Roots in the Movement…a visit from the past…

As I’m thinking about working with others to form a new study group, and as I’m preparing part 5 of my revolutionary congregations piece, I am reminded of this piece, “Roots in the Movement,” that I wrote back in 2005. I wrote it as a final paper for college, and then completely abandoned it. But every once in awhile I rediscover it and I get excited.

If I wrote it again, it would be different…it really shows me what I was prioritizing back then. But nonetheless, I think it’s a fun piece of imagination, and it fuels me to think creatively about current organizing possibilities.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi


I think the link is broken, btw:

I like it – and the acronym – RIThM – pronounced “Rhythm” 🙂

I think you were right-on about many of the components. I especially like the class idea. And I like the idea of picturing a point far in the distance – it’s like when you’re kayaking, if you focus on a point on the horizon to paddle towards, you just naturally do a lot of course corrections to keep you on track. If you instead focus on the water 20 feet ahead (or some farther off point that you can’t see), you end up going around in circles.

Something I’ve been thinking about is how to get balance with the class – on the one hand, there’s a lot that people need to know and discuss for personal effectiveness and organizational coherence. But on the other hand, such intensive up-front commitment, before you’ve learned why it’s all important, is a big barrier to entry. But what’s a good compromise between an hour or less informal chat about the topics and a 40 hour commitment? I like how in Dedication and Leadership, Hyde talks about setting things up so that people see the class as a tool to make them personally more effective in something important to them (though the example of the paper selling trick he talks about is distasteful). Basically, you don’t want to have to convince people that, no really, these 40 hours will be worthwhile – instead you want them to be clamoring for it and hoping that the 40 hours will be enough. If you have to convince people, it’s even worse than just attracting fewer numbers – you’ll tend to attract people that are attracted to 40 hours of classes and scare off people that want to build a movement.

The idea that’s bouncing around my head is rather than organizing the class topics based on the big picture you want to sell people on, you instead organize it so that they get a quick overview, heavy on practical knowledge in something like a 5 hour series that doesn’t go much beyond the surface. And then you have follow up passes that flesh it all out – but it would be organized in such a way that it is integrated with and motivated by current work.

Also, in my mind, it’s not so important that all new members agree with every point of the organization – but rather that they are all made aware of what the organization stands for and why. And if they want to be a part of the organization, they are required to accept that and agree to continue learning and applying the organization’s principles in the organization’s work even if they don’t personally agree with everything 100%. That levels the playing field a bit, making it easier to bring in people without

Of course, Hyde also talks about the value in asking for a big commitment up front…

Anyway, I don’t mean to pick nits – I really like the article and it’s getting me thinking about a lot of things I’m wrestling with myself.

Thanks, as always, for the comment, Greg!

Thinking about myself and how my ideas have changed since I wrote this, it actually connects with the questions you’re raising…particularly the question of commitment. I think a 40+ class is fine for those who are interested, but it should be a compliment, like you say, to something that is a simpler overview…and also complimenting something even more simple like the weekly gatherings of a revolutionary congregation. That is, there should be lots of entry level activities that treat people authentically as members of the community, as the valuable assets to the movement that they are, but underneath those activities there are other transparent levels of activity for people who want to do more.

I think Seattle Solidarity Network has a really solid type of entry-level activity in their pickets and actions. They are short little events that are easy to enter and participate in, and they provide basic education about the issue. The problem with them is that they are very narrow, and don’t address systemic or revolutionary issues…they are fight-specific. How to have similar quick gatherings and actions that are built more around the big picture questions?