projects as they move toward becoming charities or social service programs)
“Members” = people making decisions“Members” = donors 
De-professionalized survival work done by volunteersService work staffed by professionals
Beg, borrow, and steal suppliesGrant money for supplies/philanthropic control of program
Use people power to resist any efforts by government to regulate or shut down activitiesFollow government regulations about how the work needs to happen (usually requiring more money, causing reliance on grants, paid staff with professional degrees)
Survival work rooted in deep and wide principles of anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, racial justice, gender justice, disability justiceSiloed single-issue work, serving a particular population or working on one area of policy reform, disconnected from other ‘issues’
Open meetings, as many people making decisions and doing the work as possibleClosed board meetings, governance by professionals or people associated with big institutions or big donors, program operated by staff, volunteers limited to stuffing envelopes or other menial tasks occasionally, volunteers not part of high level decision making
Efforts to support people facing the most dire conditionsImposing eligibility criteria for services that divide people into “deserving” and “undeserving”
Give things away without expectationsConditions for getting help or participating in something—you have to be sober, have a certain family status, have a certain immigration status, not have outstanding warrants, not have certain convictions, etc.
People participate voluntarily because of passion about injusticePeople come looking for a job, wanting to climb a hierarchy or become “important”
Efforts to flatten hierarchies—e.g. flat wage scales if anyone is paid, training so that new people can do work they weren’t professionally trained to do, rotating facilitation roles, language accessEstablishing and maintaining hierarchies of pay, status, decision-making power, influence
Values self-determination for people impacted or targeted by harmful social conditionsOffers “help” to “underprivileged” absent of a context of injustice or strategy for transforming the conditions; paternalistic; rescue fantasies and saviorism
Consensus decision-making to maximize everyone’s participation, to make sure people impacted by decisions are the ones making them, to avoid under-represented groups getting outvoted, and to build the skill of caring about each other’s participation and concerns rather than caring about being right or winningPerson on top (often Executive Director) decides things or, in some instances, a board votes and majority wins
Direct aid work is connected to other tactics, including disruptive tactics aimed at root causes of the distress the aid addressesDirect aid work disconnected from other tactics, depoliticized, and organization distances itself from disruptive or root causes-oriented tactics in order to retain legitimacy with government or funders
Tendency to assess the work based on how the people facing the crisis the organization wants to stop regard the workTendency to assess the work based on opinions of elites: political officials, bureaucrats, funders, elite media
Engaging with the organization builds broader political participation, solidarity, mobilization, radicalizationEngaging with the organization not aimed at growing participants’ engagement with other “issues,” organizations, or struggles for justice

Characteristics of Mutual Aid vs. Charity Mutual aid projects depart from the charity model in crucial ways. Most mutual aid projects are volunteer based and avoid the careerism, business approach, and charity model of nonprofits. Mutual aid projects strive to include lots of people, rather than just a few people who have been declared “experts” or “professionals.” If we want to provide survival support to as many people as possible, and mobilize as many people as possible for root-causes change, we need to let a lot of people do the work and make decisions about the work together, rather than bottlenecking the process with hierarchies that let only a few people lead.

Despite these important goals, avoiding the pitfalls of co-optation, deservingness hierarchies, saviorism, and disconnect from root-causes work requires constant vigilance. The last half-century of social movement history is full of examples of mutual aid groups that, under pressure from law enforcement, funders, and culture, transformed into charity or social services groups and lost much of their transformative capacity.

Here are some guiding questions for mutual aid groups trying to avoid these dangers and pitfalls:

  • Who controls our project?
  • Who makes decisions about what we do?
  • Does any of the funding we receive come with strings attached that limit who we help or how we help?
  • Do any of our guidelines about who can participate in our work cut out stigmatized and vulnerable people?
  • What is our relationship to law enforcement?
  • How do we introduce new people in our group to our approach to law enforcement?

While there is no single correct model for a mutual aid group, being aware of general tendencies that distinguish mutual aid from other projects can help groups make thoughtful decisions and maintain their integrity and effectiveness.

Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 640-658). Verso.

Wet’suwet’en 1/11/2022

The last time I wrote about the Wet’suwet’en was January 2nd, RCMP Invasion expected on Wet’suwet’en territory. It’s not that the RCMP have left, but there has been a change in tactics. The threat continues.

There’s no question that I am guilty of painting on the street because the reason is so important.

Shawn Selway

We should all show up at these rallies when we are asked to do so by Indigenous people. Believe me, you will feel much better than reading a newspaper about more dead children being found somewhere.

Shawn Selway

Our first rally in support of the Wet’suwet’en was on February 7, 2020.

This is from the AFSC Midwest Digest, January 2022. Jon Krieg (AFSC), Patti McKee, Peter Clay, and I were among those at the rally to support the Wet’suwet’en at the Chase bank in Des Moines. (photos below)

Following is a statement from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en peoples. I’ve worked with RAN since 2013 when I was trained to be an Action Lead in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. The following relates to a letter to the editor I wrote that was published in the Indianapolis News about Indiana Senator Donnelly’s support of the Keystone pipeline.

I was glad to be called a RAN activist.

RAN @RAN May 15, 2014
@ran activist @jakislin calls out @sendonnelly on willfully ignoring the dangers of #KXL #NoKXL

Big banks are bankrolling this pipeline: Will you rise up and join the Wet’suwet’en to protect their land?

Right now, Wet’suwet’en Indigenous rights are under attack: Canadian paramilitary troops flew into Indigenous lands in support of fossil fuel giant TC Energy, and their 417-mile fossil fuel pipeline — without the consent of hereditary chiefs. 

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are urgently calling out for massive global support. Will you take action in solidarity, Jeff?

The Canadian government and big banks like Chase and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) are forcing disastrous oil pipelines on Wet’suwet’en territories and meeting peaceful protests with violence.

The Coastal Gaslink pipeline WILL have harmful impacts on water, wildlife, the Wet’suwet’en people — and on our global climate. In solidarity with them, tell big banks to stop financing Indigenous rights abuses.

For the past twelve years, the Wet’suwet’en have asserted their sovereignty to stop fossil fuel companies from trespassing on their lands, and they have won. This community organized against two more huge pipelines and defeated them, and we know they can win. Coastal Gaslink is already way over budget. These banks know the investment is incredibly risky, and we have a chance to stop it.

Here in the U.S., we can support the Wet’suwet’en by fighting back against the financial backers of this climate-killing pipeline. Banks from the U.S. to Japan to Canada, including the #1 worst banker of fossil fuels JPMorgan Chase, are funneling BILLIONS in loans to TC Energy, the company behind Coastal GasLink. These banks are directly contributing to the destruction of sacred Wet’suwet’en land and the blatant violation of their rights. 

The bankers behind this pipeline must be held accountable for their role in destroying Indigenous lands and fueling the climate crisis. Will you rise up and join the Wet’suwet’en to protect their land?

We won’t let big banks destroy rivers, air, wildlife, and the climate while hurting people who are protecting what is rightfully theirs. There is no climate justice without Indigenous sovereignty, Jeff. 

“You can’t claim to be a climate leader and still allow a project that will be the largest point source of carbon emissions in our province. And you can’t say you’re adhering to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when you clearly don’t have consent from the actual title holders, and when you’re in violation of the article that says Indigenous peoples can’t be forcibly removed from their own territory.”

ANALYSIS: Coastal GasLink, LNG Controversies Will Haunt B.C. NDP in 2022, Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix, January 10, 2022

#RiseUpfortheFallen, #RebelForAction, #RebelForLife, #SeLeverPourNotreSurvie, #ActNow, – #AgirMaintenant, #TellTheTruth, – #DireLaVérité, #ExtinctionRebellionCanada, #ExtinctionRebellion, #XRTV, #XR, #IndigenousResistance , #alloutforwedzinkwa, #RCMPofftheYintah, #WetsuwetenStrong, #Cdnpoli , #BCpoli , #ClimateCollapse, #BiosphereCollapse, #DecolonizeBC, #RespectIndigenousSovereignty , #LandBack, #RCMPstanddown, #StopCGL , #StopTMX, #LeaveItInTheGround, #ClimateEmergency , #500YearsIndigenousResistance ,

Three years ago RCMP moved onto Wet’suwet’en territory, tearing down a barricade on a forest service road that blocked access to the planned route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The single-day enforcement on Jan. 7, 2019, resulted in the arrest of 14 people, both Wet’suwet’en and their supporters. But it didn’t bring a resolution to the dispute over the pipeline, opposed by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.

Since then, dozens more have been arrested under an injunction granted to Coastal GasLink, which is building a 670-kilometre gas pipeline from northeast B.C. to an LNG processing facility on the coast in Kitimat.

And the conflict has brought increasing internal pressure on the BC NDP government to find a new approach that better reflects its stated commitment to Indigenous rights.

About 75 people have been arrested in total on the territory, with RCMP enforcement criticized as heavy handed and oppressive. In February 2020, 28 people were arrested over five days at several locations along the road. This November, at least 30 more were arrested over two days at a camp on Gidimt’en Clan territory and a worksite where Coastal GasLink plans to drill under the Morice River, known to the Wet’suwet’en as Wedzin Kwa.

And for three years, RCMP have continued patrolling the Morice, establishing a detachment on the remote resource road and racking up a bill for policing that now exceeds $20 million.

As rumours swirl about plans for a fourth police raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, the B.C. government faces growing pressure from within the NDP to find a new approach, with federal MPs, riding associations and high-profile supporters all calling for change — and getting very little response from B.C.’s ruling party.

BC NDP Faces Internal Pressure to Change Course on the Wet’suwet’en Crisis. The calls come from New Democrats across Canada and within the provincial party’s ranks by Amanda Follett Hosgood,, January 10, 2022


A matter of faith

There are two definitions of faith.

  • complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
  • strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

I wasn’t familiar with the use of apprehension above. I found one definition is “understanding or grasp”.

I spent a lot of time praying (faith) and thinking about the discussion we were going have at my Quaker meeting, Bear Creek (some of us via ZOOM) related to Mutual Aid. I’ve been deeply involved in Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) for two years, writing nearly daily to share what I’ve been learning. It can be difficult to express lived experiences to those who haven’t had those experiences. Many Friends have had experiences that could be called Mutual Aid in their peace and justice work.

I made mistakes over the years because I had conflicts with the meeting related to the use of fossil fuels. (Meeting refers to my local meeting, Bear Creek.) I didn’t do a good job of inviting the meeting to engage with me about that. Although I understood there are major obstacles to reducing use of fossil fuels where there is no mass transportation, I have been humbled to face that problem myself since I moved to Iowa from Indianapolis several years ago.

One Friend from the meeting had a suggestion that helped us work together on fossil fuel issues. That resulted in the approval of the following Minute by our Yearly Meeting.

Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).  A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles.  We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult.  This is even more challenging in rural areas.  But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.

Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.

Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public transportation systems.  These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.

Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help.  We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc.  We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation.

One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation.  Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles.  Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness.  This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness.  We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths.  We can repair and recycle unused bicycles and make them available to those who have the need.

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017

That experience has helped me have more faith in the work of our meeting, in the sense of trust in the meeting. And helped me be a better listener.

We had the discussion about Mutual Aid at Bear Creek yesterday and I was very pleased. Friends had interesting and helpful questions and ideas. I was happy to hear what Friends had been doing in their communities related to Mutual Aid.

One of the most thought-provoking questions related to hierarchies. That any group would have differences, such as educational level or class, for example. I didn’t have a good answer at the time. The following video by Dean Spade explains this well. Of course, we all have different experiences and skills. Mutual Aid communities appreciate and encourage the use of community building skills. And helping people build new skills is encouraged.

Vertical versus horizontal hierarchies are related to decision making.

Two of the queries (questions) we considered yesterday relating to hierarchies were:

  • Do we recognize that vertical hierarchies are about power, supremacy and privilege? What are Quaker hierarchies?
  • Do we work to prevent vertical hierarchies in our peace and justice work?

Dean Spade wrote the best book I’m aware of about Mutual Aid. Mutual Aid, Building Solidarity during this Crisis (and the next) by Dean Spade, Verso, 2020

He teaches courses about Mutual Aid and has produced videos related to the subject. The following is a good discussion of horizontal group structures.

These workshops are about building mutual aid groups that can make decisions together, that include everybody, that can prevent and weather conflict, that can sustain work and sustain engagement, that can bring lots of new people into the work and so that it’s well resourced by people power. And that can be a bridge for people towards deeper and bolder movement engagement.

I strongly believe that horizontal group structures, meaning group structures where there’s no boss or executive director or main decider are the way to get there, for a number of reasons, and I want to share those in case that’s new for people.

One big reason is that hierarchies invite abuse and reproduce systems like racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, et cetera. I mean, we see it all the time. It’s like when you set something up as a hierarchy, oftentimes it’s men or white people bossing people around or old people bossing young people around or whatever.

And the bossing around can include worse forms of exploitation and abuse, also. I think that is inherent to hierarchy.

So we’ve seen forever in social justice movements, people set up hierarchical groups and then the same stuff plays out that they were trying to fight.

I think that’s worse, and it’s not as if it can’t happen in horizontal groups. We still have the dynamics. We still have that unlearning to do, but I think that hierarchy invites it.

Dean Spade: Horizontal Group Structures in Mutual Aid Work

Dean Spade: Horizontal Group Structures in Mutual Aid Work